Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.
What is the World Economic Forum?
The World Economic Forum is an international, impartial, independent organisation for Public-Private Cooperation. Established in 1971, the World Economic Forum (WEF) “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.” Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum aims to improve the state of the world by engaging the “foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” The Organisation believes that “progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.”
Every year the WEF holds an annual meeting in the ski town of Davos, Switzerland. This year was the 52nd WEF annual meeting. The event attracted 2,500 people from around the globe, including key players in politics, business, academia and non-government organisations. Under the theme “Working Together, Restoring Trust,” with the aim to address economic, environmental, political and social fault-lines exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is free for invitees, however if you are not invited, you need to be a member or partner of the WEF the fees for which range between $62,243 and $622,000, “depending on the level of engagement.” In 2019, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned his ministers from attending the event to focus on national issues, to avoid opulence and to remain in line with rebranding the party as “blue-collar” Conservatives.
Critics of the WEF
While the WEF’s achievements and efforts are significant, the Forum is not without its critics. The WEF annual meeting often called “party of Davos,” attended by the world’s elite, has been called “out of touch with the real world.” The event has been sharply criticised in recent years for being elitist, expensive, ineffective, and irrelevant. The WEF has also been accused of representing “a symbol of a failed era” that should be abandoned, and challenged by protestors and activists over their “empty rhetoric.” The global charity Oxfam published a report titled, “Profiting from Pain,” which found that 573 people became new billionaires during the COVID-19 pandemic and that 263 million “additional people will fall into extreme poverty this year.” Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International said that “billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them,” while millions fall into extreme poverty.
WEF Davos Meeting Was the Target of Misinformation
The World Economic Forum has also been the subject of unfounded conspiracy theories, which the WEF is trying to address head-on. According to Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the World Economic Forum, they, “like many other organisations, have been the target of misinformation campaigns. And that is something that we’re very proactively trying to work towards combating.” Misbar fact checked several claims related to the Forum this year. Often, misinformation begins to spread following criticism. The latest of which is that the WEF had its own police force, a commercial falsely attributed to the WEF, altered tweets, reporting on the Omicron variant before it was discovered and misleading claims on sensors in medication.
The criticism of the WEF, coupled with the surge in misinformation campaigns, have forced the Organisation to try and fix its public image problem. If this is not done soon, trust in the organisation will begin to dwindle which would affect their impact and who chooses to associate with them in the future.