It’s a small town in the Swiss Alps, about 92 miles from Zurich. Most of the year it’s filled with skiers and walkers. A fascinating but little known fact is that it is the highest town in Europe.
But, more importantly, once a year, for a week in January, it is home to the World Economic Forum.
The World Economic Forum?
Yes. Catchy name, isn’t it? It was originally called the European Management Forum. The WEF moniker took hold from 1987.
It’s a gathering of the world’s business leaders, economists, politicians, and a smattering of celebrities. This year Cate Blanchett and Elton John will provide some of the glitz.
When is Davos 2018?
It officially runs from Tuesday, January 23, to Friday, January 26. But because of the difficulties in getting thousands of people up and down the mountain, it really starts on the preceding weekend.
How do they all get there?
Some people – think the most important of world leaders, who this year include Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and the UK’s own Theresa May – arrive by helicopter or private jet.
Lesser mortals either take shuttle buses from Zurich airport, which wind up each and every bend of the long, mountain road, or three different trains, to enjoy the picturesque scenery and reach the summit.
And what happens?
Essentially, it’s a conference. But it’s much more than that. There are panel discussions and speeches and one-on-one on-stage interviews, the sort of things you’d find at a normal conference.
But there are also behind the scenes background meetings between world leaders and corporate chiefs, as well as groups of senior bankers discussing the latest crisis, and all sorts of other background chats, many of which go unreported.
World Economic Forum and Davos – A brief history (see link – interesting facts on it)
Discreet dinners and lunches in remote mountain chalets are also de rigeur – none of which appear on the official programme.
There are also a range of dinners at which the great and good speak, as well as evening drinks parties, known in Davos speak as ‘nightcaps’, which run into the wee small hours.
What are they talking about?
The WEF began life in 1971 when Professor Klaus Schwab of the University of Geneva gathered European business leaders to talk about global management practices and how to catch up with US rivals.
It has ballooned from there.
Each year there are official themes that are decided following consultation between the WEF and its members, as well as discussions with economists and journalists.
Those discussions are honed down by Schwab, the executive chairman, and that year’s co-chairs. The all-female co-chairs this year include Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation; Fabiola Gianotti, director general of Cern; Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund; and Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway.
The theme of 2018 is: “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”. It will look at ways of reaffirming international co-operation in areas such as international security, the environment and the global economy. But in reality those topics tend to get overshadowed by the people who attend.
Who is going this year – any big names?
A certain President Donald Trump is lined up to give the closing keynote address. Trump’s speech is likely to attract plenty of attention – not just because of the controversy that follows him everywhere but because the president is a champion of protectionist economic policies, the antithesis of what the Davos elite is supposed to believe in.
From the UK side, shadow chancellor John McDonnell – himself no avowed friend of the global elite – will also be attending.
Who decides who goes?
The WEF is funded through corporate partners, who pay different amounts of money depending on the tier of membership. Membership delivers entry.
CNN estimated in 2014 that the cost of sending a delegate to Davos was $40,000.
In addition, economists, politicians and journalists are invited.
The whole access system is tightly controlled through a badge system. Delegates have a white badge, but there are different white badges depending on who you are – ranging from white with a hologram if you’re a senior politician to plain white if you’re the spouse or partner of a delegate.
There’s also a whole rainbow of other badges, from orange for reporting journalists to green for a delegate’s entourage.