Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

Committed to Improving the State of the World

To underscore its purpose and focus, the World Economic Forum added to its logo the mission statement – “committed to improving the state of the world”.

1997

The Foundation launched the “Partnership Concept” for its various activities. This would enable the Forum to forge deeper relationships with certain member companies that could provide specialized knowledge and critical expertise.

On 1 July, the United Kingdom handed back to China sovereignty over the British colony and international financial centre of Hong Kong. Klaus Schwab attended the ceremony as a guest. Just two months after the handover, the Forum held its East Asia Summit in the new special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, tangibly signalling the strong support of its members for the city and the success of the unique “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule.

One of the remarkable achievements of the World Economic Forum has been its success in building the “World Economic Forum” and “Davos” into brand names familiar to millions of people around the world. “Davos”, in particular, has come to stand for more than the Swiss city that hosts the unique global gathering of business, government and civil society leaders that takes place at the beginning of every year. The word now evokes the spirit of collaboration and collegiality that is the hallmark of the Annual Meeting.

Harvard University political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, who died in 2008, is credited with coining the term “Davos Man” to refer to what he regarded as a global elite, a minority, who “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.”

In a leader published in 1997, the editors of The Economist offered their assessment of “Davos Man”:

Some people find Davos Man hard to take: there is something uncultured about all the money-grubbing and managerialism. But it is part of the beauty of Davos Man that, by and large, he does not give a fig for culture as the Huntingtons of the world define it. He will attend a piano recital, but does not mind whether an idea, a technique or a market is (in Mr. Huntington’s complex scheme) Sinic, Hindu, Islamic or Orthodox. If an idea works or a market arises, he will grab it. Like it or loathe it, that is an approach more likely to bring peoples together than to force them apart.1

Klaus Schwab always emphasized that a Davos Man or Davos Woman should be a blend of global, national and local identity.


  1. “In praise of Davos Man”, The Economist, 7 February 1997