Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to attend the forum.
Explainers

Davos WEF 2018: Where The Rich And Powerful Exchange Ideas

Every year, world leaders, economists, businessmen, entrepreneurs and thought leaders come together in a nearly week-long opportunity for the powerful elite to mingle and exchange ideas at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Klaus Schwab, a former professor at the University of Geneva who founded the WEF in 1971, will celebrate his 80th birthday this year. In almost five decades, Schwab and WEF organisers have metamorphosised the forum, from a meet comprising 450 people into a gargantuan coterie of about 3,000 leaders, including states heads, business leaders and cultural leaders.

For the longest time, the talk in Davos corridors has been interspersed with themes such as climate change, international conflicts, security through plenary sessions and speeches.

While the forum’s undying commitment to “improve the state of the world” has been hard to contest, Davos has become notoriously known for its flamboyance brought in by millionaires, CEOs and Russian oligarchs, with the entertainment industry rustling up to entertain the guests.

For those trying to connect the dots, here is a lowdown on the world’s glitziest summit – its history, participants, funding and agenda to name a few.

Also Read: Trump to Attend Davos World Economic Forum, May Meet Modi 

What is the WEF?

The WEF is a non-profitable foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the forum, founder Schwab wanted to bring together key public and private stakeholders – from the world of business, politics, academia, and – to deliberate on pressing issues of the day, such as inequality and climate change.

In 1971, the dialogue’s primary focus was on how Europeans firms could match up to management conventions followed in the US. Hence, its initial name was "European Management Forum". But the collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate mechanism and the Arab-Israeli War in 1973 paved way for the future of the forum. Its popularity surged and the focus of the meet now included social and economic issues, The Telegraph reported. Schwab changed its name in 1987.

The forum was recognised by the Swiss authorities as an international body in 2015.

The flagship event of the WEF is the annual summit in January, bringing together CEOs from its 1,000 member companies, as well as politicians, representatives from academia, NGOs, religious leaders, and the media. A local Swiss daily reported that it takes an army of 4,500 Swiss police officers and soldiers to keep the high-profile attendees safe.

Davos, an Alpine ski resort town, today has become synonymous with the WEF.

Also Read: 5 Things PM Narendra Modi Must Do In Davos

Who Funds Davos?

The platform owes a large majority of its funding to “business entities”, who join the forum as members and partners at the five-day summit. Depending on the level of engagement of the participants, the partnership and membership fees range from 60,000 Swiss francs ($62,243) to 6,00,000 Swiss francs (around $6,22,000).

The foundation reported a turnover of 280 million Swiss francs and a surplus of 1.2 million Swiss francs from July 2016 to June 2017.

Who's Coming to Davos WEF 2018?

The 48th WEF annual meeting will take place from 23 to 26 January. Over 3,000 global leaders, representing 100 countries, including CEOs, heads of state and government, artists and civil society members will be present.

PM Narendra Modi will address the opening plenary at the summit, while US President Donald Trump will deliver the keynote address.

With the Belt and Road Initiative featuring as a nodal theme in the discussions, China is set to have significant presence.

A record number of leaders from G7 economies will attend the summit, including French President Emmanuel Macron, UK PM Theresa May and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will also participate.

Overall, the summit will have over 340 top political leaders, including 70 heads of state and government.

Besides, there will be 38 heads of major international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

With over 21 percent women participants, including the first all-female panel in the forum’s history, the 2018 summit will certainly look to shatter the glass ceiling.

Nearly 2,000 CEOs – including over 100 from India – will be present at the five-day meet. The business world will be well represented, with the leaders of some 1,900 companies expected to join the meet. Davos will be covered by close to 500 journalists reporting for domestic and foreign news outlets.

Also Read: What to Expect from India at the 2018 WEF Annual Meeting in Davos

King Khan to Grace Davos

If you thought the WEF is going to be all about world politics, economics and diplomacy, then you are mistaken. Over 40 arts and culture leaders are on the list of attendees. Shah Rukh Khan will be travelling to Davos to receive the Crystal Award, along with musician Sir Elton John and actor Cate Blanchett, on 22 January. The award recognises the artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world.

The past awardees from India include Amitabh Bachchan, Mallika Sarabhai, AR Rahman, Shabana Azmi, Ravi Shankar and Amjad Ali Khan.

What’s The Agenda This Year?

The theme of 2018’s meeting, spread over 400 sessions, will be 'Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World', which "aims to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world."

The focus will be on finding ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests, such as international security, the environment and the global economy.

Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within the societies. Yet, the sheer scale of the challenges our world faces makes concerted, collaborative and integrated action more essential than ever.
Klaus Schwab

What’s on the Cards For India At Davos WEF 2018?

For the first time ever, the welcome reception will be hosted by India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (Ministry of Commerce and Industry). It is expected to emblazon the stage with "India's exquisite cuisine and age-old yoga heritage, as well as the spirit of a young, innovative New India," The Financial Express reported.

Modi is expected to share his insights on ‘cooperative federalism’ in India, while urging the world for a “collective crackdown on terrorism, economic imbalances, cyber threats and various societal ills”, the report mentioned. The government’s efforts to increase the ease of doing business, tackling the black money menace, countering corruption are expected to be discussed at summit.

Talking about specifics, the leaders are expected to deliberate on:

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on ‘India’s role in the world’
  • Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on disaster resilience in infrastructure and smart mobility
  • Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu on WTO-related issues
  • Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar on nuclear threats to international security
  • Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on unlocking of economic and societal values by the governments and industries

Also Read: Modi, Jaitley to Speak at Annual Davos Forum

(With inputs from CNBC.com, Financial Express, Telegraph.co.uk)