Reuters blog archive
from Photographers Blog:
By Denis Balibouse
Seeing world leaders at shoe level - you can tell a lot about them.
Last week my colleague Pascal Lauener and I covered the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Alpine ski resort of Davos in Switzerland. According to its website the WEF is "an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas."
The 2,500 participants can take their pick from 258 official sessions over a four-day period. Some only come for informal meetings in the hotels surrounding Davos' congress center, where discreet talks covering business, politics and deal-making thrive away from the spotlight. Contracts are signed, soirees take place, deals are made.
For some reason, wire agency photographers can access all sessions in order to photograph the participants. Some sessions are not open to the reporting press, as talks are held under The Chatham House Rule, which requires that you can make use of the information dispersed at an event, but can not divulge or mention the identity or affiliation of those involved in the event.
Plenary sessions are held in the biggest hall but all other sessions are held in smaller rooms with 100 to 200 seats. Our movements had to be discreet, meaning that we took pictures at the front before the start of a session and moved to the back of the room once the session started. Live TV capturing talks by broadcasters required that our movements be kept to a minimum. A side effect of this restriction was that our up-front position gave us a direct view of the speakers' footwear, in all its diversity. If you're one who subscribes to the idea that you can tell a lot about a person by their footwear, being a wire agency photographer at the WEF provides you with some plum pop psychology moments.
The leaders of France's six main religions warned the government on Wednesday against a planned debate on Islam they say could stigmatise Muslims and fuel prejudice as the country nears national elections next year. Weighing in on an issue that is tearing apart President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, the Conference of French Religious Leaders said the discussion about respect for France's secular system could only spread confusion at a turbulent time.
from Africa News blog:
One day this year, in all probability, the "billionth African" will have been born, a milestone that will only benefit the poorest continent if it can get its act together and unify its piecemeal markets.
Nobody knows, of course, when or where in its 53 countries the child arrived to push Africa's population into ten figures.
The U.N. merely estimates that in mid-2008 there were 987 million people, and in mid-2009, 1,010 million.
Given the difficulties of obtaining accurate data from the likes of Nigeria, where provincial population figures are often hostage to the ambitions of local politicians, or any data at all from the likes of Somalia, experts are reluctant to hazard any greater degree of accuracy.
There is less doubt, however, about the underlying trend -- that Africa's population is set to grow faster than in any other part of the world in the coming decades, and to double by 2050.
To some, the statistics from the U.N.'s population division will invite comparisons to the Asian giants, and inspire hopes of a flood of investment from Africans and outsiders to meet the needs of a continent likely to be home to one in five people by the middle of this century.
By contrast, China's projected population of 1.4 billion in 40 years will be shrinking, while India will only be adding an annual 3 million to its 1.6 billion people.
To others, the numbers are stark reminders of the mammoth task Africa's leaders face in providing the food, jobs, schools, housing and healthcare that are still so sorely lacking.
UNFPA, the U.N.'s population arm, summarises by saying that sub-Saharan Africa faces "serious political, economic and social challenges" and points to the last two decades as evidence that more people does not mean more wealth.
"Twenty years of almost three percent annual population growth has outpaced economic gains, leaving Africans, on average, 22 percent poorer than they were in the mid-1970s," it says.
Are Africa's leaders ready and willing to create the truly unified common market needed to boost investment, trade and economic growth, or are short-term national interests likely to prevail, consigning Africa to a century of overpopulated poverty?