The World Economic Forum
), based in Cologny
, Geneva Canton
, is an international NGO
, founded on 24 January 1971. The WEF's mission is stated as "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 WEF hosts an annual meeting at the end of January in Davos
, a mountain resort in Graubünden
, in the eastern Alps
region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 3,000 business leaders, international political leaders, economists
, celebrities and journalists for up to five days to discuss global issues
, across 500 sessions.
The organization also convenes some six to eight regional meetings each year in locations across Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and India and holds two further annual meetings in China and the United Arab Emirates
. Beside meetings, the organization provides a platform for leaders from all stakeholder groups from around the world – business, government and civil society
– to collaborate on multiple projects and initiatives.
It also produces a series of reports and engages its members in sector-specific initiatives.
Professor Klaus Schwab opens the inaugural European Management Forum in Davos in 1971.
, then Japanese prime minister gives a special message at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011
, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum
The economics expert Prime-Minister Meles Zenawi
, being a panelist at World Economic Forum on 2012.
The WEF was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab
, a business professor at the University of Geneva
First named the European Management Forum
, it changed its name to the World Economic Forum in 1987 and sought to broaden its vision to include providing a platform for resolving international conflicts.
In February 1971, Schwab invited 450 executives from Western European
firms to the first European Management Symposium held in the Davos Congress Centre
under the patronage of the European Commission
and European industrial associations, where Schwab sought to introduce European firms to American management practices.
He then founded the WEF as a nonprofit organization based in Geneva
and drew European business leaders to Davos
for the annual meetings each January.
The second European Management Forum, in 1972, was the first meeting at which one of the speakers at the forum was a head of government, President Pierre Werner
Events in 1973, including the collapse of the Bretton Woods
fixed-exchange rate mechanism and the Yom Kippur War
, saw the annual meeting expand its focus from management to economic and social issues, and, for the first time, political leaders were invited to the annual meeting in January 1974.
In October 2004, the World Economic Forum gained attention through the resignation of its CEO
and executive director José María Figueres
over the undeclared receipt of more than US$900,000 in consultancy fees from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel
In January 2006, the WEF published an article in its Global Agenda magazine titled ”Boycott Israel”, which was distributed to all 2,340 participants of the Annual Meeting.
Following the publication, Klaus Schwab
described the publication as "an unacceptable failure in the editorial process".
In autumn 2015, the invitation was extended to include a North Korean delegation for the 2016 WEF, "in view of positive signs coming out of the country", the WEF organizers noted. North Korea has not been attending the WEF since 1998. The invitation was accepted.
However, WEF revoked the invitation on 13 January 2016, after the 6 January 2016 North Korean nuclear test
, and the country's delegation was made to subject to "existing and possible forthcoming sanctions".
Despite protests by North Korea
calling the decision by the WEF managing board a "sudden and irresponsible" move, the WEF committee maintained the exclusion because "under these circumstances there would be no opportunity for international dialogue".
In 2017, the WEF in Davos attracted considerable attention when for the first time, a head of state from the People's Republic of China
was present at the alpine resort. With the backdrop of Brexit
, an incoming protectionist
US administration and significant pressures on free trade zones
and trade agreements
, Paramount leader Xi Jinping
defended the global economic scheme, and portrayed China as a responsible nation and a leader for environmental causes. He sharply rebuked the current populist movements that would introduce tariffs and hinder global commerce, warning that such protectionism could foster isolation and reduced economic opportunity.
In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
gave the plenary speech, becoming the first head of state from India to deliver the inaugural keynote for the annual meet at Davos. Modi highlighted global warming
(climate change), terrorism and protectionism as the three major global challenges, and expressed confidence that they can be tackled with collective effort.
In 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
gave the keynote address at the plenary session of the conference. On his first international trip to Davos, he emphasized liberal economic policies despite his populist agenda, and attempted to reassure the world that Brazil
is a protector of the rain forest
while utilizing its resources for food production and export. He stated that "his government will seek to better integrate Brazil into the world by mainstreaming international best practices, such as those adopted and promoted by the OECD
Environmental concerns like extreme weather events, and the failure of climate change mitigation
were among the top-ranking global risks expressed by WEF attendees.
In 2020, the Swiss police made the public aware that two "Russian spies", one of which was disguised as a plumber, had travelled to Davos with diplomatic passports prior to the Annual Meeting. The Russian Embassy in Bern
denied having carried out “preparatory work” for spying on the World Economic Forum.
