Better serving people in need through cooperation with the World Economic Forum

20 January 2017

Over the past few years, the ICRC has developed its engagement with the World Economic Forum (WEF): ICRC staff regularly attend WEF-organized events and take part in WEF initiatives. Since 2014, the president of the ICRC has been a member of the WEF Board of Trustees.

Collaboration and dialogue

While the two organizations have different missions, priorities and ways of working, they both emphasize collaboration and dialogue across sectors and both operate out of Geneva, with a global perspective.

The ICRC has been taking part in WEF meetings for over a decade. In 2016, ICRC representatives participated in the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, in the regional summits in Africa and ASEAN, in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) in Tianjin (China), and in the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai (UAE). The multi-stakeholder nature of these events offers opportunities for the ICRC to connect with a large variety of leaders and organizations.

The ICRC has also been actively participating in initiatives and consultations organized by the WEF on issues of relevance to the organization.

This engagement with the WEF and its communities offers the ICRC valuable opportunities to open new diplomatic channels, to share its humanitarian concerns, to reach out to a cross-section of influential leaders, to gain support for key field operations and to foster innovative collaboration with the WEF and some of its communities. They allow the ICRC to connect not only with the WEF as an organization, but also with the multi-stakeholders participating in this forum and the initiatives it sponsors.

The ICRC brings to the meetings and initiatives of the WEF its deep knowledge of humanitarian issues and can contribute its legal, policy and operational experience, providing a perspective on changing conflict dynamics and societal challenges, as well as its expertise in responding to some of the most critical humanitarian needs.

Memorandum of Understanding

The ICRC and WEF deepened their relationship through the signing of a memorandum of understanding in early 2019. Yves Daccord, ICRC's director-general, said the MoU "further strengthens collaboration and dialogue between our two organizations."
Strengthening humanitarian action and humanitarian diplomacy is at the core of the MoU, which says the two Parties will seek to help each other increase their outreach, knowledge and expertise, to foster opportunities for innovation and partnerships, and to encourage a wide understanding of humanitarian issues among their relevant stakeholders.

Daccord said that the ICRC, through its relationship with the WEF, "has been able to build ties and share concerns with government representatives, donors and potential private-sector partners, as well as gain support for our field operations and humanitarian diplomacy efforts."

The MoU outlines a yearly high-level meeting between the ICRC and WEF to identify priority areas of cooperation, present common strategic objectives and to review progress on joint activities.

Corporate roles in fragile environments and in humanitarian response

The ICRC has taken an active role in two of the Global Future Councils (GFCs) established by the WEF.

The ICRC president chairs the GFC on the Future of the Humanitarian System; this GFC has developed three work streams: one on financing and connectivity, a second on education and skills and a third on data.The ICRC director of communication and information management is a member of the GFC on International Security; this GFC is exploring the future of the international security system, as well as the challenges of new technologies. Participation in these GFCs provides the ICRC with the opportunity to shape debates and initiatives and a chance to exchange with others as part of its efforts to stay on top of global trends and best practices and how these (potentially) affect humanitarian response and working in complex environments. The presence of corporate representatives opens opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships in support of humanitarian goals.

Networking, shaping agendas and building partnerships

ICRC president Peter Maurer joined the WEF Board of Trustees in November 2014. His membership is part of a wider engagement that is geared towards enhancing the ICRC's capacity to deliver its humanitarian mission, through expanded networks and through partnerships, including with private companies. This membership enables him to share the ICRC's experience in assisting and protecting vulnerable people worldwide and in strengthening their resilience.

Through the work of its president on the WEF Board of Trustees, the ICRC is able to weigh in on strategic orientations as the WEF continues to re-think and re-organize its mission, mandate and priorities and to put humanitarian issues of concern more centrally on the agenda.

It also offers a unique opportunity to develop relations with a range of representatives from governments, multilateral and international organizations, academia and businesses, and gain insight into global trends.

Positive outcomes of the engagement with the WEF

The ICRC's increased engagement with the WEF has so far enabled the organization to:

  • connect and exchange with a number of WEF communities, including the Board of Trustees, the International Business Council, the Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers and Social Entrepreneurs;
  • get privileged access to influential individuals, companies and institutions, including to many of the world's most influential people;
  • generate more support for the principle of neutrality, and for the importance of preserving a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian response , by explaining and promoting the relevance of the ICRC's unique approach;
  • contribute to discussions on fragility, violence and conflict, ensuring that these issues receive proper attention at WEF-related events and from the broader public;
  • contribute to the development of a solid programme dedicated to humanitarian issues at Annual Meetings in Davos in 2016 and 2017 and at other meetings, summits and in work streams;
  • benefit from the WEF's expertise and extended network, so as to support ICRC initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Humanitarian Innovation and Impact;
  • strengthen the ICRC's role as an innovative humanitarian organization in close communication with key influential stakeholders;
  • offer WEF communities and initiatives insights into the challenges of humanitarian action;
  • broaden international leaders' perspectives on risk assessment during WEF-organized discussions.