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World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an annual meeting among chief executives of the world\'s richest corporations, some national political leaders (presidents, prime ministers and others), and selected intellectuals and journalists, about 2000 people in all, usually held in Davos, Switzerland, along with related regional meetings by WEF members. It was founded in 1971 by Klaus M. Schwab, a business professor in Switzerland, and has helped fund his family foundation, the Schwab Foundation for Economic and Social Development.

According to its supporters, the WEF is an ideal place for dialogue and debate regarding the major social and economic problems of the planet, since representatives of both the most powerful economic organisations and the most powerful political organisations are present, since intellectuals also participate, and since there is a generally informal atmosphere encouraging wide-ranging debate.

According to its critics, the WEF is really just a business forum, where the richest businesses can easily negotiate deals with one another and lobby the world's most powerful politicians, and that the aim is profit-making rather than solving economic problems like poverty. Moreover, given the domination of the WEF by corporations, with the status of corporate personhood, and the influence of the WEF in global decision making, it is seen by some critics as an unelected, non-democratic, elitist, secretive world Senate.

For these reasons, WEF meetings have regularly attracted anti-globalization movement protests, especially since the Annual Meeting in January 2000. The suspension of civil liberties during the protests is seen by the critics as evidence of the collusion of local authorities with the anti-human rights nature of the WEF.

Table of contents
1 Geographical balance
2 Gender balance
3 Participation by politicians
4 Membership fees
5 Media access
6 Participation by NGOs
7 WEF responses to critics
8 Regional meetings
9 See also
10 External Links

Geographical balance

While the WEF has the word World in its title, its membership, the membership of its board, and the attendance at its annual meetings are dominated by people from Europe, the USA and Japan. Since companies are only invited to the WEF if they have annual revenues of over $1 billion (as of 2002), companies from poor countries are automatically underrepresented.

In the 2002 Annual Meeting, 75% of participants were from Europe (39%) and the USA (36%), despite their representing only 17% of the world's population. West Asian participants were about five times overrepresented relative to their population, i.e. they constituted 4% of participants although they only represent 0.8% of the world's population.

Correspondingly, although 60% of us live in Asia (as of 2002), only 7.7% of the participants at the 2002 Annual Meeting were from Asia.

Gender balance

Until 2001, the main WEF decision making boards, the Forum Board of Directors and the Council Board of Directors, were 100% male. In 2001, of nine new members, one was female.

Participation by politicians

In 2000, 33 national leaders attended the Annual Meeting, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, King Abdullah Il Ibn Hussein of Jordan, Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, South African president Thabo Mbeki and Argentinian president Fernando de la Rua. In 2002, there were 27 elected national leaders, 3 members of royalty, 9 US senators and 9 members of the US House of Representatives expected to attend.

Membership fees

As of 2002, each member company pays a basic annual membership fee of $12,500 and a $6,250 Annual Meeting fee. However, in order for a company to be able to participate in deciding the agendas of the Annual Meeting and the regional meetings, the company must pay $250,000 each year in order to be an Institutional and/or Knowledge Partner, and $78,000 to be an Annual Meeting Partner. The WEF describes the selection of Partners as being based on ability to contribute to and benefit from the mission of the Forum.

WEF's income in 2001 was $104 million, where $38 million of this was from membership fees.

Media access

At any WEF Annual Forum or regional meeting, while many journalists, selected by the WEF and known as media fellows, participate in most of the formally scheduled panels and events, they are excluded from the many informal industry-wide workshops and private meetings between corporate executives, political leaders and leaders of international financial institutions. Since these informal meetings happen without access either by the mainstream media or authorisation by national parliaments, critics consider them to be undemocratic in nature.

Participation by NGOs

The WEF has attempted to create dialogue with critics by inviting representatives of NGOs to participate in Annual Meetings.

In the 2000 Annual Meeting, participating NGOs included:

In the 2001 Annual Meeting, while most of these NGOs were invited again, Friends of the Earth and Focus on the Global South were not invited. Critics claim that these two NGOs were not invited in 2001 because their criticisms were too strong and clear.

In 2001, other NGOs were invited, including those from poor countries:

and from rich countries, such as: However, none of these were invited back in 2002. According to critics such as the Financial Times, the Forum says it is not inviting organizations that contribute only negative views and do not support its "mission" to narrow global divisions.

Greenpeace spent two years trying to cooperate with the WEF on the issue of global warming, but withdrew from the 2002 Annual Meeting because it found the WEF uncooperative. In a letter to Greenpeace, Klaus M. Schwab responded that the demands made by Greenpeace to the automobile industry at the 2001 meeting led to problems.

WEF responses to critics

At the 2001 Annual Meeting, the WEF spent $5.4 million on security. In the 2001 Annual Report, Klaus M. Schwab compared the threat of alternative globalization protestors to the threat of terrorists. Some critics judge that these type of reactions amount to a refusal to accept and respond to the criticisms.

However, the WEF claims that it wishes to open up dialogue with critics. At the 2004 Annual Forum in January in Davos, an Open Forum Davos 2004 is planned in parallel with the main Annual Meeting. It is titled Globalization or Deglobalization for the Benefit of the Poorest?, with 300 members of the public able to attend free of charge.

Controversy over the WEF's role in planetary decision making is likely to continue throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Regional meetings

Regional meetings, such as the European Competitiveness Summit planned for October 2003 in Dublin, which was cancelled, enable close contact between corporate business leaders and local government leaders. Protestors hypothesise that the Dublin meeting was cancelled because city authorities and/or WEF organisers were worried about holding the meeting in the face of massive, peaceful, organised, radically transparent, informed protest. However, the official reason for cancellation was that a report, the Global Competitiveness Report would not be ready in time for the Summit.

See also

External Links