Why 50 years of WEF is enough

What is the World Economic Forum (WEF)?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) was founded in 1971 by Professor Klaus Schwab and was called the European Management Forum until 1986 with the purpose of promoting the American management style among European CEOs. Today, the WEF describes itself as “the international organization for public-private cooperation” and “the Forum involves leaders from politics, business, culture and other sectors of society to shape global, regional and industrial agendas.[1]”  The WEF states it is “commited to improving the state of the world”.

Why should the WEF be abolished?

Elitist and unrepresentative

The WEF has 1000 members, the majority of whom are large global companies with a turnover of more than five billion USD. Membership fees range from CHF 60,000 to CHF 600,000. The more active a company wants to be, the more it has to pay.

This Transnational Institute infographic shows that the “Davos Class” is very male and privileged – In 2016, 21 of 26 board members were men, 11 of them studied at the renowned Harvard University in the USA, two thirds came from the USA or Europe, only one person is from Latin America and there is no member from Africa. Civil society was represented by one organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The members of the WEF bear a great responsibility for the climate crisis.

100 companies have been responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988. And the majority of these companies are members of the WEF. Shell and BP, two members of the WEF, support the Paris Climate Agreement, but both companies have no targets to reduce emissions, and in their planning they assume that the earth’s temperature could be up to 5 degrees warmer in 2050 than in pre-industrial times, according to a report by Share Action.  BP has decreased its total investment in renewable and clean technologies since 2005.

In their book, Merchants of Doubt, Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes and Caltech historian Erik Conway have shown how the fossil fuel industry has specifically challenged climate science findings. That’s why prosecuting attorney Maura Healey filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil in Massachusetts, USA last October for misleading advertising against climate change and deceiving consumers.

WEF members support an economic system that advocates infinite growth in a finite world. The Club of Rome’s report, The Limits of Growth from 1972 demonstrated the large scale environmental destruction the dominant economic system causes and in the end our livelihood will be destroyed. Nevertheless, WEF members continue to promote growth.

The economic policies of WEF companies contribute to global inequalities

New York Times journalist Peter Goodman described how the global elite at the WEF are eager to discuss inequalities and want the gains of globalization to be accessible to the masses, but economist and Nobel laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz told him that the WEF does not discuss solutions that tackle the root of the problem, such as redistributing money, property and power from elites to workers. The current protests in France (Gilets Jaunes) and Chile are the consequences of this policy.

According to Oxfam, the tax rates of rich people and their companies have fallen. In some countries the richest 10% pay an effective tax rate that is lower than the effective tax rate of the poorest 10%. Since 1970, the inheritance tax rate, income tax rate of the rich and the corporate tax rate have fallen.

The erosion of multilateralism 

In August 2019 the UN and the WEF signed a Public Private Partnership Agreement that allows unprecedented access for WEF staff to the UN’s programmes, agencies and funds , and which has not even been discussed with UN member states.

While it is clear that the UN and its multilateral processes could be made more effective and efficient, this agreement undermines  participation by allowing large corporations to align UN-agreed goals with their business interests, says Professor Harris Gleickman of the University of Massachusetts, USA. For example, the educational goal of SDGs, “to ensure inclusive and equitable education of high quality,” is being transformed into a goal that focuses on education to meet the rapidly changing world of work.

The agreement’s predecessor, the WEF’s Global Redesign Initiative, proposes to introduce voluntary measures and a code of conduct instead of enforceable laws to regulate the activities of global corporations.  In Switzerland, the Corporate Responsibility Initiative was launched because there is sufficient evidence that voluntary measures do not have a positive impact.

The replacement of multilateralism with a corporate-friendly multistakeholderism has long been the objective of WEF. In 2009, it developed these proposals in a far-reaching Global Redesign Initiative, which is steadily being adopted in key global arenas such as health, nutrition, education, biodiversity and now at the heart of the UN itself.  

Words, but no deeds

The latest report from the independent think tank Carbon Tracker shows that the largest fossil fuel companies have adopted projects that are not Paris-compliant.

By way of example, Credit Suisse’s investments in 2017 resulted in 82.6 million tonnes of CO2 eq. emitted, more than double the emissions that Switzerland pollutes in a year.

It seems that CEOs did not understand what the Paris Agreement really means or Greta Thunberg’s demands she made during her speech at the WEF last year.

Conclusion

The annual meeting of a lobby group of large corporations, whose members represent the top social stratum, may not be used as a platform for them to discuss the most important problems facing the world. They have no legitimacy and only the creme-de-la-creme are invited to attend.


[1] https://www.weforum.org/about/world-economic-forum