X Close

After Klaus Schwab, will the WEF move to the Right?

Donald Trump and Klaus Schwab at Davos in 2018. Credit: Getty

May 24, 2024 - 10:00am

Klaus Schwab’s departure from the helm of the World Economic Forum has been met with excitement by sections of the Right. As the figurehead for globalism and the elite adoption of a laundry list of progressive causes, the German became something of a bogeyman for conservatives around the world.

But the WEF’s reputation as a progressive champion — which it owes to highly publicised interventions such as the promotion of eating insects and the promise that future generations will “own nothing and be happy” — misses the bigger picture.

The executive board, led by WEF President and Norwegian conservative Børge Brende, has taken “full executive responsibility” over the past year, according to Schwab. And Schwab himself, a millionaire with strong ties to the world’s financial elites, is more conservative than his reputation might suggest, particularly on economic issues.

“Klaus has always been close to the Christian Democrats in Germany. So, politically, that’s where it has always been: centre-right. The President [Brende] is a conservative Norwegian politician, most definitely not a socialist,” a Davos insider told UnHerd.

Schwab’s exit is unlikely to prompt any meaningful changes in the near future, according to the insider. The WEF founder may be stepping down from his executive role, but he’ll continue to serve as non-executive chairman and there’s an expectation that he’ll still have considerable sway for years to come. “I very much doubt [his stepping down] means much until he gives up sitting in the office as you walk in the door,” the source claimed. “Kissinger kept going that long.”

Peter Goodman, global economics correspondent at the New York Times and author of Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World, seems to agree. Speaking to UnHerd, he questioned the authenticity of Davos’s progressive image: “It’s always been ridiculous that you’ve got this institution that operates under the mantra ‘committed to improving the state of the world’ while gathering the ultimate beneficiaries of the status quo in his village in Switzerland.”

Goodman added: “I think this forum will become less and less relevant. It’s been clear for years that there’s a huge gap between this very idealistic rhetoric that comes out of the forum, and the reality that it’s an institution that is engineered to maintain the status quo.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — its reputation as a liberal behemoth, the WEF has publicly taken a Rightward shift in the past few years, with insiders attempting to build bridges with Republicans in the US and pressing Schwab to move to the centre. The conference dropped the use of “ESG” and reduced its use of the word “diversity” in its programmes in 2024, according to Semafor. The WEF’s oil industry partners have also pushed the forum to ease its focus on climate.

The 2024 WEF meeting in Davos included a panel featuring Kevin Roberts, President of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank. He defended Donald Trump and criticised what he characterised as elite talking points — arguments that downplay the costs of immigration, climate policy and crime for the average person — and told attendees that they were “part of the problem”.

Roberts expects that Schwab’s departure will bring about no significant changes, and strongly rejects the idea that the WEF’s liberal agenda is merely window-dressing for preserving the status quo. Rather, he suspects that the forum’s apparent efforts to modify its stances are part of a cynical effort to make inroads with conservatives. He predicts that Schwab will eventually be replaced with a moderate in an attempt to curry favour with Republicans, perhaps in anticipation of a Trump win in November.

“I think the good news, the silver lining of all of this, is that the Davos set has overplayed their hand, and the game’s up,” Roberts told UnHerd. “Many people know that if you’re going to go there, you’ve got to go read them the riot act, because otherwise there’s no way that you can be a centre-right leader and be taken seriously, at least in the United States, if you’re playing their game.”


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

laureldugg

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

10 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago

In reply to the headline…NO!

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago

“It’s always been ridiculous that you’ve got this institution that operates under the mantra ‘committed to improving the state of the world’ while gathering the ultimate beneficiaries of the status quo in his village in Switzerland.”

Wait, no. That’s not ridiculous. That’s absolutely the plan.

Susie Bell
Susie Bell
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

Exactly, making the rich even richer

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Never heard of the WEF and I don’t care.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

You’ll breathe better with your head removed from your fundament,

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

And that’s your credibility shot to sh*t…

Rebirth Radio
Rebirth Radio
29 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why advertise your ignorance?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

We should know by now that it’s rarely the upper, senior levels of these organizations that actually sets policy; much more often it’s the belligerent and activist young radical apparats who relentlessly bully their elders with a combination of emotional blackmail and sub rosa complicity with a compliant media. These kids are still there.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

It is a pity in a way that Klaus Schwab is going to lower his profile. The man’s appearance and thick, brutal accent has only been approached in sheer villainy by the James Bond character Ernst Stavro Blofeld. No one will miss Schwab more than conservatives.

Tessa B
Tessa B
28 days ago

Gonzalo Berrón of Transnational Institute:
https://www.tni.org/en/article/hundreds-of-civil-society-organizations-worldwide-denounce-world-economic-forums-takeover
“This agreement between the UN and WEF formalises a disturbing corporate capture of the UN. It moves the world dangerously towards a privatised and undemocratic global governance’, says Gonzalo Berrón of Transnational Institute, one of the key organisers of the open letter.”