Headquartered in Cologny, the WEF also has offices in New York, Beijing and Tokyo. In January 2015, it was designated an NGO with "other international body" status by the Swiss Federal Government under the Swiss Host-State Act
On October 10, 2016, the WEF announced the opening of its new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
in San Francisco. According to the WEF, the center will "serve as a platform for interaction, insight and impact on the scientific and technological changes that are changing the way we live, work and relate to one another".
The Managing Board is chaired by the WEF's President, Børge Brende
, and acts as the executive body of the World Economic Forum. Managing Board members are Emma Benameur, Børge Brende, Julien Gattoni, W. Lee Howell, Jeremy Jurgens, Anil Menon, Adrian Monck, Sarita Nayyar, Richard Samans, Olivier M. Schwab, Murat Sönmez, Dominic Kailash Nath Waughray, Saadia Zahidi, Alois Zwinggi.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the World Economic Forum in 2009.
Board of Trustees
The WEF is chaired by Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab
and is guided by a Board of Trustees that is made up of leaders from business, politics, academia and civil society. Members of the Board of Trustees include: Mukesh Ambani
, Marc Benioff
, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe
, Mark Carney
, Laurence D. Fink
, Chrystia Freeland
, Orit Gadiesh
, Fabiola Gianotti
, Al Gore
, Herman Gref
, José Ángel Gurría
, André Hoffmann
, Christine Lagarde
, Jack Ma
, Yo-Yo Ma
, Peter Maurer
, Luis Alberto Moreno
, Muriel Pénicaud
, H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
, L. Rafael Reif
, David M. Rubenstein
, Mark Schneider
, Klaus Schwab
, Tharman Shanmugaratnam
, Jim Hagemann Snabe
, Feike Sijbesma
, Heizo Takenaka
, Zhu Min
The foundation is funded by its 1,000 member companies, typically global enterprises with more than five billion dollars in turnover (varying by industry and region). These enterprises rank among the top companies within their industry and/or country and play a leading role in shaping the future of their industry and/or region. Membership is stratified by the level of engagement with forum activities, with the level of membership fees increasing as participation in meetings, projects, and initiatives rises.
In 2011 an annual membership cost $52,000 for an individual member, $263,000 for "Industry Partner" and $527,000 for "Strategic Partner". An admission fee cost $19,000 per person.
In 2014, WEF raised annual fees by 20 percent, bringing the cost for "Strategic Partner" from CHF 500,000 ($523,000) to CHF 600,000 ($628,000).
A sports shop has turned into a temporary informal reception location "Caspian week", WEF 2018.
The flagship event of the World Economic Forum is the invitation-only annual meeting held at the end of January in Davos, Switzerland, bringing together chief executive officers from its 1,000 member companies, as well as selected politicians, representatives from academia
, religious leaders, and the media in an alpine
environment. The winter discussions ostensibly focus around key issues of global concern (such as the globalization
, capital markets, wealth management, international conflicts, environmental problems and their possible solutions).
The participants also take part in role playing events, such as the Investment Heat Map.
Informal winter meetings may have led to as many ideas and solutions as the official sessions.
At the 2018 annual meeting, more than 3,000 participants from nearly 110 countries participated in over 400 sessions. Participation included more than 340 public figures, including more than 70 heads of state and government and 45 heads of international organizations; 230 media representatives and almost 40 cultural leaders were represented.
As many as 500 journalists from online, print, radio, and television take part, with access to all sessions in the official program, some of which are also webcast
Not all the journalists are given access to all areas, however. This is reserved for white badge holders. "Davos runs an almost caste-like system of badges", according to BBC journalist Anthony Reuben. "A white badge means you're one of the delegates – you might be the chief executive of a company or the leader of a country (although that would also get you a little holographic sticker to add to your badge), or a senior journalist. An orange badge means you're just a run-of-the-mill working journalist."
debates from the annual meeting also are available on YouTube
while photographs are available on Flickr
Overview of past annual meetings
Some 3,000 individual participants joined the 2020 annual meeting in Davos. Countries with the most attendees include the United States
(674 participants), the United Kingdom
(137) and India
Among the attendees were heads of state or government, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, heads or senior officials of international organizations) attended the annual meeting, including: Sanna Marin
(Prime Minister of Finland
), Ursula von der Leyen
(President of the European Commission
), Christine Lagarde
), Greta Thunberg
), Ren Zhengfei
(Huawei Technologies founder
), Kristalina Georgieva
(Managing director of the IMF
), Deepika Padukone
), George Soros
) and Donald Trump
(President of the United States
An analysis by The Economist
from 2014 found that the vast majority of participants are male and more than 50 years old. Business accounts for most of the participants' background (1,595 conference attendees) with the remaining seats shared between government (364), NGOs (246) and press (234). Academia, which had been the basis of the first annual conference in 1971, had been marginalised to the smallest participant group (183 attendees).
