The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting is almost upon us once again, under the theme of “Globalization 4.0”. But this year, complementing the activity taking place at Congress Centre itself, not to mention the myriad other spaces hosting corporate brands and country-focused events, you might stumble across a new venue in the picturesque town of Davos: a "House of Switzerland".
But what’s the need for a House of Switzerland in the middle of one of the nation’s best-known locations? Might the more than 3,000 official delegates to the meeting – or perhaps some of the more than 40,000 additional visitors who come for the week – forget which country they are in?
That’s not likely, given that Swiss hospitality, food and culture, not to mention dramatic Alpine scenery, are all central to the annual gathering of world leaders.
But there is another reason to create this space: the opportunity for Switzerland to showcase its role as an active, pragmatic and innovative member of the international community.
Switzerland has a long tradition of hosting international organizations that started more than 150 years ago with the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Reflecting the importance that Geneva has played in previous phases of globalization, as well as the ways in which it is defining the future, the House of Switzerland theme for Tuesday 22 is “International Geneva”.
The city that the World Economic Forum calls home, alongside 37 other international organizations, around 400 NGOs and the permanent representations of some 176 member states of the UN, Geneva is forming a unique ecosystem and a laboratory for present and future global governance.
Among other events that day, the House will host a lunch in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Swiss Re. The event will focus on the impact digitalization has on our daily lives and the incredible opportunity it represents. Yet, the discussion will also flag the risks we all face in this new digital era, and how much people living in conflict-affected areas are particularly exposed and vulnerable to this rising threat.
New frameworks, policies and guidelines are needed to mitigate these risks and protect those who are the most exposed. Geneva, the humanitarian capital, has a leading role to play in disseminating and promoting these new sets of tools.
In the evening, a high-level dinner will focus on Geneva’s role in setting standards and norms in The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Microsoft’s President Brad Smith will give a keynote address titled “Digital Geneva Convention”. The central discussion will be around the fact that emerging technologies need to be matched by equally innovative approaches to governance.
Geneva offers a neutral space where all stakeholders – researchers and practitioners, from the private and public sectors – exchange and cross-fertilize ideas with a view to taking collective action. Together, they shape new approaches to international cooperation.
Globalization and digitalization transform the world at an unprecedented pace and the increasing importance of cross-border issues for both the private and public sectors calls for a renovated global governance architecture. The ecosystem of International Geneva provides an ideal breeding ground for developing new models and approaches.
Attendees of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting will most certainly be immersed in the uniquely Swiss environment of Davos-Klosters. But for the first time, with the presence of the House of Switzerland, they will have the opportunity to discuss, debate, and reflect - in a very Swiss tradition - on its role in the emergence of Global Governance 4.0.