Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women Dialogue for Action & the New York Forum

T.U. Dawood

The energy and essence of Davos came to Manhattan with the New York Forum, the brainchild of Moroccan-born Richard Attias who produced the World Economic Forum in Davos for 15 years, then launched the Clinton Global Initiative. This two day forum drew “5 billionaires, 70 speakers and 325 chief executives and directors of the biggest companies in the U.S. and Europe.”  Day 3, his wife Cecilia Attias (former wife of Nikolas Sarkozy) held her own Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women’s Dialogue for Action, which brought together top tier “NGO leaders, experts and influencers from the private and public sectors.”

Attias described the New York Forum as an attempt to “jump-start a new paradigm for growth and progress” with the mission to create an action plan to be sent to policymakers at the G-20 summit in Toronto, which was held in late June.  It was a power networking event as well as a paperless one. Every Forum panelist and speaker received a free iPad pre-loaded with the names, bios and email address of every other participant to show them first hand the new innovations they would be debating as well as facilitate networking.

Some of the highlights of the New York Forum included biting comments by Rubert Murdoch, practical approaches by Cathleen Black (President, Hearst Magazines, and Member of the Board, IBM and The Coca-Cola Company) and richest man in the world Carlos Slim Helú discuss hot growth areas.  Murdoch expressed his disappointment in President Obama’s policies, while Black revealed that she was not worried about paper magazines going obsolete anytime soon.  Helu revealed that the best areas to start a business today were in an emerging country such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, or their Latin American neighbors.  Even Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps stated, “There’s been a tremendous loss in dynamism in the U.S. economy.” That being said, Slim still felt the US leads in “technology, creativity and innovation.”  He cited Intel and Apple as key American successes.

Although there were a scattering of women at the New York Forum, they were the majority at the Dialogue for Action where discussions were divided by regional area with a strong and sincere emphasis on solution-seeking objectives along with the focus on identifying the main issues facing women per continent.  Some key speakers included Cindi Leive, Editor, Glamour Magazine, Dina Powell, Chairwoman, Goldman Sachs Foundation, Sila Calderon, Former Governor of Puerto Rico, Minister of State Innocence Ntap, Senegal, Zeinab Salbi, President, Women for Women International and Dr. Edit Schlaffer, President, Women Without Borders.

Topics such as HIV-positive women, maternal mortality, sex trafficking and the integration of  muslim women into American life provided a basis for important and timely discussion.  These were real issues debated by people close to the topics and audience members who were equally dynamic and passionate on the topics. There were also fantastic opportunities to networking and synergies to be developed right at the one-day Dialogue for Action itself.

“We need to work now to find implementable solutions and give a voice to the millions of women who are not able to speak out on their own,” stated the founder. She emphasized the importance of monitoring and seeing through the action-based initiatives decided upon at the end of the conference and the plan for local regional meetings to be organized as part of the follow-up. The International Herald Tribune was the Official Media Sponsor of The Dialogue for Action with The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) as the strategic partner for the event.

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