Davos 1971-2010

January 27 2010

The WEF has produced a book about its first 40 years. Read here.

(No author is mentioned on the title page. Klaus Schwab says in his Acknowledgments: “This book was made possible through the conscientious and dedicated work of my long-time executive assistant, Maryse Zwick. She spent two years after her official retirement sifting through thousands of documents, photographs and other materials to construct a historical roadmap of the Forum’s growth and development over the past four decades. […] I would like to extend my thanks to Alejandro Reyes for his invaluable help in editing the manuscript and to Kamal Kimaoui for designing and producing this book.”)

At the end of the 1995 Annual Meeting we suggested to Klaus and the then Managing Director Maria Livanos Cattaui the idea of producing a book about the first 25 years in time for Davos ’96. I was publisher of the Forum’s then-magazine World Link. Lance Knobel was its editor-in-chief. Klaus’s reply was: “If you are asking Maria and me to look back, we will not be interested. The Forum must only look forward. We are not interested in talking about ourselves.”

No reason for him not to change his mind. The Forum has become public property since those homespun days.


I wrote a impressionistic piece about the Davoses I attended (1993 to 2006 inclusive) here.


Davos 1983. End of the recession of the early ’80s. Cusp of the boom. Again and again we hear governments being asked to get out of the way.

This is the Davos Symposium of the European Management Forum. Some Swiss still talk about the Davos Symposium. The EMF became the World Economic Forum in 1987. (When was Symposium adopted and dropped and when was Annual Meeting adopted?)

Is that a suitcase being examined near the start? I thought this was the age before security.

There’s a little more Swissness around than now. Perhaps that’s just the film. Klaus fusses about a door.

The Congress Centre is recognisable. There’s a CCTV display saying Welcome. Stéphane Garelli (who is nowhere mentioned in the new book) opens the meeting. Raymond Barre is its chairman. He was still chairing Meetings in my time. Nigerians are there, and the Malaysian trade minister, and Chinese.

The Chinese had attended every Davos since 1979, and the WEF had held meetings in China with the China Enterprise Management Association since ’81. No Russians. This is pre-Gorbachev.

There are workshops. A glimpse of a bookshop, probably run by Herr Stauffacher. There’s an “initiative centre”. A questioner in the audience (Helmut Maucher) is called a “challenger”.

There’s a session called “The Universe and the Origin of Life”. Science came in earlier than I had guessed, perhaps at the beginning. Religion, I suspect, is more recent. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle is still talking obscurely. Experts were less adept at addressing the world than they have become.

There is another on “The Disintegration of Society”. This was years before Thatcher’s infamous remark. We hear Petra Kelly of the German Greens and the English trade unionist and defender of Stalin Arthur Scargill.

The Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Bernard Rogers, is there. You might think that that was a transitional post-war title, but it still exists within NATO.

Another session is called “How Can We Avoid the Debt-Crash and Whose Responsibility Is It?” Alquraishi of SAMA talks about the 1982 Third World Debt Crisis.

Barre’s remarks at the end outside the Congress Centre could be transposed into a Bremner, Bird & Fortune script. Note that thoroughbred pronunciation, and use, of the word “lucidity”, and his and Klaus’s quaint use of the term “business man”.

It all looks simpler than now, but not as different as you might have expected. Everybody is wearing glasses with huge lenses, but it isn’t like comparing 1983 with 1956 in terms of dress, though some suits look cheap, Garelli has a moustache, and Petra Kelly, with low hair and blouse clasped to the neck, looks like early Princess Diana. I asked in a recent post: “With a world continually reminded of itself in video playback, is fashion going to change more slowly? Did styles only change because we weren’t always watching ourselves and kept forgetting what we looked like?”

Here is a link to the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, one of the more interesting corners of the WEF’s present and ever-ramifying initiatives.

5 Responses to “Davos 1971-2010”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Interesting that the first Davos lasted two weeks.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Maria Cattaui is not mentioned in the book either. She was with the Forum for nineteen years (1977-96) and became its Managing Director and driving force! Claude Smadja, her successor (1996-2001), is also airbrushed out – except for when he once shared a byline with Klaus. I have just noticed these barely credible omissions.

    I wanted to recognise the compilers, even if the title page does not. Hence the boring second paragraph.

  3. […] Davos 1971-2010. About the first forty years. But there is also a 22-minute piece of film here, with commentary by me, about Davos in 1983. […]

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