World Economic Forum Objects to Misuse of the ‘Davos’ Brand by Saudi Arabia

The World Economic Forum objects to the use of the “Davos” brand for events that have nothing to do with its own activities

The World Economic Forum, as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is not related to any political, commercial or personal interests. It brings leaders together from government, business and civil society for collaborative efforts to address global, industrial and regional issues, according to the World Economic Forum‘s website.

“The World Economic Forum has objected to the proliferation of the use of the “Davos” brand for events that have nothing to do with its own activities,” according to the World Economic Forum’s comment on Saudi Arabia’s exploitation of  the forum’s “Davos” brand in an economic event in Riyadh (a major economic forum in Saudi Arabia today nicknamed Davos in the desert). “The Forum, together with the City of Davos, will use all means to protect the Davos brand against illicit appropriation. The Forum also draws attention to its policy not to organize conferences on behalf of a specific government, always preserving its independence and impartiality,” the statement added.

“Since 1971, the World Economic Forum has been organizing the Annual Meeting of its constituents in the Swiss town of Davos, and the Forum and Davos brands are closely linked. Any use of “Davos” for another event can only lead to confusion and may mislead the public, members of the World Economic Forum and the media as it may imply that the World Economic Forum is responsible for, or part of, that event,” the statement said.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, explained this saying: “The sole ambition of the Annual Meeting, which the World Economic Forum organizes every January in Davos, is to bring the leaders of all major governments, business and civil society together for collaborative efforts to address global, industrial and regional issues.”

The World Economic Forum, as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is not related to any political, commercial or personal interests. For the Annual Meeting 2019 in Davos, more than 30 heads of state and governments, and over 1,000 top executives of the world’s leading companies have already confirmed their participation.

UK trade secretary, Liam Fox, and US Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, join others in boycotting economic forum in Riyadh

Liam Fox, the UK trade secretary, and the US Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, joined key European partners in pulling out of a major economic forum in Saudi Arabia nicknamed Davos in the desert, in response to the alleged murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Reports of Khashoggi’s gruesome murder at the hands of a gang of 15 men with links to the Saudi royal court have already led to many western media firms and bankers pulling out, and the political lead from Fox and Mnuchin is likely to accelerate the boycott of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh next week.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was apparently tortured to death and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, having entered the building to obtain a divorce certificate.

The British withdrawal was announced soon after the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, and his Dutch counterpart, Wopke Hoekstra, confirmed they were withdrawing from the event starting on 23 October. The UK made its decision in co-ordination with its allies, but without knowing the precise American decision.

A UK government spokesman said Fox had decided it was not the right time to attend the conference and explicitly tied the decision to the events in Turkey.

“The UK remains very concerned about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance,” the spokesman said. “We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent and prompt investigation, as announced,. Those bearing responsibility for his disappearance must be held to account.”

The announcement of the Mnuchin pull-out came via Twitter roughly four hours after the French and British announcements. The US decision was taken after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, consulted with Donald Trump on Thursday.

Pompeo had said no US action would be taken until a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation was completed, but Mnuchin’s withdrawal suggests the US has enough information to implicate Saudi Arabia, if not yet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pompeo said they needed to give Saudis “a few more days” to complete a thorough and transparent inquiry.

Pompeo said he had told the Saudis he took Khashoggi’s disappearance “very seriously”. Pompeo flew to Riyadh and to Turkey to discuss the crisis this week, but has made few comments on the progress of the investigation. He said on Thursday that the Saudis had promised a thorough investigation.

The conference organisers have taken down the list of expected speakers, as they face a mass boycott by media sponsors and businesses. Frédéric Oudéa, the director general of Société Générale, Jean Lemierre, chairman of BNP Paribas, and Patrice Caine, the chief executive of Thales, have all pulled out.

Also on Thursday, the Fox Business Network became the latest media organisation to withdraw from the event. It had been a media sponsor.

Two other sponsors, CNBC and Bloomberg, as well as CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Economist had already announced they would not participate.

In the past week the UK has been co-ordinating its position on Saudi Arabia with France, and Germany, but it is unusual for the British to make such a symbolic show of condemnation of Riyadh. It is also striking that Downing Street took the decision in advance of any announcement from the US.

The US is already locked in conflict with Iran, and is determined not to open a second front in the Middle East by clashing with its greatest ally in the region. The US is due, from 5 November, to impose sanctions on any country or company importing oil from Iran, and may feel it cannot risk counter-sanctions by the Saudis at a time of such potential oil market uncertainty.

But Trump is under pressure from Republican senators to take a stand over Khashoggi’s disappearance, and there is a risk the issue could come in to play in next month’s mid-term elections.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, put the issue in Trump’s court by pointing out that Khashoggi was a US resident. He said Russia had no reason to sanction Saudi at least until clear evidence is produced.

Other senior figures have already dropped out of the event, including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and representatives of major tech and media companies such as Google, Uber, the New York Times and the Financial Times.

The former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell had been among those calling for Fox to boycott the event.