Elite talk about world problems in mountain resort: this is the World Economic Forum

1. What is the World Economic Forum?

The WEF is a very influential platform where the major social and economic problems of the world are discussed for a week. Every year, almost 3,000 CEOs, politicians, journalists and scientists gather in the Alpine village. It’s actually a huge networking event because no official decisions are made.

What we now know as the World Economic Forum was founded in 1971 as the European Management Forum in Geneva. Klaus Schwab, the man who still holds the reigns, stood at the foot of the foundation. Three years later, in 1974, political leaders were invited to an event in Davos for the first time.

The talks are held in an informal atmosphere and there are more than 200 sessions where different themes are discussed. Journalists are not welcome to informal workshops and private conversations.

2. Which people are present in Davos?

In short: a large part of all high-ranking people in the world. World leaders, directors of the largest companies and leading figures from science and culture.

From, for example, the Netherlands, Prime Minister Rutte and a number of cabinet members are almost always present. Directors of important Dutch companies such as ING, Philips, Heineken and Nationale Nederlanden also attend. Just like last year, Queen Máxima is also in Davos.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia will not be present again this year. A small delegation, including Vitaly Klitschko, the mayor of the capital Kiev, will go from Ukraine. No one is sent from the Chinese government, and US President Biden is also the biggest absentee.


The World Economic Forum is this year from 16 to 20 January. The theme this time is ‘working together in a fragmented world’. There is a jam-packed program of sessions on various themes, such as the energy and food crisis and inflation. There are also many handshakes and private conversations.

Prime Minister Rutte is present in Switzerland on Wednesday and Thursday. These cabinet members are also visiting Davos:

  • Sigrid Kaag (Finance)
  • Wopke Hoekstra (Foreign Affairs)
  • Kajsa Ollongren (Defense)
  • Karien van Gennip (Social Affairs and Employment)
  • Liesje Schreinemacher (Foreign trade and development cooperation)
  • Vivianne Heijnen (Infrastructure and water management)

Representatives from companies such as ING, IKEA, Heineken, Philips, Vopak and NN will also be present.

3. Besides the war in Ukraine, what other topics are actually being discussed this year?

WEF has a theme every year, this year the theme is Cooperation in a fragmented world. Due to corona and the war in Ukraine, the world economy is going badly. At the same time, food and energy prices are rising, and there is massive inflation. And in addition, there is also a ‘climate crisis getting out of hand’, as the WEF itself describes it.

Collaboration is now more important than ever, according to the forum. The event promises to be a place to brainstorm about this to ‘create a positive change’.

4. No official decisions are made in the WEF. How important and useful is the meeting in Switzerland?

The answer to this question comes from diplomacy expert Robert van de Roer. “I look at Davos with mixed feelings,” he says.

“You can talk to more important people in Davos faster than is normally possible in a week. You don’t just run into Bill Gates somewhere. In Davos, you can. At WEF, Rutte can meet fifty CEOs of international companies in a few days. think how long it would take if he were to visit them all individually.”

Van de Roer continues: “Certainly in the Netherlands, where large companies are now more likely to leave the country than to enter, it is important that the government at the highest level keeps these contacts warm. New contacts are made or a startup is taken with possible collaborations. , and therefore it is good that the Netherlands is at a high level there.”

But the WEF is not that satisfactory, says Van de Roer. “Due to the situation in the world, important world leaders such as Putin, Xi Jinping and Biden are missing, while the war in Ukraine will be discussed. We must therefore temper our expectations about the outcome.”

5. Public opinion about the WEF is not always positive. There are also many conspiracy theories about the meeting. How did it happen?

Conspiracy theorists believe that the World Economic Forum poses a threat to human freedom. According to them, the club under the leadership of Klaus Schwab would be after world domination.

And ‘the criticism from conspiracy theorists causes unnecessary noise,’ says Van de Roer. “The participants and organizers of the WEF are still not sufficiently successful in neutralizing that noise with facts and information.” According to the expert, the forum has entered into discussions with opponents, but the elitist image of the event always undermines such attempts.

“That is the vulnerability of Davos,” says the diplomacy expert. “The behavior of some participants is out of proportion to the topics being discussed. If the WEF is serious about putting the climate issue on the agenda and discussing it, it is unbelievable that so many leaders are flying there by private jet. And Davos has profiled as a posh ski resort for the elite, detracting from the WEF’s public image and social relevance.”

6. How can this be resolved?

According to Van de Roer, the WEF should become much more transparent. “I think leaders would do well, including Rutte, to explain why they are there and why the WEF matters.”

As an example, Van de Roer cites the national government’s announcement of the WEF. “It only included a list of which cabinet members are going, but not which program components they are participating in and what their presence represents substantively. It’s a lack of professional communication. By not being open about what you’re going to do. do it there , you feed conspiracy theories and resistance.”

His conclusion: “Dialogue and debate are good. Networking is good. But stay away from the appearance of decadence. Keep your credibility intact.”

On a private plane to Davos to talk about the climate

One of the points of criticism of the WEF is that the world’s elite travel to Switzerland in polluting private planes to talk about climate change, among other things.

A survey commissioned by Greenpeace shows that more than a thousand private jets flew to the mountain resort last year during WEF week. As a result, CO2 emissions were four times higher than in an average week of flights to the resort.

According to the study, the total emissions from the planes going to WEF are equivalent to what 350,000 cars emit in a week.

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