Despite the global economic crisis – or perhaps because of it – the number and the quality of participants at the Annual Meeting was unprecedented. Forty heads of state or government, the leaders of all the major international organizations, and over 100 ministers made the journey to Davos.
In his opening address, Klaus Schwab stressed that the international community not only had to manage a crisis of unprecedented scope but also shape the post-crisis world. “What we are experiencing is the birth of a new era, a wake-up call to overhaul our institutions, our systems and, above all, our thinking, and to adjust our attitudes and values to the needs of a world which rightly expects a much higher degree of responsibility and accountability,” he explained. “If we recognize this crisis as being really transformational, we can lay the fundaments for a more stable, more sustainable and even more prosperous world.”1
Schwab announced the launch of the Global Redesign Initiative (GRI) to explore ways to restructure and invigorate the systems and institutions of global governance. The governments of Qatar, Singapore and Switzerland were the initial sponsors of the project. Tanzania would join later.
The reputation of Davos as a place where even the most controversial issues are discussed, sometimes with great passion, was reaffirmed in a panel on Gaza when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey left the stage before the end of the session after a heated debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
During the year, five milestones stood out. First, the Forum celebrated 30 years of cooperation with China. Second, the Forum also marked the 25th anniversary of its partnership with India. “A lot of the thought leadership for the Indian government and also for Indian industry has come from the fertilization of ideas at the India Economic Summit,” wrote Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of Bajaj Auto. “The patient and untiring work that has been done at the Summit over the last quarter century is paying dividends. India is no longer a country with a future potential, but one of the countries.”
Third, the Forum welcomed its 100th strategic partner, committing not to exceed this number.
Fourth, the Forum inaugurated its third overseas office in Tokyo, Japan.
Finally, the Forum succeeded in using its WELCOM virtual network and videoconferencing system on a large scale to communicate with its various communities, particularly the Global Agenda Councils (GACs), and promote interaction and networking among them. WELCOM, which has since evolved into the TopLink network, created a virtual ecosystem unmatched in terms of its power of knowledge generation and facility for collaboration.
The Forum was also staying ahead of the curve in its public outreach. It invited to Davos two representatives from the MySpace and YouTube communities to cover the Annual Meeting as “citizen reporters”. The Forum tapped into the collective wisdom of the millions of users on Facebook. The social networking platform ran real-time polls, or “pulses”, of its users. These polls were conducted live during a dozen sessions. One of the pulses ran for 45 minutes and attracted 120,000 responses.
With over 2.1 million followers on Twitter, more than 30,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel and nearly 400,000 fans on Facebook, the Forum is attracting a growing audience on the global social networks. It has reached out to new audiences in China through Youku.com, the premier Chinese video portal, and the microblog Sina Weibo.
- Klaus Schwab, Opening Speech, Annual Meeting 2009, World Economic Forum