Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

What is Davos, who can go and why has Boris Johnson banned his Cabinet from attending?

World leaders will gather in a scenic Swiss town. Credit: AP

Some of the world's most powerful people, plus a smattering of celebrities, will gather at an annual conference in a picturesque corner of Switzerland this week.

Climate change will be at the forefront of the 50th conference's focus, but what exactly happens at Davos and who can we expect to see there?

Here's what you need to know:

What is Davos?

Davos is the Swiss mountain resort where the World Economic Forum is held every year.

Situated in the Swiss Alps, Davos is the scenic location for the annual conference, where around 3,000 members descend for the week-long forum which sees leaders from business in the same room as key players from politics, charity and academia.

Many use the opportunity to hold private meetings on things like investment in their countries, and as a chance to do business deals.

The WEF was founded in 1971 by German economist Klaus Schwab, initially labelled the European Management Forum, it was renamed the World Economic Forum in 1987.

When is it held?

The non-governmental organisation holds its conference at the end of January in Switzerland.

This year it is taking place from January 21 to 24.

Who is attending?

Greta Thunberg has been in attendance in the past and will be at the 2020 meeting. Credit: AP

In the past, the forum has attracted high-profile figures, including Prince William, David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg - who will again be attending, having trekked to the summit rather than using public transport.

US President Donald Trump will be attending this year, to make up for a missed appearance at last year's summit, during the record-long shutdown of the US government.

He will be at the forum on January 21 and 22 and his appearance will mark his first time on the world stage since he authorised the US military to kill Iran's top military commander, General Qassem Soleimani.

It will also be President Trump's first trip outside of the US since becoming only the third American president to be impeached, and the first one to carry that mark into a re-election campaign.

He will also give a speech on Tuesday, the day his impeachment trial begins back in the US.

The President of Iraq, Barham Salih, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among the 53 heads of state and government set to attend along with hundreds of business leaders and civil society activists, like environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, who is attending for the second year running.

Also attending is Sanna Marin, Finland's Prime Minister and the the world’s youngest sitting premier at 34.

Environmental issues will be at the top of the agenda in the scenic Swiss town. Credit: AP

What about the UK?

Boris Johnson has banned his Cabinet from attending Davos, telling them they should be focused on delivering for the people of the UK.

Back in 2013, the then mayor of London described the summit as “a great big constellation of egos involved in massive mutual orgies of adulation", however, he did attend.

Boris Johnson is not a fan of Davos. Credit: PA

What will be discussed?

At the top of the agenda is environmental issues and after a year of extreme heat, ferocious wildfires and ice sheets melting, climate change is the main worry for those heading to Davos.

Citing a survey of more than 750 key decision-makers, the WEF said catastrophic trends like global warming and the extinction of animal species would be front and centre at the forum.

The 2020 theme is sustainable development, under the slogan "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World".

“The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning," said Borge Brende, President of the WEF.

“This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of co-operation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.”

Mr Schwab has written to this year's attendees urging them to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Environmental concerns account for the top five risks for the longer-term outlook, according to those surveyed in the WEF's Global Risks Report 2020.

The findings illustrate how environmental issues have become more important to the public and to policymakers, especially after campaigning from the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion.

Why has it received criticism?

Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. Credit: AP

Many have criticised the forum as a gathering of the "world's elite", as only those who are invited are able to attend, or you must be a member of the WEF - which can cost £48,000.

Aside from the meetings and discussions, there are a host of exclusive parties and dinners.

Within the forum itself, there is elitism at play as not everyone is granted the same access.

High-profile guests will be given white badges, which allows attendees full access to the forum and any official event.

Orange badges are for the journalists covering the event, while purple badges are for technical or support staff and they are only allowed in a few areas.

But a hotel badge will only grant attendees access to the local hotels - not the forum itself.

The summit is also male-dominated, with only 22% of participants women in 2019, though this was a marked increase from the 17% in 2015.

The term "Davos Man" has become a nickname for the type of wealthy, elite male who typically goes.

Does Davos achieve anything?

Many companies use Davos to make pledges, but tangible gains have been made at the summit.

In 1988, meetings between Prime Ministers Turgut Özal of Turkey and Andreas Papandreou of Greece brought relations between the countries back from the brink of war.

While in 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) used it to launch programmes to immunise millions of children against disease.

And The Global Health Initiative was launched by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at the meeting in 2002.