As a child growing up in Germany during the war, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, witnessed the consequences of all-out conflict, and the stark contrast between war and peace.

"My father was working for a Swiss company, so he could cross the border. As a small child, it was always difficult to understand why there was an imaginary line, the border. On one side of the line was war and on the other side, it was peace," Schwab said in a recent interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo.

That experience left a deep impression on the young Schwab, turning him into a devoted advocate for peace through dialogue later in life. Eventually his beliefs led him to establish the WEF, a nongovernmental organization known for its Davos conference, which brings together leaders from various industries, governments, academia and the media at the Swiss mountain resort to discuss global problems and their solutions every January.