World Economic Forum Historic Moments (Photos)

The World Economic Forum convenes this week, and the theme is ‘resilient dynamism.’ Here, a look back in photos at Davos’s most memorable moments.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP, via Getty

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP, via Getty


A World Economic Forum (WEF) logo is seen in front of snow covered three on January 25, 2012 in Davos. Some 1,600 economic and political leaders, including 40 heads of states and governments, will be asked to urgently find ways to reform a capitalist system that has been described as "outdated and crumbling as they converge at eastern Switzerland's chic ski station of Davos for the 42nd edition of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) which opens on January 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

World Economic Forum

The First Meeting

In January 1971, 440 European business leaders from more than 30 countries met for the first time in Davos, Switzerland. The Forum was founded the same year by Professor Klaus Schwab, and has met every year in January ever since.

Jim Cole/AP

Politics and Economics Collide

The collapse of the Bretton Woods  Fixed Exchange Rate system in 1971, compounded with the Arab-Israeli War, led the forum to begin focusing on more global sociopolitical issues, and political leaders from around the world were invited to attend for the first time.

World Economic Forum

China Recognized

In 1979, the forum included China for the first time, making them the first nongovernmental institution to partner with China’s economic development commissions. The country has been a crucial presence at Davos ever since—in 1992, then-premier Li Peng gave a historic speech (pictured).

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Reagan Involves the U.S.

Despite increased participation from countries around the world like India and China, the United States had not participated in the forum until 1982, when President Ronald Reagan involved the U.S. for the first time, appearing via satellite to promise America’s dedication to “work with our allies.”


Cold War Milestone

As the Cold War came to a close, eyes were on the forum for insight into Russia’s economic future. West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich significantly urged members to “give Gorbachev a chance.”

World Economic Forum

The Davos Declaration

Signed in 1988 by Greece and Turkey, the Davos Declaration was one of the forum’s first forays into diplomacy, and helped the two countries avoid war.

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Nelson Mandela Attends

In their first joint appearance, Nelson Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk attended the forum together amid the country’s tumultuous political transition. Mandela gave his first speech on South Africa’s economic future at the summit.

Jerome Delay/AP

A Special Guest

President Bill Clinton became the first sitting U.S. president to actually attend Davos in 2000. That same year, the World Health Organization unveiled the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization at the Forum.

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Davos Relocates

In solidarity with the United States, the World Economic Forum relocated to New York City for its summit in 2002, following the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers.

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Forum Addresses Corruption

Ahead of the LIBOR-fixing scandal and the bank bailout of 2008, heads of the world’s main multilateral development banks agreed to make the forum’s Partenering Against Corruption Initiative, include antibribery requirements as part of the bidding process in 2006.

Alessandro Della Bella/Keystone, via AP

Euro SOS

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso unveiled a euro-rescue package in 2009 at Davos, promising to do “anything we can to protect the euro.” Still, Europe’s economic crisis remains a central focus at Davos, with last year’s forum centering around rumors of euro breakup.