Klaus Schwab, who founded the World Economic Forum (WEF), has said his childhood during World War II inspired him to build an organisation that would make the world a better place. His foundation, which hosts many of the world’s most powerful, famous and wealthy people at its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, has clearly made an impact. But questions have grown about whether the organisation is meeting its declared goal of “improving the state of the world”, with resentment rising against the pro-business Davos agenda, and voters turning instead to populist leaders. One persistent criticism is that WEF meetings, including this week’s main annual gathering in Davos, have simply created a safe space for the corporate world to lobby governments without oversight. Schwab was not available for an interview with AFP but the WEF’s managing director, Adrian Monck, said in an email that the organisation “subscribes to the highest standards of governance”. ‘Fragile authority’ Schwab, born in Ravensburg, Germany, in 1938, was a little-known business professor at the University of Geneva when in 1971 he founded the WEF’s precursor, the European Management Forum. He later broadened the conclave by inviting US business leaders, assembling a prestigious Rolodex as he turned the gathering into a showcase for networking and exchange of ideas. In a 2018 book, two Stockholm University professors chronicled the WEF’s evolution, as over time politicians joined the business executives in Davos to give the forum the air of a United Nations, with a few celebrities thrown in. “Against the backdrop of what is perceived to be malfunctioning global governance institutions and stalled international policymaking, the WEF presents itself as offering an alternative,” Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sorbom write in “Discreet Power: How the World Economic Forum Shapes Market Agendas”. Over the years, success has bred success for the WEF as many of the world’s movers and shakers vie to rub shoulders in the Swiss Alps at panel discussions and apres-ski socialising. Newer regional meetings have joined the Davos calendar. The WEF’s “fragile authority” relies on proving “that if you want to be part of the global nobility, then you have to be here,” Sorbom told AFP. Published in Daily Times, January 21st 2019.