Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

Davos Diplomacy

The summit between the Greek and Turkish leaders confirmed Davos as a special place where people of differing perspectives come together and diplomatic breakthroughs can be achieved.


This Davos Symposium was memorable because of the historic public meeting between Prime Minister Turgut Özal of Turkey and Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. The two leaders even sat on the same panel in an economic session.

It was a landmark moment in the history of both Greece and Turkey and a testament to the power of the Spirit of Davos to bridge divides.

Klaus Schwab had invested a lot of time and effort into creating the right atmosphere for the meeting of the prime ministers, spending the month of January shuttling between Ankara and Athens to ensure that both parties agreed to come to Switzerland and were comfortable with the arrangements. On 23 January 1986, prior to their encounter, Schwab wrote to both men about their “vested interests in each other’s welfare and security”.

Davos diplomacy was again at work when Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov for the first time addressed a business audience in the West through a satellite link from Moscow. It was the USSR’s debut at the Davos Symposium. Ryzhkov appealed for a broadening of the Soviet Union’s international economic relations to help the country speed up its economic development and reforms, and modernize its production systems.

Other leaders made significant interventions during their stay in Davos. Jacques Delors, President of the Commission of the European Communities, defined “the outlines of a world economy which will be in a better position to deal with its problems.” His analysis rested on two key ideas. First, the world cannot hope to solve its current problems without continued healthy growth in world trade. Second, global trade cannot expand strongly if the world does not at the same time deal with current deficits and financial imbalances.

H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, President of the World Wildlife Fund International (WWF), made a strong plea for the conservation of nature and endangered species. “Our survival depends on the preservation of every variety of plants and animals,” he warned. The prince also underscored that industry had to be concerned about the ways that raw materials were exploited and transformed, the dangers of their exhaustion, the production and use of fertilizers, and the impact of transport infrastructure. He conceded that many enterprises were moving towards some form of self-regulation. “But we must go further and put into operation joint action between business enterprises and nature conservancy organizations,” he concluded.

Notable too at this Davos Symposium was the Chinese delegation, which was led by Zhu Rongji, Vice-Chairman of the State Economic Commission. He would become China’s premier from 1998 to 2003.