Building trust –

Trust is the foundation of all personal relationships.

It is the foundation of all business. It is the foundation of all international relations. In our increasingly interconnected world, trust is the rock on which we all depend. Without it, there can be no respect, no security, no spirit of partnership or cooperation.

When trust is eroded, the relationships and values that bind people together – between governments and their citizens, between business and society, between nations and cultures – break down.

In the past year or so, we have witnessed the gravest erosion of trust for a generation at least. Terrorist outrages have carried fear around the world. Responses have stretched and tested the fabric of governance institutions. Corporate scandals have destroyed faith in business, financial markets and regulatory systems.

Last year, in New York City, we met in the aftermath of that terrible attack on that great city – an event that shook the world. Its reverberations will continue to shake the foundations of world security for a long time.

Since then, the revelations of corporate malpractice – on Main Street and on Wall Street – have shattered confidence in the business and financial worlds at a time of global economic stress.

The world feels increasingly unsafe. The era of peace and prosperity that much of the world has enjoyed for most of the past half century seems to be nearing an end. An age of instability and insecurity is threatening to begin.

That is why we have chosen “Building Trust” as the theme of our Annual Meeting for 2003 – and as the theme for the inaugural issue of our new magazine, Global Agenda.

We meet at a time when economic, political and social systems are under great pressure – but also at a time of great opportunity, of scientific and technological advance, of entrepreneurial innovation, of promise and progress.

It is also a time when business is under intense scrutiny. For confidence to be restored, business must show that it is acting in the interests of all stakeholders – not just senior management and shareholders, but of society as a whole.

Business must not just be profitable. It must be accountable. It must demonstrate values as well as value. And it must show that the best way for the world to prosper and develop is for people to make money through enterprise and hard work – in a transparent, open and beneficial way.

It is not the place of business to set ethical standards for the world. But it is up to business leaders, in partnership with governments and civil society, to demonstrate that corporate success can help to make the world a better, healthier and safer place.

Our commitment, at the World Economic Forum, is to improve the state of the world. In these fragile and frightening times – economically, politically and socially – it is a challenge of daunting proportions.

But it is a challenge that must be met. It is a challenge that can only be met with the participation and partnership of all stakeholders in society. And it is a challenge that can only be met if it is founded on trust.

My hope is that the discussions we have in Davos over the coming days will start us down the road to finding some answers to the key issues that we face – and that the articles that you read in this first issue of Global Agenda will provide a useful and stimulating road map.

Klaus Schwab, President, World Economic Forum