The organizers of Davos want nothing to do with Saudi Arabia’s “Davos in the Desert”

“Committed to improving the state of the world.”
“Committed to improving the state of the world.”
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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The World Economic Forum organizes many events around the world, but its annual summit in the alpine town of Davos, Switzerland, is probably the most famous. Commonly referred to as simply “Davos,” the conference has come to be synonymous with an exclusive gathering of the global elite. As such, many different events have claimed to be the “Davos” of this or that over the years to capitalize on the original summit’s prestige—but the WEF has had enough.

In a press release published today (Oct. 22), the WEF said that it objected to “the use of the ‘Davos’ brand for events that have nothing to do with its own activities,” because it may falsely imply that the organization “is responsible for, or part of, that event.” The statement is a timely one, considering that Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference—hosted by crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and colloquially known as “Davos in the Desert”—is starting tomorrow (Oct. 23), and many others don’t want to be associated with it either.

Amidst the escalating conflict surrounding Saudi Arabia’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death, numerous executives, investors, and media outlets have pulled out of the gathering. The FII website also got hacked today, and instead of conference information, it briefly displayed accusations of Saudi complicity in Khashoggi’s death, the Yemeni humanitarian crisis, and terrorism in general.

With international tensions rising over issue of Khashoggi’s death, the WEF’s objection to trademark appropriation is unlikely to be at the top of Saudi Arabia’s agenda.

And it didn’t seem to be an issue for the WEF until now, either, considering that plenty of organizations have long claimed to host the “Davos” of something, whether that’s the “Davos of the fashion industry” or “Davos with palm trees.”

But even though the official objection to the appropriation of the Davos brand was issued just one day before the FII, the WEF said that it was not specific to Saudi Arabia.

“The press release is to address the growing concern of how the ‘Davos’ name is used.  This is not specific to any particular country or organization,” Fon Mathuros, head of media for the WEF, told Quartz via email.

The WEF asserts that it is politically impartial, although heads of government do attend the original Davos. Here is a list of some of the many events associated with the term “Davos,” but which the WEF does not organize.

So-called “Davos” events from around the world

  • Davos in the Desert”: Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative, an investor conference hosted by MBS and set in Riyadh.
  • Davos of the East”: St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual Russian business conference.
  • Davos of the palm trees”: Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, hosted by financier and philanthropist Michael Milken.
  • Davos of Asia”: The Boao Forum for Asia, set in the island province of Hainan, China, focuses on Asian interests and views (although leaders from other continents are also invited).
  • Davos of the Hamptons”: The 1640 Society Family Office Wealth Forum takes place at a private residence in Southampton, New York, and brings together ultra-high-net-worth families.
  • Davos on the Delta”: This forum focuses on agriculture in the mid-South US, and takes its name directly from the Davos summit in Switzerland.
  • Davos of Development: The European Development Days conference in Brussels, Belgium, is one of Europe’s biggest development conferences.
  • Davos of Education”: The Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai focuses on the state of global education.
  • Davos of Tourism”: The World Tourism Forum takes place in Istanbul, where leaders gather to discuss the future of tourism.
  • Davos of the Rockies”: The Montana Jobs Forum is a business conference hosted in the mining town of Butte, Montana; various industry leaders (including from companies like Google and Tesla) attend.
  • Davos of Human Rights”: The Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway hosts human rights activists from around the world; it is also an event where journalists and dissidents can meet.
  • Davos of Science”: The Science and Technology in Society forum in Kyoto, Japan, brings together world leaders and scientists to discuss science’s roles in facing global challenges.
  • Davos of Fashion”: The Copenhagen Fashion Summit in Denmark claims to be the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion.
  • Davos of Creativity”: C2 Montréal in Canada focuses on innovation and markets itself as a unique, creative business conference.