A beginner’s guide to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) was established in the 1970s and begun with only 444 members.
Now, with attendance of more than 3,000, the WEF annual January meeting sees the world’s most powerful individuals come together to discuss big issues of the day.
The venue of choice is Davos, a beautiful resort in the Swiss Alps.
From Shakira to the Chinese President, the guest list is diverse but heavily influential.
The WEF is self-described as, “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.
Amidst copious speeches, discussions and secret meetings, relationships are carved between the heavyweights of the political, business and financial world.
Naturally, downtime is required after all of this this serious conversation, so lavish parties are a nightly occurrence.
So, as the rich and powerful pack their fur and board their private jets for the 2017 get-together in the idyllic Swiss mountain village, lesser mortals are left to hypothesise as to their agenda.
After the political soap opera that was 2016, there is no doubt that Brexit, Donald Trump, the refugee crisis and climate change will feature heavily throughout this year’s WEF.
Attendees will be listening avidly as Theresa May reveals her long-awaited Brexit speech on the first day of this powerful annual meeting.
British visitors to Davos will be left to answer difficult questions, particularly from those in the financial sector, regarding the UK’s threat to leave the Single Market.
Expect adamant dismissal by British delegates of similarities between the UK and the US – Britain will likely be pitched as a champion of global trade, but whether the elite Davos community lap this up is another matter.
Similarly, although not attending, Trump’s inauguration will cast a large shadow over the Swiss valley.
The WEF is typically packed with progressive conversation surrounding ‘multicultural dialogue’ and climate change, but this year an unusual fog of anxiety will descend.
Trump’s infamous promises such as banning all Muslims from entering the US and his scepticism regarding global warming are unwelcome assaults on Davos principles.
Audiences will have to turn to US representative Joe Biden for reassurance; perhaps he’ll manage to appease fears amidst the champagne fuelled panic.
With Trump absent, the spotlight will be on Chinese President, Xi Jinping.
Mr Xi will seize the opportunity to shower delegates with suitable rhetoric in order to secure favour with political, financial and business heavyweights, pre-empting an inevitable increase in tension between China and the US in the coming year.
Whilst Mr Xi talks of globalisation and free trade, Trump will give an inauguration speech centred on trashing current trade agreement; quite the paradox.
Aside from an opportunity for political point scoring, the WEF will provide a platform for inspired discussion regarding the refugee crisis.
With the number of displaced refugees reaching 65 million in 2016, this is an issue that simply cannot go unmentioned – keep an eye out for David Miliband’s passionate conversation on the subject.
It will be interesting to learn how Davos manages to strike a balance between condemnation and hope in response to our radically altered political landscape.
Perhaps attendees will scrap discussion altogether and hit the slopes in blissful ignorance of the political blizzard on the horizon.