Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

New Home

On 1 November, the World Economic Forum inaugurated its new headquarters and settled into what really may be called its home.


The Forum’s first office in 1970-1971 was a garage-like pavilion of about 30 square metres. After moving briefly to a small office in the centre of Geneva, in late 1973, with just four people, it transferred to a villa in the suburb of Cologny. By 1998, each available corner of the house, even bathrooms, had been taken over.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Klaus Schwab had entered into negotiations to purchase a large property in Cologny but discussions with the owner went nowhere. After a few years, the Forum bought the property. Hilde Schwab, who oversaw construction of the building on the site, recalled the concept behind the design: “The three-level terraced structure was meant to be much more a clubhouse than an office building, reflecting the spirit of the organization, its openness and transparency, with landscaped offices and large glass windows, integrated in its magnificent surroundings overlooking Lake Geneva and the Juras.”

In 2010, the Forum completed an extension to its headquarters, which was needed to accommodate a staff of over 400 people in Geneva.

At Davos, reforming the global financial system was the main concern in the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL). In the wake of the financial crisis then affecting emerging markets, particularly Asia, participants emphasized the need to include major developing countries into the process. One idea was to set up a body to include 20 countries – half developed economies and the other developing ones. Just such a meeting of what became known as the G20 was held in Bonn, Germany, later in 1998. Participation was restricted to finance ministers and its scope limited to global finance.

In subsequent years, Klaus Schwab, among others, proposed to elevate the G20 meeting to a summit. This finally happened in 2008 when the US hosted a G20 summit in Washington DC to address the impact of the global economic crisis. In September 2009, world leaders meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, announced that the G20 would replace the G8 as the main forum for coordinating global economic policy.

Attracting enormous interest at the Annual Meeting was Hillary Rodham Clinton. The US First Lady gave a speech calling on the business community to meet its social responsibilities. Before the session ended, Schwab read out a question submitted from the audience: “Don’t you think it is time at the beginning of the next century for the US to elect and support a strong, brilliant woman for the job of president?” Clinton joked: “Yes, and I look forward to voting for her!”

Meanwhile, the Forum continued to develop its regional activities. A surprise at the Southern Africa Economic Summit in Windhoek, Namibia, was the appearance of pop star Michael Jackson, who called for investments that improve the lives of children.