- World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum Motto Entrepreneurship is in the global public interest Formation • 1971, as European Management Forum
• 1987, name changed to World Economic Forum
Type Non-profit organization Legal status Foundation Headquarters Cologny, Geneva, Switzerland Region served Worldwide Chief Executive Officer Klaus Schwab Website weforum.org
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.
The meeting brings together top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.
Beside meetings, the foundation produces a series of research reports and engages its members in sector specific initiatives.
It also organizes the "Annual Meeting of the New Champions" in China and a series of regional meetings throughout the year. In 2008, those regional meetings included meetings on Europe and Central Asia, East Asia, the Russia CEO Roundtable, Africa, the Middle East, and the World Economic Forum on Latin America. In 2008, the foundation also launched the "Summit on the Global Agenda" in Dubai.
The 2011 annual meeting in Davos was held from 26 January to 30 January.
The foundation was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, a German-born business professor at the University of Geneva. Originally named the European Management Forum, it changed its name to the World Economic Forum in 1987 and sought to broaden its vision further to include providing a platform for resolving international conflicts.
In the summer of 1971, Schwab invited 444 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 non-profit organization based in Geneva and drew European business leaders to Davos for the annual meetings each January.
Schwab developed the "stakeholder" management approach which based corporate success on managers taking account of all interests: not merely shareholders, clients and customers, but also employees and the communities within which the firm is situated, including governments. Events in 1973, including the collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed-exchange rate mechanism and the Arab-Israeli War, saw the annual meeting expand its focus from management to economic and social issues, and political leaders were invited for the first time to the annual meeting in January 1974.
As the years went by, political leaders began to use the annual meeting as a neutral platform to resolve their differences. The Davos Declaration was signed in 1988 by Greece and Turkey, helping them turn back from the brink of war. In 1992, South African President F. W. de Klerk met with Nelson Mandela and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the annual meeting, their first joint appearance outside South Africa. At the 1994 annual meeting, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat reached a draft agreement on Gaza and Jericho. In 2008, Bill Gates gave a keynote speech on creative capitalism, a form of capitalism that works both to generate profits and solve the world's inequities, using market forces to better address the needs of the poor.
Headquartered in Cologny, the foundation opened, in 2006, regional offices in Beijing, China; and New York City, New York, United States. It strives to be impartial, and is not tied to any political, partisan or national interests. The foundation is "committed to improving the State of the World", and has observer status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and is under the supervision of the Swiss Federal Council. The foundation's highest governance body is the Foundation Board consisting of 22 members.
During the five-day annual meeting in 2009, over 2,500 participants from 91 countries gathered in Davos. Around 75 percent (1,170) were business leaders, drawn principally from its members, 1,000 of the world's top companies. Besides these, participants included 219 public figures, including 40 heads of state or government, 64 cabinet ministers, 30 heads or senior officials of international organizations and 10 ambassadors. More than 432 participants were from civil society, including 32 heads or representatives of non-governmental organizations, 225 media leaders, 149 leaders from academic institutions and think tanks, 15 religious leaders of different faiths and 11 union leaders.
The foundation is funded by its 1,000-member companies, the typical company being a global enterprise with more than five billion dollars in turnover, although the latter can vary by industry and region. In addition, 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. As of 2005, each member company pays a basic annual membership fee of CHF 42,500 and a CHF 18,000 annual-meeting fee which covers the participation of its chief executive officer at the annual meeting. Industry Partners and Strategic Partners pay CHF 250,000 and CHF 500,000, respectively, allowing them to play a greater role in the foundation's initiatives.
In addition, these enterprises rank among the top companies within their industry and/or country (generally based on turnover in millions of U.S. dollars; for financial institutions, the criteria is based on assets) and play a leading role in shaping the future of their industry and/or region, as judged by the foundation's selection committee.
Industry Partners come from a broad range of business sectors, including construction; aviation; technology; tourism; food and beverage; engineering; and financial services. These companies are alert to the global issues that most affect their specific industry sector.
Annual meeting in Davos
The flagship event of the foundation is the invitation-only annual meeting held every year at the end of January in Davos, bringing together chief executive officers from its 1,000-member companies as well as selected politicians, representatives from academia, NGOs, religious leaders and the media in an alpine environment. The town is small enough to enforce participants to meet anywhere off the sessions and allows them to attend the most possible receptions organized by companies and countries. Informal meetings may have led to as many ideas and solutions as the official sessions. Around 2,200 participants gather for the five-day event and attend some of the 220 sessions in the official programme. The discussions focus around key issues of global concern (such as international conflicts, poverty and environmental problems) and possible solutions. In all, about 500 journalists from online, print, radio and television take part, and are furnished with access to all of the sessions in the official program, some of which are also webcast.
