The World Economic Forum, whose annual conference in Davos, Switzerland is generally just referred to as “Davos,” would very much like it if people stopped referring to other gatherings of business and political elites as “Davos.”
The organization expressed its concern in a statement released today:
“The World Economic Forum objects to the proliferation of the use of the “Davos” brand for events that have nothing to do with its own activities. The Forum, together with the City of Davos, will use all means to protect the Davos brand against illicit appropriation. The Forum also draws attention to its policy not to organize conferences on behalf of a specific government, always preserving its independence and impartiality.”
While it didn’t call out any specific Davos-manqué, this was a clear shot at the media for referring to the upcoming, and now substantially reduced, Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh as “Davos in the Desert.”
Western technology, financial, and political luminaires like Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were all scheduled to attend the event, hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before dropping out following the disappearance of and apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the conference will be primarily attended mainly by less prominent banking executives as well as more attendees and speakers from Russia and friendly Arab countries.
The Saudi conference isn’t the only global gathering that’s been labeled “Davos”: there’s the Oslo Freedom Forum’s “Davos of human rights” as well as the Bloomberg sponsored Davos rival “New Economy Forum” in Singapore next month (which includes Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, the head of the Saudi Public Investment as a “founding partner“)
While Davos-Davos almost requires the presence of people with not-exactly-sterling human rights records in order to maintain its title as the premier convocation of the world’s elite, it also prides itself on precisely not existing on behalf of any particular national or corporate influence. “The World Economic Forum, as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is not related to any political, commercial or personal interests,” it said in its statement. It is, after all, in Switzerland.