Next to individual participants, the World Economic Forum maintains a dense network of corporate partners that can apply for different partnership ranks within the forum.
For 2019, Bloomberg
has identified a total of 436 listed corporates that participated in the Annual Meeting while measuring a stock underperformance by the Davos participants of c. -10% versus the S&P 500 during the same year. Drivers are among others an overrepresentation of financial companies and an underrepresentation of fast-growing health care and information technology businesses at the conference.
The Economist had found similar results in an earlier study, showing an underperformance of Davos participants against both the MSCI World Index and the S&P 500 between 2009 and 2014.
Summer annual meeting
In 2007, the foundation established the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (also called Summer Davos), held annually in China, alternating between Dalian
, bringing together 1,500 participants from what the foundation calls Global Growth Companies, primarily from rapidly growing emerging countries such as China, India
, Russia, Mexico
, and Brazil
, but also including quickly growing companies from developed countries
. The meeting also engages with the next generation of global leaders from fast-growing regions and competitive cities, as well as technology pioneers from around the globe.
The Premier of China
has delivered a plenary address at each annual meeting.
, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, India; Sudha Pilay, Member-Secretary, Planning Commission, India; and Ben Verwaayen
, chief executive officer, Alcatel-Lucent, France were the co-chairs of the India Economic Summit 2011 in Mumbai
Every year regional meetings take place, enabling close contact among corporate business leaders, local government leaders, and NGOs. Meetings are held in Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The mix of hosting countries varies from year to year, but consistently China and India have hosted throughout the decade since 2000.
Young Global Leaders
The group of Young Global Leaders
consists of 800 people chosen by the WEF organizers as being representative of contemporary leadership, "coming from all regions of the world and representing all stakeholders in society", according to the organization. After five years of participation they are considered alumni.
The foundation also acts as a think tank
, publishing a wide range of reports. In particular, "Strategic Insight Teams" focus on producing reports of relevance in the fields of competitiveness, global risks, and scenario thinking
The "Competitiveness Team"
produces a range of annual economic reports (first published in brackets): the Global Competitiveness Report
(1979) measured competitiveness of countries and economies; The Global Information Technology Report
(2001) assessed their competitiveness based on their IT readiness; the Global Gender Gap Report
examined critical areas of inequality between men and women; the Global Risks Report
(2006) assessed key global risks; the Global Travel and Tourism Report
(2007) measured travel and tourism competitiveness; the Financial Development Report (2008)
aimed to provide a comprehensive means for countries to establish benchmarks for various aspects of their financial systems and establish priorities for improvement; and the Global Enabling Trade Report
(2008) presented a cross-country analysis of the large number of measures facilitating trade among nations.
The "Risk Response Network"
produces a yearly report assessing risks which are deemed to be within the scope of these teams, have cross-industry relevance, are uncertain, have the potential to cause upwards of US$10 billion in economic damage, have the potential to cause major human suffering, and which require a multi-stakeholder approach for mitigation.
In 2020, the forum published a report named: "Nature Risk Rising
". In this report the forum estimated that approximately half of the global GDP is dependent highly or moderately on nature and 1 dollar spent on nature restoration yields 9 dollars in profit.
The Global Health Initiative was launched by Kofi Annan
at the annual meeting in 2002. The GHI's mission was to engage businesses in public-private partnerships to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis
, and health systems.
The Global Education Initiative (GEI), launched during the annual meeting in 2003, brought together international IT companies and governments in Jordan, Egypt, and India
that has resulted in new personal computer hardware being available in their classrooms and more local teachers trained in e-learning
. The GEI model, which is scalable and sustainable, now is being used as an educational blueprint in other countries including Rwanda
On 19 January 2017 the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations
(CEPI), a global initiative to fight epidemics, was launched at WEF in Davos. The internationally funded initiative aims at securing vaccine supplies for global emergencies and pandemics, and to research new vaccines for tropical diseases, that are now more menacing. The project is funded by private and governmental donors, with an initial investment of US$460m from the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway, plus the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.
declared a global health emergency 6 days later.
In an effort to combat corruption, the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative
(PACI) was launched by CEOs from the engineering and construction, energy and metals
, and mining industries at the annual meeting in Davos during January 2004. PACI is a platform for peer exchange on practical experience and dilemma situations. Approximately 140 companies have joined the initiative.
