Davos Goes to Baku
The World Economic Forum, the meet-and-greet extraordinaire held each year in the Swiss town of Davos, will hold a retreat in Baku, Azerbaijan this April.
Azerbaijani officials and pro-government media are already blowing the trumpets to announce that the skyscraper-studded Azerbaijani capital will, once again, host a shoulder-rubbing of the rich and the powerful. The World Economic Forum has confirmed the plans to EurasiaNet.org, but has not specified further details.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sealed the agreement at the last Davos conference, held in January, Azerbaijani media reported.
Apart from all the various opportunities that the WEF event may bring to Azerbaijan, the conference comes as another PR success for the energy-rich country, which has been snagging quite a few high-profile international events of late, ranging from the Eurovision Song Contest and the United Nation's Internet Governance Forum in 2012 to the European Olympics in 2015.
And, with a presidential election down the road, Azerbaijani officials are not inclined to be modest. The decision to hold the Davos event in Azerbaijan is a testimony to the country’s growing influence on the international arena, said Ali Ahmedov, executive-secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party.
“This decision also proves that the international community highly evaluates the economic reforms held in Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev,” Ahmedov was quoted by News.az as saying.
While welcoming Eurovision for the opportunity to heighten international awareness of the country's spotty civil-rights record, activists long have been critical of what they claim is Baku's practice of "caviar diplomacy" to secure the good will of the Council of Europe.*
Whether or not the World Economic Forum was a target of any such pitches is unknown.
Ultimately, though, the thinking that went into the decision to take Davos on a road-trip to Baku might never be crystal-clear.
After all, as The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten cited participants of the 2012 gathering as saying, "What happens in Davos, stays in Davos."
*"Caviar Diplomacy: How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe" is a report prepared by the European Stability Initiative, which receives funding from the Open Society Foundations. EurasiaNet.org is operated under the auspices of the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundation in New York City.