All plenary debates from the annual meeting are also available on YouTube, pictures are available for free at Flickr and key quotes are available on Twitter. In 2007, the foundation opened pages on social-media platforms such as MySpace and Facebook. At the 2009 annual meeting, the foundation invited the general public to participate in the Davos Debates on YouTube allowing one user to attend the annual meeting in person. In 2008, the Davos Question on YouTube allowed YouTube users to interact with the world leaders gathered in Davos who were encouraged to reply from a YouTube Video Corner at the congress centre. In 2008 press conferences are live streamed on Qik and Mogulus allowing anyone to put questions to the speakers. In 2006 and 2007, selected participants were interviewed in, and the closing session was streamed into Reuters' auditorium in Second Life.
In 2008, some 250 public figures (head of state or government, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, heads or senior officials of international organization) attended the annual meeting, including: Abdoulaye Wade, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Ban Ki-moon, Condoleezza Rice, Ferenc Gyurcsany, François Fillon, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Gordon Brown, Hamid Karzai, Ilham Aliyev, Jan Peter Balkenende, Lee Bollinger, Lee Hsien Loong, Pervez Musharraf, Queen Rania of Jordan, Ruth Simmons, Salam Fayyad, Sali Berisha, Serzh Sargsyan, Shimon Peres, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Tukufu Zuberi, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, Valdas Adamkus, Yasuo Fukuda, Viktor A. Yushchenko and Zeng Peiyan.
Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Michael Wolf, Bono, Paulo Coelho and Tony Blair are also regular Davos attendees. Past attendees include Angela Merkel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Dmitry Medvedev, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Raymond Barre, Julian Lloyd Webber and Yasser Arafat.
The participants at the annual meeting were collectively described as "Davos Man" by American scholar Samuel Huntington, referring to a global elite whose members view themselves as completely international.
Annual Meeting of the New Champions
In 2007, the foundation established the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (also called Summer Davos), held annually in China and alternating between Dalian and Tianjin, bringing together 1,500 influential stakeholders of what the foundation calls Global Growth Companies, primarily from rapidly growing emerging countries such as China, India, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil, but also including fast movers from developed countries. The meeting also engages with the next generation of global leaders, fast-growing regions, competitive cities and technology pioneers from around the globe. Premier Wen Jiabao has delivered a plenary address at each annual meeting.
Every year ten regional meetings take place, enabling close contact between 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 China and India have hosted consistently over the past decade.
To commemorate 20th anniversary of the World Economic Forum on East Asia meeting will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia on June 12 and 13, 2011 with topic "Responding to the New Globalism". Some of the participants have confirmed attendance such as World Customs Organization Secretary General from Brussels, Unilever CEO from London and PricewaterhouseCoopers chairman from the US. Currently, many investors in advanced economies are shifting investments to the rapidly growing economies in Asia. 624 participants had registered with the forum organizing committee which it is the largest amount in the history of the WEF.
Young Global Leaders
In 2005 the foundation established the community of Young Global Leaders, the successor to the Global Leaders of Tomorrow, consisting of under-forty-year-old leaders from all around the world and a myriad of disciplines and sectors. The leaders engage in the 2030 Initiative, the creation of an action plan for how to reach the vision of what the world could be like in 2030. Among the Young Global Leaders are: Shai Agassi, Anousheh Ansari, Maria Consuelo Araujo, Lera Auerbach, Cenk Aydin, Fatmir Besimi, Ian Bremmer, Sergey Brin, Tyler Brûlé, Patrick Chappatte, Olafur Eliasson, Roger Federer, Jens Martin Skibsted, Rahul Gandhi, Kenneth Griffin, Kelly Chen, Scott J. Freidheim, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Abdulsalam Haykal, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Irshad Manji, Felix Maradiaga, Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Aditya Mittal, Euvin Naidoo, Gavin Newsom, Larry Page, Lewis Gordon Pugh, Senator Mar Roxas of the Philippines, Christopher Schläffer, Anoushka Shankar, Aaron McCormack, Premal Shah, Josh Spear, Peter Thiel, Jimmy Wales, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Stephan Morais, Kimmie Weeks, Gazmend Haxhia and Niklas Zennström. New members are selected on a yearly basis and the Forum of Young Global Leaders will count 1,111 members.
