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Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Organization
  • Funding and members
  • Forum activities and events
  • Annual Meeting in Davos
  • Global Competitiveness Programme

    The Organization

    What is the World Economic Forum?

    The World Economic Forum is the foremost global community of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society who are committed to improving the state of the world. The Forum is an independent, not-for-profit organization that brings these leaders together to work on projects that improve people’s lives.

    What is the World Economic Forum's mission?

    The Forum is “committed to improving the state of the world” and we go about achieving this through projects which address issues like HIV/AIDS treatment, water supply and fostering dialogue between Islam and the West. Our summits give world leaders and our members the opportunity to map out solutions to global challenges like terrorism and corporate citizenship. Developing insight on the most pressing issues also places the Forum in a unique position to mobilize people and resources to act.

    Where is the World Economic Forum based?

    The Forum’s headquarters are located on the outskirts of Geneva in a town called Cologny. Many people think that the Forum is based in Davos, where the Annual Meeting takes place, but there is only one office and that’s in Geneva.

    How did the World Economic Forum begin?

    In 1971, Professor Klaus Schwab, then a professor of Business Administration at the University of Geneva, gathered European business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, for a discussion on global management practices. The success of this first conference led Professor Schwab to create the European Management Forum, which in 1987 changed its name to the World Economic Forum.

    How is the World Economic Forum governed?

    The Forum is a not-for-profit foundation. It has three main governing bodies:

    • The Foundation Board, which has overall responsibility for establishing the long term direction and objectives of the Forum, and which is comprised of international public and private sector leaders.
    • The International Business Council, which acts as an advisory body providing intellectual stewardship to the Forum.
    • The Managing Board, which is the in-house management team responsible for the executive oversight and management of the activities and resources of the Forum.

    Is the World Economic Forum like the UN, IMF or World Bank?

    The Forum shares the goal of these organizations which is to make our world a better place. Where the Forum differs from the World Bank or the IMF is that we do not provide capital to nations in need. While the UN’s members are state governments, ours come mostly from the field of business. Our members, in turn, meet leaders from other walks of life during Forum activities and events.

    Is the World Economic Forum just a private club for the rich and the powerful?

    The Forum was founded on the precept that business cannot operate in a vacuum, and that the great challenges facing humankind need to be addressed by all stakeholders of society. The Forum also believes that economic development has created a better life for millions of people and offers hope to millions more. For these reasons the Forum regularly convenes business leaders and leaders from other key sectors of society to discuss, debate and address the major issues confronting humanity. Far from being a “rich man’s club,” the World Economic Forum is a unique platform for progress on some of the most difficult problems facing the world today.

    Does the World Economic Forum have any political affiliations?

    The Forum is an independent and neutral organization that does not take political positions on the issues it addresses. Rather, the Forum gives leaders of opposing political beliefs a unique opportunity to discuss their differences and discover common ground.

    Funding and members

    Who are the World Economic Forum's members and partners?

    Our members represent the 1,000 leading companies and 200 smaller businesses - many from the developing world - that play a potent role in their industry or region. Our members are influential, talented and powerful people. Many are also innovative and inspiring individuals who challenge conventional thinking and are committed to making the world a better place. We also work closely with communities of leaders from academia, government, religion, the media, non-governmental organizations and the arts.

    Partners are select member companies who strongly support, contribute to and benefit from the World Economic Forum’s commitment to improving the state of the world. They are actively involved in the organization's activities and contribute their expertise and resources.

    Why become a member of the World Economic Forum?

    The Forum provides member companies, governments and institutions the opportunity to work together to address global challenges. This opportunity for partnership is based on the belief that no single group can tackle major issues on its own. Professor Klaus Schwab said: “We are living in times of enormous complexity and fragility in a truly interdependent world. Old recipes and traditional ways to deal with global challenges no longer suffice.” Cooperation at all levels will best meet the challenges facing our planet. Where else might you see a famous artist, political leader and religious leader having a discussion over coffee?

    How is the World Economic Forum funded?

    The Forum's funding comes from three sources:

    • Membership fees (CHF 30,000) from the 1,000 foremost companies who are the Forum's members and partners
    • Partnership fees from Strategic Partners (companies that play a leading role in the Forum) and from partners in the Forum's events
    • Participation fees for the Annual Meeting and for regional meetings and summits.

    Does the World Economic Forum make a profit?

    The Forum is a not-for-profit foundation. Its financial situation, like most organizations, changes from year to year. If any surplus exists from yearly operating costs, it is reinvested either to fund new initiatives and events or to expand existing ones. For more information about how our resources are used, read the Forum’s Annual Report.

