The dark side of Davos

What do the Chairman of the Board of Nestlé, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank have in common? They’re all on the board of The World Economic Forum.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, which cites its mission as being “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.”

Its annual winter meeting in Davos is currently taking place, bringing together more than 2,500 top international business and political leaders, invited academics and journalists to discuss pressing global issues. In short – it’s a pretty influential set up.

So let’s take a closer look at the 24 WEF board, which is currently made up of

  • Gender: 18 men and 6 women
  • Employment: 12 corporate executives, 4 university academics, 4 financial insitutions, 1 Director of WEF, 1 Intergovernmental Organisation, 1 Non-governmental Organisation, 1 Queen
  • Geographical location: 10 Europeans (including Russia), 6 North Americans, 6 Asians, 1 Middle Eastern, 1 South American, 0 Africans, 0 Oceanians
  • Education: 22 of the 24 went to universities in the USA or EU

Many of the board members have been through the revolving doors in their careers; work for or sit on boards or advisory boards to some of the world’s most powerful corporations; have strong political and academic ties; belong to powerful lobbying, policy-making and advisory groups and a number have been implicated in accusations of corporate malfeasance during their career.

Susan George described the board as follows:

“The Davos class, despite its members’ nice manners and well-tailored clothes is predatory… They run our major institutions, including the media, know exactly what they want and are much more united and better organized than we are. But this dominant class has weaknesses too; one is that it has an ideology but virtually no ideas and no imagination.”

My source for this post is this amazing infographic which has more detailed information about the careers of the current board: http://davosclass.tni.org/. The infographic is a collaboration of the Transnational Institute and Occupy.com. They believe the World Economic Forum is fundamentally about increasing corporate profits and rewarding political elites rather than “improving the state of the world” and describe it as an undemocratic, unaccountable and illegitimate institution that, far from improving the world, has over decades reinforced the global crisis of inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction.

The Davos class are powerful, with many corporate interests and completely unrepresentative of global society – should they be responsible for such an influential forum discussing and impacting global issues?

Image: https://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/images/davos-facebook-share.png

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