Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties calls to the WEF members to ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits the most vulnerable groups than only the rich and powerful and the ban of arms sales to widespread and systematic human rights violators.
Geneva, 27 January 2020
Last week, the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathered approximately 3,000 participants from more than 118 countries (including 50 heads of state) in Davos, Switzerland. The forum is a non-governmental organization made up of the world largest corporations was established in 1971 with the mission of “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”. The theme of 2020 was sustainable development, under the slogan “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World” with goal to find ways of response to climate change and protect biodiversity, remove long-term debt, avoid a “technology war”, empower a billion people with skills over the next decade, and build bridges to resolve conflicts in global hotspots.
Geneva Council would like attract attention to the themes on technology and geopolitics, i.e. “how to create a global consensus on deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and avoid a ‘technology war’ and how the ‘spirit of Davos’ can create bridges to resolve conflicts in global hotspots.” Despite various panel discussions held during the 50th annual meeting, GCRL pointes out lack of focus on sale of weapons and military support of various companies and states in the proxy wars of Middle East as well as lack of focus on corporate responsibility in war-torn countries.
Serious and widespread violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including genocide of Rohingya, continue to take place in Myanmar. Despite numerous ceasefires attempts in the world’s “longest running civil wars” between the military and the armed ethnic groups hostilities intensify to this day. This abusive and chaotic environment coupled with the inadequate legal framework fails short to protect local communities and environment from damaging activities of transnational corporations. The lack of transparent procedures and efficient regulations undermine corporate accountability. Multinational companies contribute and become complicit in human rights abuses in Myanmar. Especially, the activities of transnational corporations in extractive and manufacturing industries result in widespread human rights violations and environmental hazard.
Moreover, the indirect involvement of states in combat from one side and contributions to the humanitarian aid on the other side is a despicable hypocrisy. For example, the French, British and American governments are complicit in the Yemeni war. They provide financial and military support to coalition thus further fuelling hostilities, which lead to the death and starvation of millions. For example, “the United States has struck at least $68.2bn worth of deals for firearms, bombs, weapons systems, and military training with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the start of their war in Yemen – billions more than previously reported – according to data collected by an American think tank.”1 At the same time, these governments make generous contributions to humanitarian assistance. During the high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen held in February this year, UK pledged US$ 261 million, US – around 24 million and France -10 million2.
The Council expresses disappointment on lack of discussions on arms trade policies implemented by Switzerland. Last year, the Council welcomed the decision of the Swiss Federal Council to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The trade between Switzerland and Saudi Arabia was estimated at 2.250 billion USD per year. However, it is considered that the Swiss Senate’s rejection of two proposals calling for a stricter framework for the export of arms and war materiel, including to those involved in the war against Yemen, as a step backword. Geneva Council regrets that Switzerland prioritised economic interests over legal and moral obligations to prevent use of Swiss weapons by the perpetrators of mass atrocities. The above-mentioned states should follow the example of numerous European states that discontinued arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria following the calls of the European Parliament for a unified EU position.
1 “Revealed: The full extent of US arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE”, Franck Andrews, 4 April 2019 at
2High-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, OCHA 26 February 2019