Since 2000 the foundation has been promoting models developed by the world's leading social entrepreneurs in close collaboration with the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The foundation highlights social entrepreneurship as a key element to advance societies and address social problems. Selected social entrepreneurs are invited to participate in the foundation's regional meetings and the annual meetings where they have a chance to meet chief executives and senior government officials. At the Annual Meeting 2003, for example, Jeroo Bilimoria met with Roberto Blois, deputy secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, an encounter that produced a key partnership for her organization Child Helpline International.
The foundation also serves as a think tank, and publishes a wide range of reports focusing on issues of concern and importance to Forum communities. 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) measures competitiveness of countries and economies; The Global Information Technology Report (2001) assesses their competitiveness based on their IT readiness; the Global Gender Gap Report (2005) examines critical areas of inequality between men and women; the Global Risks Report (2006) assesses key global risks; the Global Travel and Tourism Report (2007) measures travel and tourism competitiveness and the Global Enabling Trade Report (2008) presents a cross-country analysis of the large number of measures facilitating trade between nations.
The Global Risk Network produces a yearly report assessing those risks which are deemed to be global in scope, 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 multistakeholder approach for mitigation.
The Scenario Planning team develops a range of regional, industry-focused and issue-specific scenario reports designed to challenge readers' assumptions, raise awareness of critical underlying factors and stimulate fresh thinking about the future. Recent reports include a major publication on possible near- and long-term impacts of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, and scenarios on the impact of demographic shifts on pension and healthcare financing.
The Global Health Initiative (GHI) was launched by Kofi Annan at the Annual Meeting in 2002. The GHI's mission is to engage businesses in public-private partnerships to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and health systems.
The Global Education Initiative (GEI), launched during the Annual Meeting in 2003, has brought together international IT companies and governments in Jordan, Egypt and India which has resulted in new personal computer hardware in the classrooms and more local teachers trained in e-learning. This is having a real impact on the lives of children. The GEI model which is scalable and sustainable is now being used as an educational blueprint in other countries including Rwanda.
The Environmental Initiative covers Climate Change and Water. Under the Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, the U.K. government asked the World Economic Forum at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to facilitate a dialogue with the business community to develop recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This set of recommendations, endorsed by a global group of CEOs, was presented to leaders ahead of the G8 Summit in Toyako/Hokkaido held in July 2008.
The Water Initiative brings together different stakeholders like Alcan Inc., the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, USAID India, UNDP India, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Government of Rajasthan and the NEPAD Business Foundation to develop public-private partnerships on water management in South Africa and India.
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 in January 2004. PACI is a platform for peer exchange on practical experience and dilemma situations. Some 140 companies have signed.
Rosneft-ExxonMobil and Rosneft-BP
On 27 January 2011, Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed a deal at the forum to establish a joint venture for the purpose of prospecting and extracting oil from the Tuapse Trough deepwater area in the north-eastern continental shelf of the Black Sea, near the coast of the Krasnodar Krai. The value of the deal is unknown, but ExxonMobil is expected to invest $1 billion in the project. The venture will be shared 50-50 between the companies during prospecting phase, and 66-33 in Rosneft's favour during the extraction phase. The Tuapse Trough is estimated to contain 7.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The first well could be drilled in 2012. The joint venture will benefit from ExxonMobil's innovative technology and Rosneft's resources and experience in the region, enabling production from the difficult-to-develop offshore area. The deal also contains the possibility for additional cooperation, such as extended exploration and production, deliveries to Rosneft's oil refinery in Tuapse as well as development of transport infrastructure and research on offshore oil production technologies.
At the same January 2011 edition of the WEF, Rosneft also signed a deal on the strategic partnership with BP and revealed details of the joint Rosneft-BP project on the development of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic (earlier in the same month, Rosneft and BP exchanged 9.5% and 5% of their shares respectively, and set up a joint venture on the giant East-Prinovozemelsky field development). Currently, there is no active offshore oil industry both on the Russian Arctic shelf and in the Black Sea, and Rosneft-BP and Rosneft-ExxonMobil ventures are among the very largest and pioneering projects in these areas.
Technology Pioneers Programme
The Technology Pioneers Programme recognizes companies all over the world designing and developing new technologies. The award is given to 30–50 companies each year. As of 2008, 391 companies have been so recognized. The award was first given in 2003.
