Discover more from A Lily Bit
The Fish Rots from the Head Down
Today we take a closer look at the World Economic Forum’s Board to see who they represent, their economic interests, political beliefs and the hypocrisy buried within.
According to the World Economic Forum, 2000 people including 40 heads of state will attend the annual gathering in Davos from 22-26 May 2022. The forum says its mission is to “improve the state of the world” and to “shape global, regional and industry agendas.”
Who does the WEF say it represents?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) argues that it is “accountable to all parts of society” carefully “blend[ing] and balanc[ing] the best of many kinds of organizations, from both the public and private sectors, international organizations and academic institutions.”
However, the WEF’s own statistics of attendance at Davos in 2015 show that it is highly dominated by men (83%), mainly from Europe and the US (75%).
Meanwhile its year-round membership is made up exclusively of 1000 of the world’s biggest multinational corporations, most with more than US$5 billion in turnover.
Quick-Analysis of the WEF’s Board of Trustees
To understand the WEF better, one needs to analyze its 31 Board members to figure out whether this group entrusted with guarding the WEF’s “mission and values” are truly representative and accountable to society.
Doing so shows that:
Only 6 of its 31 Board members are women (19%).
13 are from North America and Europe (81%). There is not one South American Board member.
Half the Board (15) are currently corporate executives.
24 went to universities in the US and Europe; 8 went to the same university (Harvard).
Only one member can be said to represent civil society (Peter Maurer of the Red Cross).
There are no representatives of trade unions, public sector organizations, human rights groups, peasant or indigenous organizations, students and youth.
A closer look at the backgrounds of some of the Board members also reveals a high prevalence of narrow ideological thinking and conflicts of interest. A number are leaders of corporations with a history of social and environmental abuses – all of which raises serious questions about the Board’s supposed mission to “promote true global citizenship”.
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of Nestlé is known for declaring the human right to water as an ‘extreme’ view. Nestle has a controversial corporate history in relation to bottling of water, marketing of babymilk substitutes and child labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast.
“If Nestlé and myself have become very vocal in the area of water, it was not because of any philanthropic idea, it was very simple: by analyzing... what is the single most important factor for the sustainability of Nestlé, was came as the number one subject.” — Brabeck-Lethmathe
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, found guilty in 2016 of criminal charges over a massive government payout done in 2008 back when she was managing director of the IMF. A €403 million arbitration deal in favour of businessman Bernard Tapie.
Asked by the Guardian in 2012, she agreed it was ‘pay back time’ for Greece: “Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time.”
Which brings us to the current president of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, who famously threatened to withhold funding for Ukraine “until Zelenksyy earned their trust.”
Mukhesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries, is known for being India’s richest man, with a $1 billion home with 27 floors for a family of six in a country where 40% of the country’s children are malnourished.
“His influence is huge. Whatever is happening he knows. He is able to post bureaucrats to position and get ministers appointed who are favorable to him.” — Former Indian cabinet minister
Heizo Takenaka, Director of Global Security Research Institute, Keio University, Japan has faced political controversy over his postal privatization plan as well as for switching residential status between Japan and the United States in order to avoid income tax.
“The public are clever. If offered some help, most of them only demand money.” — Takenaka (in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami)
Why is this important?
The WEF likes to project itself as a concerned global actor, distressed by growing inequality and concerned to build progressive globalisation. However when its own governing structures are dominated by the richest oligarchs and corporate executives obsessed with minimizing regulations for corporate profits, it raises questions about whose interests they really serve.
This ‘Davos Class’ can probably best be described as a “nomadic, powerful and interchangeable” class that “despite its members’ nice manners and well-tailored clothes, is predatory.”
The real concern is not just that the ‘Davos class’ again gets a chance to meet and strategize, but rather that they advance global agendas that largely serve their own economic interests and disproportionately impact on the poor, with no democratic accountability.
“The sovereign state has become obsolete... We need a ‘global issue alliance’” — Klaus Schwab
There is evidence that discussions at the World Economic Forum have stimulated the negotiation of new free trade agreements that have led to job losses and a massive rise in corporate litigations against states; facilitated the formation of the G20 that brought a few small actors into global policy-making but continues to exclude the vast majority of nations; and provided the forum for banks to successfully lobby government officials to limit necessary regulations on financial industry in the aftermath of the global crisis.
Is the Davos Agenda the Future of Global Governance?
The World Economic Forum has made clear that it sees itself as a model of how the world should be governed – actively advocating through its Global Redesign Initiative for a shift from multilateral governance based on state-to-state decision-making to a multistakeholder governance in which corporations have a much more dominant role, becoming effectively global citizens. This process is already under way with the emergence of evermore self-selected and self-appointed multi-stakeholder forums worldwide such as the World Water Forum, the Marine Stewardship Council or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
The Board in a sense is a vision of how the WEF wants the world to be run – by a small group of mainly male corporate executives with the same education and ideological vision, with a mere smattering of diverse non-corporate actors to give their actions legitimacy.
A Lily ₿it is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.