The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Cologny, canton of Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab. The foundation, which is mostly funded by its 1,000 member companies – typically global enterprises with more than five billion US dollars in turnover – as well as public subsidies, views its own mission as "improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas". It has been the target of conspiracy theories and disinformation attempting to undermine its credibilty.
The WEF is mostly known for its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 3,000 paying members and selected participants – among whom are investors, business leaders, political leaders, economists, celebrities and journalists – for up to five days to discuss global issues across 500 sessions.
Next to Davos, the organization convenes regional conferences in locations across Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and India and holds two additional annual meetings in China and the United Arab Emirates. It furthermore produces a series of reports, engages its members in sector-specific initiatives and provides a platform for leaders from selected stakeholder groups to collaborate on multiple projects and initiatives.
The Forum suggests that a globalised world is best managed by a self-selected coalition of multinational corporations, governments and civil society organizations (CSOs), which it expresses through initiatives like the "Great Reset" and the "Global Redesign". It sees periods of global instability – such as the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic – as windows of opportunity to intensify its programmatic efforts.
The World Economic Forum and its annual meeting in Davos have received criticism over the years. Challenges raised about the conference and the WEF include: the organization's corporate capture of global and democratic institutions, and institutional whitewashing initiatives; the public cost of security, the organization's tax-exempt status, unclear decision processes and membership criteria, a lack of financial transparency, and the environmental footprint of its annual meetings. As a reaction to criticism within Swiss society, the Swiss federal government decided in February 2021 to reduce its annual contributions to the WEF.