The Davos crowd is back to the familiar vibe. But the green meadows that formed the backdrop for the first “Davos Spring” last May have been replaced by snow-covered slopes, where snowshoes and fur coats are back.
Although the weather has changed from last year, the main talking points remain the same, and the war in Ukraine and its massive economic fallout are once again set to dominate the agenda for the annual event in the Swiss Alpine resort.
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is being held in the presence of prominent political leaders, businessmen, celebrities and social activists at a time when the global economy is under severe pressure and suffering from high inflation, an energy crisis and other supply disruptions caused by the war, and the resurgence of cases of COVID-19 in China.
“Economic, environmental, social and geopolitical crises converge and overlap, creating a very diverse and uncertain future,” Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, told reporters. The annual meeting in Davos will try to ensure that leaders do not remain trapped in this crisis mentality.
The five-day meeting, held under the theme “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”, will see more than 50 heads of state and government. Among the expected guests are German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Some recently elected leaders are also expected to be elected, including South Korean President Yoon Sok-yul, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The African contingent will be headed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Tanzanian President Samia Soloho Hassan.
The United States will be represented by President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, and Trade Representative Catherine Tay.
There will be no participation from Russia, as the country’s politicians and business leaders remain pariahs from the meeting. The World Economic Forum froze its relations with Russian entities last year after Moscow invaded Ukraine in late February.
Ukraine will again send a high-level delegation. However, the organizers refused to share more details for security reasons.
The 53rd session of the Davos meeting is taking place amid one of the most severe economic slowdowns of this century, with the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, warning that a third of the global economy could be hit by recession this year.
The conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia have led to an unprecedented energy crisis. While inflation in advanced economies like the US and the Eurozone appears to have peaked, it remains uncomfortably high, forcing central banks to stay on course with aggressive interest rate increases. This means higher borrowing costs in the face of a slowing economy, and it also risks exacerbating the global debt crisis in developing countries, including in Africa.
The World Bank has warned that the current economic crisis may cause poverty rates to rise in sub-Saharan Africa, which is already home to about 60% of the world’s extreme poor.
An annual risk survey published by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday He put the global cost of living crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the most immediate risk, saying the energy and food supply crisis is likely to continue over the next two years.
Borg Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, said the meeting in Davos “will take place against the most complex geopolitical and geo-economic backdrop in decades”. “There is a lot at stake when it comes to the global economy to make sure we avoid a global recession, how to avoid low growth, high inflation and high debt.”
56 finance ministers will come to Davos this year, as will 19 central bank governors.
back to work
The Davos meeting returns to its traditional winter venue for the first time since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the world. The event actually took place in 2021 and was staged in May last year.
Shifting the event from its usual January venue to May meant that many prominent political and business leaders were unable to attend due to diary clashes.
However, this year Davos will host its largest business engagement ever with the participation of 1,500 business leaders, including 600 CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world.
Edited by: Uwe Hessler