Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

One Thousand Members

What stuck in the memories of participants was the sight of Peres and Arafat spontaneously joining hands and walking up to the Congress Hall stage together to thunderous applause.


The World Economic Forum welcomed its 1,000th member. At the same time, the Forum decided as a strict policy to maintain exclusivity not to exceed this record high in the future. In coming years, the focus would be on substantially improving not only the quality of membership benefits and services but also regional and industrial diversity.

At the Annual Meeting, which was co-chaired by Singapore’s Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the focus of attention was inevitably on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent years, the Forum had already welcomed discreetly – in parallel with the so-called Oslo Process – Israeli and Palestinian representatives. Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), were in Davos for talks. They drafted an agreement on Gaza and Jericho, which moved the peace process forward significantly.

The negotiations conducted in Davos by Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat encouraged the Forum to organize the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economic Summit in Casablanca. The event, which took place at the end of October, was organized in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, under the patronage of His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco and with the support and endorsement of President Bill Clinton of the United States and Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin. For the first time in history, Arab and Israeli leaders came together in a comprehensive programme of discussion and exchange.

The MENA Summit forged groundbreaking partnerships between the public and private sectors and signalled a new era of diplomacy through the creation of mechanisms designed to advance economic development and cooperation. Two thousand top leaders from government and business from virtually all the MENA countries attended the Summit, which concentrated on the economic dimension of the so-called Madrid Process for peace in the Middle East.

Earlier in the year, in a conversation with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during a banquet at the third East Asia Economic Summit, Klaus Schwab raised the idea of complementing the strong transatlantic alliance through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the deepening links across the Pacific through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, or APEC, with a third regular mechanism bringing together Asia and Europe.

Schwab’s idea of an Asia-Europe forum eventually led to the creation of the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of heads of government, which Prime Minister Goh would announce in Davos in 1996. The first ASEM was held in Bangkok, Thailand, in March that year.