What is the Davos World Economic Forum?

The Davos World Economic Forum brings together business leaders, investors, politicians and journalists from across the globe to discuss current global economic and social issues. It is the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and is held in January in the small ski town of Davos in Switzerland. It is one of the best-known events of its sort. The forum is among the most popular, well-attended and high-profile events globally and focuses on “shaping the global, regional and industry agendas.”

Understanding the Davos World Economic Forum

The Davos World Economic Forum was first conceived in 1971 when Professor Klaus Schwab founded a nonprofit organization in Switzerland known as the European Management Forum. This was the start of a process which drew business leaders primarily from Europe and other places for an annual meeting in January each year at Davos.

In 1974, political leaders were invited to Davos for the first time to attend the event. In 1987, the European Management Forum changed its name to the World Economic Forum. At this time, the vision of the forum was broadened to include a platform for dialogue. According to the WEF, the annual meeting “engages the most experienced and the most promising, all working together in the collaborative and collegial spirit of Davos.”

Davos World Economic Forum 2019

Each year's Forum has a theme, and the theme of the most recent forum held from January 22 to 25, 2019 was “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The 2019 Davos World Economic Forum was the 48th Forum since its inception. The major themes for discussion included ongoing concerns about climate change, worries over Venezuela, the economic impact of trade unrest and the use of fourth industrial revolution technologies—blockchain, artificial intelligence and so on—to speed up the economic maturity of emerging nations.

One of the most discussed points was whether the very measure of economics needs to be updated. Traditionally economics has been about value creation, but some of the value coming out of new technologies is hard to quantify, as are the costs in terms of privacy and big data profiling. Davos 2019 didn't come to a conclusive answer, but work is being piloted using societal value in terms of consumer welfare and well-being as a measure of economic impact.