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The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Genevamarker-based non-profit foundation best known for its annual meeting in Davosmarker, Switzerlandmarker which 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. The Forum also organizes the "Annual Meeting of the New Champions" in Chinamarker 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 it launched the "Summit on the Global Agenda" in Dubai.

The World Economic Forum was founded in 1971 by Klaus M. Schwab, a business professor in Switzerland. Beyond meetings, the Forum produces a series of research reports and engages its members in sector specific initiatives.


Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
Forum is headquartered in Colognymarker, Geneva, Switzerland. In 2006 the Forum opened regional offices in Beijing, China and New Yorkmarker, USAmarker. It is impartial and not-for-profit and is not tied to any political, partisan or national interests. It has observer status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is under the supervision of the Swiss Federal Government. Its highest governance body is the Foundation Board consisting of 22 members including former Britishmarker Prime Minister Tony Blair and Queen Rania of Jordanmarker. The Forum’s mission is "committed to improving the State of the World".

During the five-day Annual meeting in 2009, over 2,500 participants from 91 countries will gather in Davos. Around 75% are business leaders, drawn principally from the Forum's members – 1,000 of the foremost companies from around the world and across economic sectors.

More than 1,170 CEOs and chairpersons from the world’s leading companies are participating in 2009.

Other major categories of participants from around the world include: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 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 Forum is funded by its 1000 member companies. The typical member company is 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 CEO at the Annual Meeting in Davos. Industry Partners and Strategic Partners pay CHF 250,000 and CHF 500,000 respectively allowing them to play a greater role in the Forum’s initiatives.

In addition, these enterprises rank among the top companies within their industry and/or country (generally based on turnover in millions of US 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 Forum'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 Forum’s flagship event is the Annual Meeting held every year at the end of January in Davos. The meeting in the Swiss alpinemarker resort brings together CEOs from the Forum’s 1000 member companies as well as selected politicians, representatives from academia, NGOs, religious leaders and the media. Participation at the Annual Meeting is by invitation only. Around 2200 participants gather for the five-day event and attend some 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 TV take part in the Annual Meeting. The media has access to all of the sessions in the official program, some of which are also webcast.

All plenary debates from Davos are also available on YouTube, pictures are available for free at Flickr and the key quotes are available on Twitter. In 2007 the Forum opened pages on social media platforms such as MySpace and Facebook. At the Annual Meeting 2009 the Forum 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, Robert McGregor, Ruth Simmons, Salam Fayyad, Sali Berisha,Serzh Sargsyan, Shimon Peres, 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, Dmitry Medvedev, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Raymond Barre, Julian Lloyd Webber and Yasser Arafat.

The participants at the Annual Meeting were described as “Davos Man” by Samuel Huntington, referring to a global elite whose members view themselves as completely international.

Annual Meeting of the New Champions

In 2007, the Forum established the “Annual Meeting of the New Champions” (also called "Summer Davos") held annually in Chinamarker. The event has been held in Dalian and Tianjinmarker and brings together 1,500 influential stakeholders. This is a meeting for what the Forum calls the “Global Growth Companies”. These are business champions primarily from rapidly growing emerging countries, such as Chinamarker, Indiamarker, Russiamarker, Mexicomarker, and Brazilmarker 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 previous sessions.

Regional meetings

Every year some ten regional meetings take place, enabling close contact between corporate business leaders, local government leaders and NGO. 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.

Young Global Leaders

In 2005 the Forum has established the community of Young Global Leaders, successor to the Global Leaders of Tomorrow consisting of under 40 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, Ian Bremmer, Sergey Brin, Tyler Brûlé, Patrick Chappatte, Olafur Eliasson, Jens Martin Skibsted, Rahul Gandhi, Kenneth Griffin, Kelly Chen, Scott J. Freidheim, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Abdulsalam Haykal, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Tariq Krim, Irshad Manji, Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Matias de Tezanos, Aditya Mittal, Euvin Naidoo, Gavin Newsom, Larry Page, Senator Mar Roxas of the Philippinesmarker Andrea Sanke, Anoushka Shankar, Josh Spear, Peter Thiel, Karim Meïssa Wade, Jimmy Wales, Niklas Zennström, Felix Maradiaga et al. New members are selected on a yearly basis and the Forum of Young Global Leaders will count 1111 members.

Social Entrepreneurs

Since 2000, the Forum 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 regional meetings and the Annual Meetings of the Forum where they have a chance to meet chief executives and senior government officials. At the Annual Meeting 2003, for example, Jeroo Bilimoria met Roberto Blois, deputy secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, an encounter that produced a key partnership for her organization Child Helpline International.

Research Reports

The Forum also serves as a think tank and publishes a wide range of reports which focused on issues of concern and importance to Forum communities. In particular, the Forum's 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, The Future of the Global Financial System: A Near-Term Outlook and Long-Term Scenarios and scenarios on the impact of demographic shifts on pension and healthcare financing, Financing Demographic Shifts: Pension and Healthcare Scenarios to 2030.


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, TB, 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, Egyptmarker and India which has resulted in new PC 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 Rwandamarker.

The Environmental Initiative covers Climate Change and Water. Under the “Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change”, the UKmarker 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 Toyakomarker/Hokkaidomarker 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 Rajasthanmarker 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.


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 World Economic Forum’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 Forum members and partners, the Forum'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.


In 1971, Klaus M. Schwab, then Professor of business policy at the University of Genevamarker, invited 444 executives from Western European firms to the first European Management Symposium held in the recently built Davos Congress Centre. Under the patronage of the European Commissionmarker and European industrial associations Schwab wanted to introduce European firms to USmarker management practices. He then founded the European Management Forum as a non-profit organization based in Geneva and drew European business leaders to Davos for their annual meeting 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 employees and the communities within which the firm is situated, including governments. Events in 1973, namely 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 Davos in January 1974.

Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 1992.
The European Management Forum 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. Political leaders have used Davos as a neutral platform to resolve their differences. The "Davos Declaration" was signed in 1988 by Greecemarker and Turkeymarker which saw them turn back from the brink of war. In 1992, South African President F. W. de Klerk met Nelson Mandela and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the Annual Meeting, their first joint appearance outside South Africa. At 1994’s Annual Meeting, Israelimarker Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat reach a draft agreement on Gazamarker and Jerichomarker. In 2008 Bill Gates held a keynote speech on ‘Creative Capitalism’ – the 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.


In the late 1990s the Forum, as well as the G7, World Bank, WTO and the IMFmarker, came under heavy criticism by anti-globalisation activists who claim capitalism and globalization are increasing poverty and destroying the environment. 1500 demonstrators disrupted the World Economic Forum in Melbournemarker, Australia, obstructing the passage of 200 delegates to the meeting. Demonstrations are repeatedly held in Davos to protest against the meeting of “fat cats in the snow” as rock singer Bono tongue-in-cheek termed it.

In January 2000, 1,000 protestors marched through Davos and during the demonstrations the window of the local McDonald's was smashed. The tight security measures around Davos have kept demonstrators away from accessing the Alpine resort and most demonstrations are now held in Zürichmarker, Bernmarker or Baselmarker. The costs of the security measures which are shared by the Forum 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 with the main Annual Meeting 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, Davos now features the top media political causes of the day (such as global climate change and AIDS in Africa).

See also


  1. Pigman p6-22
  2. Pigman p41-42
  3. Pigman p58-59
  5. Pigman p23-30
  6. Rothkopf p272
  7. A beginners' guide to Davos, BBC Online, 16 January 2009, retrieved on 16 January 2009
  8. Q&A: World Economic Forum 2009, BBC Online, 16 January 2009, retrieved on 16 January 2009
  9. Forum’s homepage
  15. YouTube Wants To Bring You To The World Economic Forum In Davos, Techcrunch, 15 December 2008, retrieved on 15 December 2008
  16. The Davos Debates, retrieved on 15 December 2008
  18. The Super-Awesome YouTube Room At Davos, Techcrunch, 26 January 2008, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  21. Getting a Second Life in Davos, CNN, 26 January 2007: 10:07AM EST, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  22. Davos 2008 guest list, Telegraph, 19 January 2008: 1:07AM GMT, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  23. Davos man's death wish, The Guardian, 3 February 2008, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  24. In Search of Davos Man, Time, 23 January 2005, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  25. World Economic Forum: The Inaugural Annual Meeting of the New Champions,, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  26. Summer Davos to put Dalian on business map, People's Daily, 1 August 2007, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  28. Meet some of the under-40s selected to join forces to shape a better future, Newsweek, 29 May 2005, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  33. Davos diary: Meetings of minds, BBC, 31 January 2005: 09:18 GMT, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  34. Mike Moore, p209
  35. Bornstein p272
  36. Pigman p43, 92-112
  37. Global Risk Report 2009, World Economic Forum.
  39. Business chiefs urge carbon curbs, BBC, 20 June 2008, retrieved on 3 September 2008
  40. Business chiefs call for G8 climate leadership, Reuters, 19 June 2008, retrieved on 3 September 2008
  41. Pigman p115
  43. Kellerman p229
  44. Schwab and Kroos
  45. Interview: Klaus Schwab'', Financial Times, 22 January 2008, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  46. WEF and Davos: A brief history, Telegraph, 16 January 2008: 12:09AM, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  47. Gates pushes ‘creative capitalism’, Financial Times, 25 January 2008, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  48. Gates calls for creative capitalism, Reuters (video)
  49. Economic Talks Open Minus 200 Delegates: Demonstrators Harass Melbourne Conference, International Herald Tribune, 12 September 2000, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  50. Anti-WEF protests in Switzerland, January 2003
  51. Anti-WEF protests in Switzerland, January 2006
  52. Bono Teams Up With Amex, Gap For Product Red, Forbes, 21 January 2006, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  53. The Davos Buzz, Forbes, 22 January 2008: 12:30PM ET, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  54. Police arrest 100 Davos protesters, CNN, 28 January 2001: 8:24AM EST, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  55. Tight security surrounds Davos, CNN, 25 January 2001: 4:37 AM EST, retrieved on 29 August 2008
  57. Pigman p130
  58. Open Forum (YouTube)
  59. Davos: beanfeast of pomp and platitude, Times Online, 22 January 2006, retrieved on 29 August 2008

Reference books

  • Michael Wolf, The Entertainment Economy: How Mega-Media Forces Are Transforming Our Lives, Published by Random House 1999,
ISBN 0812930428, 336 pages.
  • Barbara Kellerman, Reinventing Leadership: Making the Connection Between Politics and Business, Published by SUNY Press, 1999, ISBN 0791440729, 268 pages.
  • David Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Published by Oxford University Press US, 2007, ISBN 0195334760, 358 pages.
  • David Rothkopf, Superclass: The global power elite and the world they are making, Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, ISBN 0374272107, 400 pages
  • Geoffrey Allen Pigman, Global Institutions: The World Economic Forum – A multi-stakeholder approach to global governance, Published by Routledge, 2007, ISBN 978-0-415-70204-1, 175 pages.
  • Klaus M. Schwab and Hein Kroos, Moderne Unternehmensführung im Maschinenbau, Published by Verein Dt. Maschinenbau-Anst. e.V. ; Maschinenbau-Verl, 1971
  • Mike Moore, A World Without Walls: Freedom, Development, Free Trade and Global Governance, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0521827019, 292 pages.

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