Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

The Davos Club

To reinforce the sense of intimacy and exclusivity, the Forum introduced special status for companies that participated regularly in its activities and thus the concept of membership was born.


The growing international dimension of the Forum was even more evident at the seventh European Management Symposium. Participants came from over 50 countries. Notably, prominent American and Japanese business and political figures made the journey. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) became an official sponsor.

The Davos meeting was gaining the reputation of being something of a club.

“Roughly half of the participants, whom I can welcome today, are old friends – so to speak – or represent companies that have already been present in the past,” Klaus Schwab said at the opening of the symposium. “Thus, the term ‘Davos Club’ becomes ever more a legitimate claim. Those of you who are here for the first time will soon discover the hallmark of the club. It is characterized by the sportsmanlike work climate that develops particularly well thanks to the beautiful scenery that distracts our attention from the daily work.”1

Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet political dissident, author and activist who had spent 12 years in prison, labour camps and forced treatment in psychiatric hospitals, made a dramatic appearance at the symposium. Arriving in Switzerland directly from Moscow in handcuffs, he travelled immediately to Davos where he spoke on the topic of “The Worldwide Threat to Civil Rights and the Responsibility of Industrial Leaders”. His moving appeal to Western business leaders to refrain from supporting financially the Soviet regime received worldwide media coverage.

The Forum achieved several breakthroughs this year. The first roundtable outside Europe took place in Washington DC in March. It focused on the implications of the US leadership transition from Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter. Encouraged by the success of the Arab- European meeting the year before, the Forum convened the first Latin America European Business Cooperation Symposium in Montreux in October, with over 1,000 participants.

In cooperation with EUROPA (at that time the monthly supplement of Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, Le Monde of France, The Times of London and Germany’s Die Welt) and the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, the Forum introduced a special series of meetings and publications. The first event was held in Geneva in November under the theme “Should business leaders serve in politics?”. The Forum also published its first survey, which focused on the concerns of business leaders about protectionism.

To broaden its relationship with media, the Forum shifted from regarding the press as mainly working journalists covering its events to considering them to be important stakeholders in society and participants in their own right.

  1. Klaus Schwab, Opening Address, European Management Symposium, 27 January 1977