Davos countdown: Ebola, oil and nuclear weapons on WEF’s 2015 agenda

World Finance takes a look at the legacy of Davos’ World Economic Forum, and what we can expect for the annual gathering in 2015

October 27, 2014

Since its inception, the World Economic Forum – hosted in Davos – has been one of the world’s most important gatherings. It is here leaders from a wealth of fields hope to make a profound impact on politics, healthcare and business. But over the years, the WEF has attracted unwelcome attention from protesters who claim it to be ‘undemocratic’ and too capitalist. We take a look at the legacy of Davos’ big event, and what we can expect from it in 2015.

World Finance: It’s the A-list ticket of the year: transforming Davos’ snowy paradise into a collision course of political and business posturing, giving the global elite a chance to focus the global agenda ahead while getting in a close-up. Last year, a major focal point remained the stability and integrity of the markets.

Antony Jenkins: I think it’s cautious optimism for both the general economy and the banks.

James Gorman: The industry started shedding the businesses that were at the root of what got the big banks into trouble during the crises, which were the proprietary trading business.

World Finance: Sometimes-elusive political players also became enthusiastic participants last year. Take Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani – who proclaimed his country was prepared to end a nuclear weapons deal and encourage foreign investment in the oil-rich nation. Open discussions around Turkey’s plans to unlock regional economic development also sparked interest. But despite these progressive conversations, the event isn’t without its critics.

The world’s most influential business, political and civil society leaders have gathered by invitation only since 1971

Protestor: The World Economic Forum is an undemocratic, untransparent we could say corrupt organization. The forum represents the relationship between capitalism and corporations.

World Finance: The corruption quandary surrounding Davos partly lies in the fact that annual attendance fees have been growing at a staggering rate – this year’s hover around 5 to 600,000 Swiss Francs. But is there any intrinsic value in having these high level discussions or is it just part of an elitist sport? Mark Spelman – Managing Director with Accenture Strategy – is a 10 plus year veteran of the event.

Mark Spelman: One thing from a very corporate point of view. We would have at Davos something like 70 executives and C-level players from different companies. That’s almost impossible to replicate anywhere else in that period of time. So there’s real value for a corporation like ours to have that number of meetings.

World Finance: The world’s most influential business, political and civil society leaders have gathered by invitation only since 1971. Davos credits itself with providing an exclusive platform for addressing pressing global agenda items in the past… brokering peace deals between the East and West after the fall of the Berlin Wall…giving then-small players China and India international attention….even addressing the healthcare epidemics of the last two decades: including AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. As in the past, Spelman says Davos will continue to play a central role in global campaigns.

Mark Spelman: Ebola is a huge issue particularly in West Africa. There’s going to be a lot of issues around how do you address the human capital issues particularly in West Africa and the impact that’s going to have. But that’s also going to have knock-on implications for people very concerned that it doesn’t impact on the rest of the world. So my expectation is that we will address the specifics of how do we accelerate looking after West Africa while stopping the spread of Ebola in the rest of the world.

World Finance: As political and business elite descend on the foothills of Davos in a few months – one thing is clear: the power the event possesses lies less in the backroom conversations than in being seen and heard among the top dogs. Publicity even you might be able to buy, if you have a few hundred thousand to spare. World Finance will be at Davos 2015.