The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Cologny, canton of Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab. The foundation, which is mostly funded by its 1,000 member companies – typically global enterprises with more than five billion US dollars in turnover – as well as public subsidies, views its own mission as "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 is mostly known for its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 3,000 paying members and selected participants – among whom are investors, business leaders, political leaders, economists, celebrities, and journalists – for up to five days to discuss global issues across 500 sessions.
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 non-profit organisation 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 of Luxembourg.
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.
Political leaders soon began to use the annual meeting as venue for promoting their interests. 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 late December 2021, the World Economic Forum said in a release that pandemic conditions had made it extremely difficult to stage a global in-person meeting the following month; transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant and its impact on travel and mobility had made deferral necessary. In early 2022, the annual meeting in Davos was rescheduled for 22 to 26 May 2022. Its themes include the Russo-Ukrainian War, climate change, energy insecurity and inflation.
The WEF’s mission is cited 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”. It is a membership-based organisation, and membership is made up of the world’s largest corporations.
The World Economic Forum is the international organisation for public-private cooperation.
The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. It is an independent, impartial, and not tied to any special interests.
The Forum aims to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance, while also maintaining the moral and intellectual integrity.
Its institutional culture is founded on the stakeholder theory, which asserts that an organisation is accountable to all parts of the society. Explaining the theory, as stated in the website:
"The institution carefully blends and balances the best of many kinds of organsiations, from both the public and private sectors, international organisations, and academic institutions."
"We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change."
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 public and private 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.
Due to its prominence as an international community of leaders from business, politics, arts and media, the World Economic Forum and particularly its annual meeting in Davos are among others criticised regarding the public cost of security, the formation of a wealthy global elite without attachment points to the broader societies, undemocratic decision processes, gender issues and a lack of financial transparency.
Professor Klaus Schwab founded what was originally called the European Management Forum, as a non-profit foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland. It drew business leaders from Europe, and beyond, to Davos for an Annual Meeting each January.
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Klaus Schwab (Founder)