What’s the WEF?
The WEF was set up in 1971 in Geneva by social entrepreneur Klaus Schwab. Independent and not-for-profit, it aims to bring political and business leaders together to help them collaborate on global challenges and find solutions.
According to its 2016 annual report the WEF’s 228 million francs revenue went towards activities supporting engagement in the fields of digital economy, education, healthcare, IT, mobility, the environment and energy, among others.
What happens in Davos?
WEF’s glitziest annual meeting sees itself as the “foremost creative force for engaging the world’s top leaders in collaborative activities to shape the global, regional and industry agendas at the beginning of each year”.
In short, it’s a giant networking event for business and political leaders around the world to discuss the world's most pressing issues during the day and have a jolly good time at various parties, dinners and events every night.
Who’s going this year?
Emmanuel Macron at a previous WEF when he was the French finance minister. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
This year's line-up will be headlined by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who will give the opening address on Tuesday, and French president Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to address the WEF on January 24th.
Among the 340 political leaders attending are British prime minister Theresa May, Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, the presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Switzerland and the European Commission, and the king of Jordan.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, actress Cate Blanchett and musicians will.i.am and Elton John are also on the list as are the leaders of some 1,900 companies.
But of course they are all likely to be upstaged by Donald Trump – the first sitting US president to attend the meeting since Bill Clinton in 2000 – whose presence on the bill has already sparked demonstrations in Switzerland.
What’s on the bill?
Trump's anti-globalist, 'America First' agenda is certainly at odds with this year's WEF theme, which is 'Creating a shared future in a fractured world'.
Sessions will focus on how to improve international cooperation on issues relating to the environment, the global economy and international security, as well as finding ways to overcome division.
“Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within societies. Yet the sheer scale of the challenges our world faces makes concerted, collaborative and integrated action more essential than ever," says WEF founder Schwab.
Enough of work, what’s the social life like?
Infamous. Davos has gained a reputation for extravagant parties held by Russian oligarchs, business millionaires and company CEOs where rare, ludicrously expensive wines are guzzled like water, Michelin-star chefs rustle up the canapés and music icons such as John Legend entertain the guests.
According to Business Insider in 2015 one party was shut down by police at 2am after noise complaints – but the host didn’t mind because his guests had already got through two nights’ worth of booze.
So who keeps the peace?
A police sniper in Davos during WEF 2017. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
It takes around 4,500 Swiss army soldiers and police officers to keep the high profile attendees safe and secure. That's quite something for a village with a permanent population of just 11,000. The bill for security comes in at around eight million francs annually, split between local and federal authorities and the WEF.
How much is a ticket?
For corporate executives, how much you pay to attend Davos depends on your level of membership to WEF. According to The Guardian, basic annual membership to WEF (required if you want to buy a ticket to Davos) costs 68,000 francs. But that only grants access to certain sessions. Companies who are ‘associate partners’ or ‘partners’ of WEF pay more annually and get more access at Davos.
At the top of the tree are the 100 ‘strategic partner’ companies – including Accenture, Barclays, Deloitte, KPMG and Unilever – who pay a whopping 600,000 francs for annual membership, which entitles them to buy an access-all-sessions pass for themselves and five colleagues, including special privileges. But they still have to purchase actual tickets to the event – at 18,000 francs a pop. Ouch.