    Forum activities and events

    What does the World Economic Forum do?

    The Forum draws together leaders in business, politics and society to address the issues affecting our world. Conferences like the Annual Meeting in Davos and regional summits are an occasion for leaders to outline major challenges and define strategies to address them.
    The Global Institute for Partnership and Governance develops public-private partnerships that tackle some of these pressing problems like climate change and corruption. These initiatives draw on the experiences and strengths of many parties – business, NGOs, governments and institutions – to provide holistic solutions.
    The Centre for Strategic Insight works with the Forum’s networks and Communities (like business leaders, NGOs and policy makers). It creates strategic insight into emerging risks and developments that will shape the agendas of business and governments.

    Where are the World Economic Forum's events and who goes?

    Forum events take place on almost every continent each year, and the Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is the largest of these. International and regional leaders, Forum members from the international business community, governments and institutions attend these meetings.

    Annual Meeting in Davos

    What is the Annual Meeting, who attends and why is it so important?

    Business, religious, government, cultural and society leaders meet each year in Davos, Switzerland, for the Annual Meeting. The event provides a platform for these leaders to debate the difficult global challenges of our planet, identify emerging risks and ways to address them. It’s not surprising then that many initiatives have been created at the Annual Meeting – for example the Global Greenhouse Gas Register.
    View this chart to see who attends the meeting.

    Why is it held in Davos?

    Since 1971, the scenic village of Davos has been the traditional site of the Annual Meeting. Holding the meeting in such a setting rather than a bustling metropolis allows attendees to focus more easily on the issues at hand.
    The alpine location also means that local authorities are in a better position to implement the high level of security required for such an event.

    More than 2,000 people attend the Annual Meeting, and so are Davos residents happy to host it?

    An independent opinion survey showed that an overwhelming majority of Davos residents are in favour of hosting the Annual Meeting and are happy with the exposure it brings the town. The population actually voted to set aside part of the communal budget to support the Annual Meeting.

    What about the protests at the Annual Meeting?

    The Forum supports the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but opposes violence and destruction of property. In principle, the Forum is supportive of demonstrations by those who desire to have their voices heard. But the Forum condemns – vehemently and unequivocally – those who believe that violence is a legitimate form of public expression or debate. In answer to the protests, the Open Forum was launched to give everyone a voice in the globally focused debates at the Annual Meeting in Davos. On a year-round basis, you can also have your say about critical global issues on the Forum's weblog.

    With all those famous people in one place, isn't security an issue?

    The security of all staff and participants is taken very seriously. But despite the security measures, you’d be surprised by how freely participants walk around and interact with each other. And that really gets to the heart of the success of Davos, because there is a basic philosophy that everyone is equal which really allows just about anyone to approach anyone else.

    Can the public take part?

    The general public cannot take part directly in the Annual Meeting for reasons of security and space. But the Forum and civil society organizations - including church, non-governmental and non-profit organizations - co-organize the Open Forum. These are discussions open to the general public, free-of-charge and held simultaneously with the Annual Meeting in Davos.

    Are events behind closed doors, or are they covered by the media?

    Many global and local media organizations produce special coverage of Forum events. In fact, nearly one in every five participants at the Annual Meeting hails from the media sector.
    The Forum’s weblog provides even greater access to sessions, and it is a virtual forum where people unable to attend the meetings can have their say too.

    Global Competitiveness Programme

    What kind of economic research does the Forum do?

    Economic research at the Forum -- led by the Global Competitiveness Programme (GCP) -- focuses on identifying the impediments to growth so that strategies to achieve sustainable economic progress can be developed – strategies that reduce poverty and increase prosperity.
    The Forum’s competitiveness reports range from global coverage, such as The Global Competitiveness Report, to regional and topical coverage, such as the Africa Competitiveness Report, The Lisbon Review and the Global Information Technology Report.

    Who is the GCP, and what other organizations are involved?

    The GCP team of economic researchers is headed by our chief economist, Augusto Lopez-Claros. Much of the data used in the competitiveness reports is obtained through a global network of 104 partner institutes and in collaboration with leading academics.

    How can I get copies of the Global Competitiveness Report?

    GCP reports are available in print and results of the Executive Opinion Survey are available on CD-ROM. For purchasing information, please go to www.weforum.org/onlinepurchases.

  • Copyright © 2003 World Economic Forum
    Last updated: 19 August 2005
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