Global security once again took centre stage at the Annual Meeting. The prospect of the United States leading a war with Iraq (which erupted two months later) and the economic and geopolitical implications of such action overshadowed every discussion. Not surprisingly, the US delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell drew tough criticism.
On 20 March 2003, when the war in Iraq broke, Klaus Schwab sent Forum staff a memo:
“The war vindicates even more the Forum’s needfulness. Never before has global cooperation been more important than today. People who are committed and engaged in living up to the mission of the Forum, which has always concentrated on the positive, must be mobilized. Improving the state of the world has never been so necessary.”
The Extraordinary Annual Meeting in Jordan was held in June at the Dead Sea under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan. Dubbed the Global Reconciliation Summit, this event was combined with a meeting of the so-called Quartet – the United Nations Secretary-General and the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, the European Union and the US – to discuss a Roadmap for Peace.
The Forum has continued to serve as a valuable platform for mobilizing the business community for peace in the Middle East. In 2013, more than 300 Israeli and Palestinian business leaders joined to support the relaunch of talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Breaking the Impasse initiative, which had been launched the year before, showed that “there is a strong constituency for peace in Israel, Palestine and internationally,” wrote Schwab in USA Today in April 2014. “This constituency can serve as a ‘cushion’ for political leaders to fall back on and to make some of the difficult compromises required for success.”1
Earlier in 2003, the presence at the Annual Meeting in Davos of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who had flown in directly from the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, together with the presidents of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, brought to the forefront questions about globalization and the need for greater inclusion. President Lula participated in Davos several times during his time in office, underscoring how the Forum is regarded as a platform for open dialogue among all stakeholders.
A significant innovation at the Annual Meeting was the first Open Forum Davos, a series of public sessions co-organized by the World Economic Forum and civic society groups. The Open Forum became a “living bridge” connecting the Annual Meeting with NGOs and the local community.
At the meeting at the Dead Sea, the Forum launched the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), a global-local, public-private partnership between the government of Jordan and Forum partners in the IT industry, to promote education reform. This education initiative was replicated in Rajasthan State in India, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories and Rwanda. After the Forum had played a pioneering and conceptual role, these initiatives were handed over to the respective governments.
- Klaus Schwab, “Business leaders want Middle East peace”, USA Today, 4 April 2014