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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Quicktake: what is Davos?

Meeting in the Alps is the world's ultimate networking event

Davos, Switzerland. The meeting brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders under the topic 'Globalisation 4.0' from January 22 to 25. EPA
Davos, Switzerland. The meeting brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders under the topic 'Globalisation 4.0' from January 22 to 25. EPA

What is Davos?

First off, it isn’t actually called Davos, it is the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, which has the audacious mission of “improving the state of the world”. The convening of the global elite is held over four days in the ski resort town of Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, perched high up in the Alps.

Professor Klaus Schwab, a German engineer and economist, founded what was originally called the European Management Forum in 1971, as a non-profit foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, with the aim of bringing European business leaders to Davos for an annual meeting each January.

Over the years, celebrities, titans of industry, charity heads and politicians have made their way to the Alps to discuss the most pressing global issues and ways to address these challenges – and to network.

How has it changed over the years?

Initially, Mr Schwab geared the meetings toward solving how European firms could catch up with US management practices. From the outset, he championed private-public partnerships and the interest of all stakeholders in the private sector, such as customers, employees and the communities where they operate – not just shareholders.

Mr Schwab’s vision for what eventually became the World Economic Forum grew in scope over time. The collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate mechanism in 1973 led the forum to expand its focus from management to economic and social issues. Political leaders were invited for the first time to Davos in January 1974.

Two years later, the organisation introduced membership for ‘the 1,000 leading companies of the world’. Regional meetings around the globe were also added to the annual calendar, while the publication of the Global Competitiveness Report in 1979 led to the organisation’s transformation into a widely-recognised research hub.

In 1987, the European Management Forum became the World Economic Forum and sought to broaden its vision to include providing a platform for open discourse.

What are some of the major outcomes of Davos?

Milestones include the Davos Declaration signed in 1988 by Greece and Turkey, which pulled the two countries back from all-out war, while in 1989, North and South Korea held their first ministerial-level meetings in Davos. At the same meeting, East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl met to discuss German reunification. In 1992, South African President de Klerk met Nelson Mandela and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the annual meeting, their first joint appearance outside South Africa and a key moment in the country's political transition.

How much does it cost to attend and how is it organised?

Businesses get charged up to 27,000 Swiss francs (Dh99,000) per person to attend.

The coloured badges of WEF determine the hierarchy. The white badge with a hologram on it – for the likes of Prince William and President Xi Jinping – provide all-access and entry into backroom meetings. Participants' spouses and journalists are offered various levels of access and the lowest level, known as a "hotel" badge, bars entry to the conference centre but opens the door to the evening parties and unlimited ski runs.

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Updated: January 21, 2019 05:05 PM

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