In the beginning of the 21st century, the forum began to increasingly deal with environmental issues.
In the Davos Manifesto 2020 it is said that a company among other:
"acts as a steward of the environmental and material universe for future generations. It consciously protects our biosphere and champions a circular, shared and regenerative economy."
"responsibly manages near-term, medium-term and long-term value creation in pursuit of sustainable shareholder returns that do not sacrifice the future for the present."
"is more than an economic unit generating wealth. It fulfils human and societal aspirations as part of the broader social system. Performance must be measured not only on the return to shareholders, but also on how it achieves its environmental, social and good governance objectives."
In 2016 WEF published an article in which it is said, that in some cases reducing consumption can increase well-being. In the article is mentioned that in Costa Rica
the GDP is 4 times smaller than in many countries in Western Europe and North America, but people live longer and better. An American study shows that those whose income is higher than $75,000, do not necessarily have an increase in well-being. To better measure well-being, the New Economics Foundation's launched the Happy Planet Index
The Forum emphasized its 'Environment and Natural Resource Security Initiative' for the 2017 meeting to achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable practices for global industries. With increasing limitations on world trade
through national interests and trade barriers, the WEF has moved towards a more sensitive and socially-minded approach for global businesses with a focus on the reduction of carbon emissions
in China and other large industrial nations.
The World Economic Forum is working to eliminate plastic pollution, stating that by the year 2050 it will consume 15% of the global carbon budget
and will pass by its weight fishes in the world's oceans. One of the methods is to achieve circular economy
The theme of the 2020 World Economic Forum annual meeting was 'Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World'. Climate change and sustainability were central themes of discussion. Many argued that GDP is failed to represent correctly the wellbeing and that fossil fuel subsidies
should be stopped. Many of the participants said that a better capitalism is needed. Al Gore
summarized the ideas in the conference as: "The version of capitalism we have today in our world must be reformed".
In this meeting the World Economic Forum:
- Launched the Trillion Tree Campaign an initiative aiming to "grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees over the next 10 years around the world - in a bid to restore biodiversity and help fight climate change". Donald Trump joined the initiative. The forum stated that: "Nature-based solutions – locking-up carbon in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands – can provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement targets," adding that the rest should come from the heavy industry, finance and transportation sectors. One of the targets is to unify existing reforestation projects
- Discussed the issue of climate change and called to expanding renewable energy, energy efficiency change the patterns of consumption and remove carbon from the atmosphere. The forum claimed that the climate crisis will become a climate apocalypse if the temperature will rise by 2 degrees. The forum called to fulfill the commitments in Paris Agreement. Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace, said that as to the beginning of the forum, fossil fuels still get three times more money than climate solutions.
At the 2021 annual meeting UNFCCC
launched the 'UN Race-to-Zero Emissions Breakthroughs'. The aim of the campaign is to transform 20 sectors of the economy in order to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions. At least 20% of each sector should take specific measures, and 10 sectors should be transformed before COP 26 in Glasgow. According to the organizers, 20% is a tipping point, after which the whole sector begins to irreversibly change.
Coronavirus and green recovery
In April 2020, the forum published an article that postulates that the COVID-19 pandemic is linked to the destruction of nature. The number of emerging diseases is rising and this rise is linked to deforestation
and species loss
. In the article, there are multiple examples of the degradation of ecological systems caused by humans. It is also says that half of the global GDP
is moderately or largely dependent on nature. The article concludes that the recovery from the pandemic should be linked to nature recovery.
Global Future Councils
The Network of Global Future Councils meets annually in the United Arab Emirates
and virtually several times a year.
The second WEF annual meeting was held in Dubai in November 2017, when there were 35 distinct councils focused on a specific issue, industry or technology.
In 2017 members met with representatives and partners of WEF's new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Ideas and proposals are taken forward for further discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters in January.
Global Shapers Community
The Global Shapers Community, an initiative of World Economic Forum, selects young leaders below 30 years old based on their achievement and potential to be change agents in the world.
Global Shapers develop and lead their city-based hubs to implement social justice projects that advance the mission of World Economic Forum.
Future of Work
In regards to the Future of Work, the 2020 WEF set the goal of providing better jobs, access to higher quality education and skills to 1 billion people by 2030.
The Great Reset
In May 2020, the WEF and the Prince of Wales
's Sustainable Markets Initiative launched "The Great Reset" project, a five-point plan concerned with enhancing sustainable economic growth following the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns
"The Great Reset" will be the theme of WEF's Annual Meeting in August 2021.
