Some see it as the global elite attempting to tackle the big issues, others as a vast VIP flesh-pressing extravaganza – so why should you pay attention to Davos 2016?
Figures as diverse as Eric Schmidt, Al Gore and Pharrell Williams were among the 2,500 attendees last year. Participants – 10 per cent of them British – came from over 90 countries, and included 40 heads of state. It was where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $100m to tackle Aids in 2001, and where a declaration between Greece and Turkey helped the two nations avoid war in 1988.
We’re talking about the vast annual conference usually referred to as Davos after the Swiss Alpine resort at which, over four days (starting today), the word’s highest-powered business leaders, politicians, tech visionaries, economists and media big-hitters meet up with the aim of, quite literally, putting the world to rights.
Of course, attendees have more to draw them to Davos – the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, established by German academic Klaus Schwab with a view to encouraging international co-operation – than simply the opportunity to contribute to a debate on global issues: even the event’s website homepage alludes to the chance of “networking in a village atmosphere but a city infrastructure, in imposing mountainous surroundings”.
But what can leaders learn from Davos – which is funded by around 1,000 of the world’s biggest companies – from afar? Last year, highlights included Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, discussing his plans to galvanise the sixth-largest economy, Gore’s latest take on how business should respond to climate change and world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaking on the topic of trust in the hyper-connected world.
This week’s programme will see the likes of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau discuss issues such as the refugee crisis and climate change. Adding some star wattage will be Leonardo DiCaprio, popstar Will.i.am, Formula 1 racing driver Sebastian Vettel and (somewhat inevitably) Bono.
For more information on the World Economic Forum annual meeting (20-23 January 2016), visit davoscongress.ch