Davos 2014: What you need to know

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting is attended by prolific movers and shakers from politicians to business people to celebrities.

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The theme of this year’s conference is “Reshaping the world: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”, focusing on issues such as slow growth, climate change, rising inequality and youth unemployment.

Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in Davos, with our Story Stream.

A brief history

In January 1971, around 440 European business leaders met in Davos to discuss the most pressing management issues of the time. The meeting was the birth of the World Economic Forum (though it went by a different name until the 1980s); a non-profit organisation founded, in their words, on the commitment to improve the world through the engagement of world leaders.  

The meeting has since expanded to include political, social and economic discussions. The guest list has grown quite a bit too – this year, over 2,500 deligates are attending the event including Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and celebrity powerhouses like Bono and Matt Damon.

A catalyst for change

With the presence of so many influential people at one of the world’s most luxurious ski resorts, Davos may seem like the world’s most elite social event, but it does, in fact, have a good track record for promoting real change. Greece and Turkey, for example, avoided war when they signed the “Davos Declaration” in 1988. When Nelson Mandela was liberated in 1992, he appeared alongside South African President FW de Klerk at the annual meeting and in 1994, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat reached a draft peace agreement on Gaza and Jericho

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the great political alliances forged at Davos. He says he is willing to forge a friendship with the United States after three decades of animosity as long as both sides are willing to make an effort.

Despite positive outcomes at Davos conferences, there are always opposition groups present from anti-capitalists to topless women protesting male domination in business.

Abbott on the world stage

There’s a lot of pressure to make 2014’s Davos meeting count and Prime Minister Tony Abbott is feeling it. Abbott has delivered the keynote speech, which he has used as a platform to promote global and national growth in order to create more jobs for Australians. Abbott’s speech can be seen as a key test of his diplomacy skills ahead of the G20 summit  to be held in Brisbane in November. He’s already made headlines with his resurrection of his “baddies vs baddies” analogy of the Syrian crisis.

Tony Abbott’s assessment of #Syria conflict on front page of @HuffPostuk 上海按摩服务网,上海按摩,/mXvixNN5z2 via @shanthibenjamin pic.twitter.com/u9HFx6c2yf

— Kathy Novak (@Kathy_Novak) January 22, 2014Reshaping the world

The conference began with a message from Pope Francis telling Davos’ billionaires to put their money where their mouths are. In a message read during the opening ceremony, he says: “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.”

Pope Francis’ message proves to be apropos – global inequality is one of Davos’ hot topics. The ever-growing gap between rich and poor is one of the biggest concerns raised by WEF members in this year’s survey. This follows Oxfam’s grave reminder in their report released on Monday that says the 85 richest people on the planet have as much wealth collectively as the poorest half of the population.

Davos is also dealing with an imbalance of its own. Only 395 women are attending the conference – even less than last year – a disappointing reminder of the lack of global influential female business and political leaders.

Will Davos succeed in “reshaping the world”? Share your views in the comments below.

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