A foundation created by the economist Klaus M. Schwab for an annual gathering of businessmen, political, intellectual and journalists in Davos, Switzerland; according to its supporters, it is the ideal place for the seek of dialogue and debate of the world’s major social and economic problems.
Its critics, among them intellectuals and influential politicians (Noam Chomsky, Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, Ignacio Ramonet), believe that is an event planned by and for the world’s elite: the audience is composed, they assert, of the people who are invited to Davos.
In 2001, the organization ATTAC and the Workers’ Party (PT) of Brazil created the World Social Forum, that coincides with the annual Economic Forum and aims to give a voice in the media to those who do not have access to cause to Davos.
The World Economic Forum promotes dialogue among participants: representatives of the most important businesses, politicians of the stature of ministers and heads of state, recognized technocrats and intellectuals. In recent years, perhaps in search of greater press impact, the organizers have promoted the participation of celebrities.
Those who have attended historically emphasize the generally informal atmosphere of the conference. The bulk of the participants are composed of political personalities, although also present are dozens of high-ranking officials of NGO’s (Amnesty International, Transparency International, Oxfam and several organizations dependent on the UN), as well as religious, social, and union leaders. Journalists, numbering around 600, have access to all sessions.
Criticisms of the creation of the list of participants
Given that the World Economic Forum invites mainly leaders of the mayor multinationals, few of which are headquartered in poor countries, the majority of attendees are from the United States, Europe and Japan.
For example, in the annual meeting of 2002, 75% of the participants were from Europe (39%) and the United States (36%). United States and the European Union represent approximately 17% of the world population.
Representatives of Near East and Middle East, where most of the world’s oil reserves are concentrated, were also over-represented: they constitute 0,8% of the world population, but 4% of Davos participants in 2002 were leaders of this zone.
On the contrary, while 60% of the world population lives in Asia, only about 7.7% of the participants of the forum in 2002 were from Asia. This under-representation extended to countries in Africa and Latin America.
For the first time since its foundation in 1971, the 2,500 attendees of the 2007 forum agreed that we have to reduce CO2 emissions to fight against climatic change.
Shamefully, the WEF, this “ideal place for dialogue and debate of the world’s major social and economic problems”, was beaten to the punch by even George W. Bush who made his own official statement against climate change on January 23, 2007.
The American president alluded to the importance of confronting “energy security” and climatic change in his State of the Union address in the American Congress. The same day in Davos, the president of the United Nations Foundation, Timothy Wirth, publicly supported some big US companies that, without any support from their own government, had decided to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
US cities and big multinationals from various sectors have also committed, if not to comply with the Kyoto objectives, to drastically reduce their carbon footprint.
The World Economic Forum, in its 2007 edition, appeared once again like the early informal meetings of Davos. Discussions covered topics like Iraq, the importance of the EU moving forward with European construction and of climatic change.
The majority of the participants hadn’t changed in place of origin, coming mainly from Western Europe, North America, Japan and the Middle East. The representatives of the NGOs were also mainly from the developed world.