FEBRUARY 1, 2019


Despite its limited name, the World Economic Forum in Davos is getting world-wide media attention -- attended by most key heads of state, senior executives, and ambitious entrepreneurs who pay substantive sums for the opportunity to be there.

In a conflicted world of encircled national leaders and eroding international presence, the Davos forum seems to offer a refreshing air of welcome perceptive relevance.

Main credit should go to Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the forum, who started it while still a professor at the University of Geneva. Gradually, patiently, and perceptively, he built up a dedicated, talented team while widening a scope of issues reviewed and expanding the level of participation.

Thoughtfully, he offered a blend of serious and practical review of pressing issues with a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere where interested participants could go skiing before the morning meeting, meet a pleasant celebrity like Sharon Stone, or joyful model while having a delicious dinner. From his original management forum to the current one, Professor Klaus persuaded key influential participants to focus not only on promoting their own operations but in serving public interest.

While resorts such as Gstaad, St. Moritz, and Zermatt had always attracted tribes of rich, famous, and hopefuls, Davos, initially a small valley resort, systematically grew into a welcoming community of enjoyable hospitality and perceptive responsibility.

Like any other project, Davos has its limitations. Recently a number of columnists questioned its role, value, and impact, pointing out that some of those involved in seeking solutions were in effect part of the problem. Yet no one disputed the relevance of holding the forum with such impressive attendance. For example, while the Financial Times' Gillian Tet raised questions on its impact, the Financial Times itself devoted a whole section of its publication for the opening of that conference.

A question is raised on whether Davos has overtaken the relevance and impact once associated with the United Nations General Assembly sessions. Clearly, it's a reflection of changing times. The once central relevance of the U.N. seems to have been greatly diminished at these changing times. Still, the U.N. Organization and its assembly remain the only inclusive framework of International Relations. The first to agree will be professor Schwab who graciously makes every effort to include U.N. senior officials amongst his most highly regarded guests. Secretary-General Guterres was given high visibility during his recent Davos attendance. That display of courtesy to the U.N. does not relieve the organization itself from making every effort -- through both its member states and Secretariat leadership -- to regain its once crucial, refreshing, and central role.