In line with the foundation's commitment to improving the state of the world, the Tech Pioneers are integrated into its activities with the objective to identify and address future-oriented issues on the global agenda, in proactive, innovative and entrepreneurial ways. By bringing these executives together with scientists, academics, NGOs, and foundation members and partners, the foundation's goal is to shed new light on how technologies can be used to, for example, find new vaccines, create economic growth and enhance global communication.
Public Eye Awards
The Public Eye Awards have been held every year since 2000. It is a counter-event to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Public Eye Awards is public competition of the world's worst corporation. In 2011 more than 50,000 voted for companies acted irresponsibly. At a ceremony at a Davos hotel the "winners" in 2011 were named as Indonesian palm oil diesel maker Neste Oil in Finland and mining company AngloGold Ashanti in South Africa.
In the late 1990s the foundation, along with the G7, World Bank, World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund, came under heavy criticism by anti-globalisation activists who claimed that capitalism and globalization were increasing poverty and destroying the environment. 10,000 demonstrators disrupted the World Economic Forum in Melbourne, Australia, obstructing the passage of 200 delegates to the meeting. Demonstrations are repeatedly held in Davos (see Anti-WEF protests in Switzerland, January 2003) to protest against the meeting of "fat cats in the snow", as rock singer Bono tongue-in-cheek termed it.
American linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky thinks that globalization in the sense of investors and privileged elites or some participants of the World Economic Forum is a propaganda term.
Chomsky said in an interview,"The dominant propaganda systems have appropriated the term 'globalization' to refer to the specific version of international economic integration that they favor, which privileges the rights of investors and lenders, those of people being incidental. In accord with this usage, those who favor a different form of international integration, which privileges the rights of human beings, become 'anti-globalist.' This is simply vulgar propaganda, like the term 'anti-Soviet' used by the most disgusting commissars to refer to dissidents. It is not only vulgar, but idiotic. Take the World Social Forum, called 'anti-globalization' in the propaganda system—which happens to include the media, the educated classes, etc., with rare exceptions. The WSF is a paradigm example of globalization. It is a gathering of huge numbers of people from all over the world, from just about every corner of life one can think of, apart from the extremely narrow highly privileged elites who meet at the competing World Economic Forum, and are called 'pro-globalization' by the propaganda system. An observer watching this farce from Mars would collapse in hysterical laughter at the antics of the educated classes."
In January 2000, 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of Davos and smashed the window of the local McDonald's restaurant. The tight security measures around Davos have kept demonstrators from the Alpine resort, and most demonstrations are now held in Zürich, Bern or Basel. The costs of the security measures, which are shared by the foundation and the Swiss cantonal and national authorities have also been frequently criticised in the Swiss national media.
Starting at the annual meeting in January 2003 in Davos, an Open Forum Davos, co-organized by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, was held in parallel, opening up the debate about globalisation to the general public. The Open Forum has been held in the local high school every year, featuring top politicians and business leaders, and is open to all members of the public free of charge.
The annual meeting has also been decried as a "mix of pomp and platitude", and criticized for moving away from serious economics and accomplishing little of substance, particularly with the increasing involvement of NGOs that have little or no expertise in economics. Instead of a discussion on the world economy with knowledgeable experts alongside key business and political players, the annual meeting now features the top media political causes of the day, such as global climate change and AIDS in Africa.
Davos Man is a neologism which refers to the global elite of wealthy men whose members view themselves as completely international. Davos is an Alpine city in eastern Switzerland which became famous in the 1990s for hosting the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of international politicians and financiers who represented a transnational elite. It is similar to the term Masters of the Universe attributed to influential financiers on Wall St.
Davos Men supposedly see their identity as a matter of personal choice, not an accident of birth. 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," he argues that this international perspective is a minority elitist position not shared by the nationalist majority of the people.
John Fonte of the Hudson Institute has suggested that the transnational ideology of Davos Man represents a major challenge to Francis Fukuyama's assertion that liberal democracy represents the fulfillment of The End of History and the Last Man.
Hernando de Soto Polar of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy attributes a similar concept to Henri Braudel, referring to it as the "bell jar". Although internationally connected, each country's elite lives in a bell jar in the sense of being out of touch with its own populace. Their isolation fosters a tendency to be oblivious to the fate of their fellow citizens.
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- Wolf, Michael (1999). The Entertainment Economy — How Mega-Media Forces Are Transforming Our Lives. Random House (New York City, New York). ISBN 978-0-8129-3042-9. 336 pages.
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