• Henry Kissinger - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 1992 Henry Kissinger - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 1992

World Economic Forum

Spirit of Davos

Mission: improve the world

"The place where leaders meet" (Prof. Dr. Klaus Schwab)! The annual World Economic Forum (WEF), involving around 3,000 internationally known, leading economists, politicians, scientists and businessmen, is the flagship of Davos as a meeting place. The annual meeting of the WEF shows the “Spirit of Davos” to the whole worldDebating approaches to solutions, networking in a village atmosphere but a city infrastructure, in imposing mountainous surroundings.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a charitable foundation, primarily known for its annual meeting which takes place in Davos. At this meeting in the modern Davos Congress Centre, international leading economists, politicians, intellectuals and media representatives come together to discuss the latest global issues. Over the course of the forum, various other meetings are organised for the rest of the year, and research reports are published. It also has regional offices in Peking and New York.

Targets and mission

The role of the WEF, founded by professor of economics Klaus Schwab, is always impartial, as it is not affiliated with any political or national groups. The organisation has Observer Status within the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Its highest supervisory committee is the Foundation Board, which Tony Blair and Queen Rania of Jordan, among others, sit on. The forum’s mission is "to improve the situation in the world". 

The WEF is impartial, as it is not affiliated with any political or national groups.(Image:WEF Archive).
A historic handshake between Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat at the 2001 WEF in Davos.(Image:WEF Archive)
"Spirit of Davos"

The flagship event of the World Economic Forum is the annual meeting with over 3,000 delegates, which takes place in Davos in late January every year. Many other informal meetings take place in Davos - also due to its village atmosphere. The much quoted "Spirit of Davos" is no apparition. It is one of the reasons for Davos’ success as a congress city. Here at 1,560 m above sea level, despite the city infrastructure, nature is the headline act. It gives the congress delegates the feeling of being a small part of a whole. It is this atmosphere that makes it even easier to find compromises and solutions that would have been unimaginable elsewhere.

Programme and delegates

In the discussion of the official programme, questions of global importance are dealt with, such as international trade restrictions, conflicts, poverty and environmental issues, and possible solutions. Dozens of heads of state and government leaders take part in the annual meeting of the WEF. Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Bono, Paulo Coelho and Tony Blair are regular names on the guest list in Davos, and Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela and Jassir Arafat have all attended previous forums.

François Mitterrand, the general secretary of the French Socialist Party, and Edward Heath, former UK Prime Minister, in Davos during the European Management Symposium, predecessor of the World Economic Forum.(Image: WEF Archive)
The beginnings

In 1971  Klaus Schwab, then professor of business policy at Geneva University, invited 444 company leaders from Western Europe to the first "European Management Symposium," which was held at Davos Congress Centre.Under the patronage of the European Commission, Professor Schwab intended to make European companies with management practices known in the United States.For this purpose, he founded the "European Management Forum" as a not-for-profit foundation based in Geneva, and invited leading business representatives to Davos in January every year for the annual conference. 

Opening for politics

The European Management Forum changed its name to the World Economic Forum in 1987 and aimed to widen its vision and develop itself into a platform to resolve international conflicts. Since then, leading politicians have used Davos as a neutral platform. The "Davos Declaration", which prevented a war in Greece and Turkey at the last minute, was signed by both countries in Davos in 1988. The conference in 1992 was the first time that South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi travelled outside of Africa together. Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister and PLO Chairman Jassir Arafat signed a draft treaty on Gaza and Jericho.


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