Protest march against the WEF in Basel
After 2014, the protest movement against the World Economic Forum largely died down, and Swiss police
noted a significant decline in attending protesters, 20 at most during the meeting in 2016. While protesters are still more numerous in large Swiss cities, the protest movement itself has undergone significant change.
Around 150 Tibetans
protested in Geneva
and 400 Tibetans in Bern
against the visit of the China's paramount leaderXi Jinping
for the 2017 meeting, with subsequent confrontations and arrests.
Growing wealth gaps
A number of NGOs have used the World Economic Forum to highlight growing inequalities and wealth gaps
. Winnie Byanyima
, the executive director of the anti-poverty confederation Oxfam International
co-chaired the 2015 meeting, where she presented a critical report of global wealth distribution based on statistical research by the Credit Suisse Research Institute
. In this study, the richest one percent of people in the world own forty-eight percent of the world's wealth.
At the 2019 meeting, she presented another report claiming that the gap between rich and poor has only increased. The report “Public Good or Private Wealth” stated that 2,200 billionaires worldwide saw their wealth grow by 12 percent while the poorest half saw its wealth fall by 11 percent. Oxfam calls for a global tax overhaul to increase and harmonise global tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals.
Public cost of security
In September 2018, the city of Davos approved by popular vote to increase the security budget for the yearly meeting to CHF 1.125 million. Later that month, the Swiss house of representatives (Nationalrat) also agreed to increase police and military expenditures to CHF 39 million while the Kanton of Graubünden
contributes CHF 2.25 million, the same amount the WEF is paying for security costs.
The Aargauer Zeitung
argued in January 2020 that the actual cost borne by the Kanton Graubünden stand at CHF 9 million per year.
Private vs public meetings
Since the annual meeting in January 2003 in Davos, an Open Forum Davos
which was co-organized by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
, is held concurrently with the Davos forum, opening up the debate about globalization to the general public. The Open Forum has been held in the local high school every year, featuring top politicians and business leaders. It is open to all members of the public free of charge.
"Davos Man" is a neologism
referring to the global elite whose members view themselves as completely "international". According to political scientist Samuel P. Huntington
, who is credited with inventing the phrase "Davos Man",
they are people who "have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the élite's global operations". In his 2004 article "Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite", Huntington argues that this international perspective is a minority elitist position not shared by the nationalist majority of the people.
In 2019, the Manager Magazin
journalist Henrik Müller argued that the "Davos Man" had already decayed into different groups and camps. He sees three central drivers for this development:
- Ideologically: the liberal western model is no longer considered a universal role model that other countries strive for (with China's digital totalitarianism or the traditional absolutism in the Persian Gulf as counter-proposals, all of which are represented by government members in Davos).
- Socially: societies increasingly disintegrate into different groups, each of which evokes its own identity (e.g. embodied through the Brexit vote or congressional blockades in the USA).
- Economically: the measured economic reality largely contradicts the established ideas of how the economy should actually work (despite economic upswings, wages and prices e.g. barely rise).
Since 2011, the World Economic Forum has been addressing its very own gender quota
, to introduce at least one woman for every five senior executives that attended. Female participation increased from 9% to 15% between 2001 and 2005. In 2016, 18% of the WEF attendees were female; this number increased to 21% in 2017, and 24% in 2020, five years of growth.
Several women have since shared their personal impressions of the Davos meetings in media articles, highlighting that issues were more profound than "a quota at Davos for female leaders or a session on diversity and inclusion".
The World Economic Forum has in this context filed legal complaints against at least three investigative articles by reporters Katie Gibbons and Billy Kenber that were published by the British newspaper The Times
in March 2020.
Undemocratic decision making
According to the European Parliament
's Think Tank
, critics see the WEF as an instrument for political and business leaders to "take decisions without having to account to their electorate or shareholders".
Lack of financial transparency
In 2017, the former Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
journalist Jürgen Dunsch criticized that financial reports of the WEF were not very transparent since neither income nor expenditures were broken down. In addition, he outlined that the foundation capital was not quantified while the apparently not insignificant profits would be reinvested.
Recent annual reports published by the WEF include a more detailed breakdown of its financials and indicate revenues of SFr 349 million for the year 2019 with reserves of SFr 310 million and a foundation capital of SFr 34 million. There are no further details provided to what asset classes or individual names the WEF allocates its financial assets of SFr 261 million.
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- ´How to Open the World Economic Forum´ – Matthias Lüfkens in Interview with 99FACES.tv
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