Macha Levinson

Director and Adviser, Europe - World Economic Forum (WEF) - (1991-2006)

macha_levinson.bmpEntering the Graduate Institute in 1968 was as daunting as it is today. The standards were high. American academic achievement did not impress Geneva’s professors and it was only because I already had a Master’s degree from New York’s Columbia University and its Russian (later Harriman) Institute and had served as a US Foreign Service Officer on the disarmament delegation in Geneva, that I was admitted to the doctoral programme. Still, two years of courses were required before I was allowed to write a thesis and get my degree.

It was a stimulating and challenging period. The Institute was buzzing with intellectual discourse. Although, with three little children at home, I had to forego most extracurricular activities, it was easy to run down the avenue de la Paix to hear the outstanding guest lecturers that the Institute attracted.

Armed with a new doctorate, I became a consultant to Iran’s disarmament delegation and to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Then I jumped over the wall and became strategic affairs editor for the Geneva based International Defense Review, writing on armaments and military strategy. My big break came when I joined the World Economic Forum in 1987. The Berlin wall came down two years later, splintering the communist camp and opening up Eastern Europe. The secret world we, students of the Soviet Union, had tried to study and penetrate suddenly became accessible. We invited the new leaders of Russia and Eastern Europe to Davos and heard of the historic events they had witnessed. We were all caught up in the fervor and excitement of the moment.

As director for Eastern and Central Europe, I organised innumerable conferences and round tables bringing heads of Western business and government together with the political and new business leaders of the region. We held meetings in Moscow (almost annually), St Petersburg, the Baltics, Kazakhstan, Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and for seven years we held an annual Central and Eastern European Economic Summit which brought up to 800 politicians and executives from all these countries together in Salzburg, Austria. Over the 20 years spent at the Forum, I also headed the Energy sector and coordinated the Global Competitiveness Report.

The years at the Institute had given me the international orientation which made all this possible and there can be no better preparation for a career in a global world than that offered by the Graduate Institute.