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The centre of the WEF universe

Photographer Mark Henley was granted rare access to the World Economic Forum headquarters, a purpose-built and highly secure centre sunk into a hillside in the exclusive district of Cologny overlooking Lake Geneva. Henley is Swiss Press Photographer of the year 2014 with his work ‘Iran talks’.

Founded by Klaus Schwab in 1971, WEF is still under his control. There are also offices in New York and Tokyo, but operations concentrate on Geneva in the days leading up to the Forum in Davos with staff flying in from the other sites for the final preparations with meetings starting as early as 7am. The headquarters were completed in 1998 and extended in 2010. Only Schwab has a private office, with a terrace looking over the lake – all other staff work in open plan spaces.

Henley’s photographs include some of the official press conference to announce the forum’s content, in an on-site but separate press conference area, to which the press are restricted.

According to French business magazine Challenges, the organisation had 550 staff at the time of the 2014 forum, drawn from 56 nationalities, and 93% had at least a master’s degree. Around 60 % were female, with 40% of those women in senior positions. English is the working language. 

All images: Mark Henley/Panos;  text: swissinfo/Mark Henley

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR