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Ten questions about the World Economic Forum

How much does Switzerland spend on security for the four-day World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos? How much does it cost to be a WEF partner or member? We answer all your burning questions, as the WEF prepares to celebrate its 50th annual get-together in the Swiss mountain resort.

What is the WEF?

The World Economic ForumExternal link (WEF) is a Geneva-based not-for-profit foundation, which was launched as a private international initiative in 1971.

It has partners and members who make financial contributions to the organisation’s activities – more than CHF300 million ($310 million), according to its recent annual report External link– and who exchange experiences and tackle multiple issues in various parts of the world.

The main annual meeting is held every January in the mountain resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland. This year – the 50th annual gathering – takes place from January 21-24.

Who are its partners and members?

A select group of 100 large multinationals such as ABB, Nestlé, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank and Google. They participate in agenda decisions and provide the bulk of the funding. In total, they contribute over CHF240 million to the annual WEF budget.

Some 1,200 companies, including the 1,000 largest in the world, according to the WEF, pay over CHF27 million for annual membership.

How much does it cost to attend the Davos forum?

The WEF is financed by business leaders whose companies generate annual revenues of more than CHF5,000 million. Their contributions feesExternal link range from CHF60,000-CHF600,000 annually.

Most types of annual membership include the opportunity for the company president, CEO or director to participate in the annual WEF meeting in Davos. But to do so they must also pay an entrance fee which costs roughly CHF25,000.

And everyone else?

Government representatives and other actors outside the WEF, such as celebrities, journalists, religious leaders and activists, are also invited to Davos.

What support does Switzerland give the annual meeting?

Switzerland acts as host. The formal inauguration of the WEF annual meeting is given by whoever holds the rotating Swiss presidency. This year it is Simonetta Sommaruga.

The Swiss government believes that the Davos meeting is an “extraordinary event for Switzerland” and that it offers a unique opportunity within its borders for high-ranking figures to meet and exchange views on global problems and solutions. In this context, Switzerland covers most of the WEF security costs.

What is the total security bill for the Davos meeting?

To guarantee ground and air security during the annual meeting, the defence ministry may deploy up to 5,000 of its staff, costing around CHF32 million, which comes from the regular defence budget. Much of the support is provided via Swiss soldiers or pilots doing their regular military service training.

Additional security expenditures for the Davos event are fixed at CHF9 million, shared between the Confederation External link(CHF3.4 million), canton Graubünden (CHF2.25 million), the resort of Davos and Klosters (CHF1.1 million) and the WEF Foundation (CHF2.25 million).

If the security billExternal link is exceeded due to unusual circumstances or exceptional reasons, such as a terror incident or other major threats, the federal government has agreed to step in to cover most of the additional costs.

Why does the Davos annual meeting have such a reputation?

It brings together around 3,000 political, business, social, scientific and media leaders from more than 110 countries to discuss the most relevant issues on the global agenda. The WEF says its commitment is “to improve the world”. Only 24% of participants are women.

Has the WEF made any significant changes in the world?

Not directly. Its mission is to facilitate dialogue and the exchange of ideas. But it has been the framework for important meetings and initiatives.

Why is it criticised?

Critics call it a “club for rich businessmen” who say they have good intentions but who only care about their own interests and do business in private in Davos. Some critics view the WEF as the promoter of globalisation, which they say has increased poverty and destroyed the environment.

Does the WEF take these criticisms into account?

In a world where companies and governments are asked to be more accountable, the WEF is seeking to evolve. In its 50th edition, WEF founder Klaus Schwab, 81, has unveiled a new Davos manifesto for a more sustainable capitalism under the slogan: “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR