Starting this Monday evening, the serene and scenic Swiss town of Davos will host the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF/Davos) 2024. The central theme of this year’s event is “rebuilding trust,” as global leaders converge to engage in discussions spanning from 15th to 19th January 2024.
The agenda for these discussions encompasses a wide range of pressing topics, including global security, job creation, climate initiatives, and the development of artificial intelligence (AI). The aim is for leaders to reach influential and unified decisions on these matters.
The chosen theme of ‘Rebuilding Trust’ acknowledges the crucial need to restore trust in the face of multifaceted global challenges. These challenges include geopolitical conflicts, the urgent issue of climate change, and the rapid advancements in technologies like AI. The emphasis lies on moving beyond the mere recognition of problems and focusing on concrete solutions, with an emphasis on transparency, coherence, and accountability.
Geopolitical matters are expected to take center stage during the annual meeting, with topics ranging from the Gaza conflict to the situation in Ukraine, as well as discussions on trade and the Red Sea.
Attendance at the event is expected from over 100 governments, major international organizations, and 1,000 partners of the Forum. In addition, civil society leaders, experts, youth activists, social entrepreneurs, and members of the media will also participate in the discussions.
Days before the opening of the conference, World Economic Forum President Børge Brende stressed that the conference will occur against “its most complicated geopolitical backdrop in decades.”
“We know that the war in Gaza is still going on and there are worries for a further escalation,” Brende said, adding that the WEF meeting would “look how to avoid a further deterioration” and explore possibilities for the future, as injecting positivity into the situation is also crucial.
Participants included Chinese Premier Li Qiang, the largest Chinese official to participate in the forum since President Xi Jinping’s participation in 2017.
The Forum is also attended by Argentina’s new liberal President Javier Milei. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser of the U.S. Jake Sullivan, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Jordan’s Bisher Al-Khasawneh.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had previously addressed the Forum via videoconference, will come in person this year and make a “special address”.
French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to address France’s role in Europe, according to organizers.
The roster for Davos features prominent figures, including Ajay S. Banga, president of the World Bank Group; Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Cindy H. McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Saudi Arabia will be strongly represented at the 2024 Davos forum by a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. The delegation includes several prominent members, such as Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, who serves as the ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to the U.S.. Additionally, Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Member of the Council of Ministers and Envoy for Climate Adel Al-Jubeir; Minister of Investment Eng. Khalid Al-Falih; Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan; Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha; Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef, and Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Alibrahim will be part of the delegation.
The UAE also participates in the World Economy Forum with more than 100 personalities from heads of companies, the private sector and government officials.
According to a tweet by the UAE Government Media Office on the social media site X on Sunday, the attendance represents the third largest international participation in the forum and the largest in the history of UAE participation.
— UAEGOV (@UAEmediaoffice) January 14, 2024
It explained that 80 percent of the UAE’s participation is from officials of major national companies and private sector institutions in the country, with a view to sharing experiences and further development.
The tweet further stressed that the WEF represents an opportunity for national companies and the private sector in the UAE to consolidate and build international partnerships in all areas, noting that the Forum includes meetings, main sessions and hubs within vital and development sectors that receive the attention of the private sector within the State’s participation agenda.
Topics on the table
Four key areas are at the forefront of the Forum’s agenda. This aligns with the principle of “security and cooperation in a fractured world” as outlined in the Davos Agenda 2024.
The first area of focus is effectively addressing security crises, with specific attention given to the ongoing situation in the Middle East. The objective is to devise strategies that can effectively resolve these crises, mitigate divisive forces, and identify areas where cooperation is necessary to establish a win-win scenario for all involved parties.
The second objective revolves around creating growth and employment for a new era. Participants will explore how governments, businesses, and civil society can converge around a fresh economic framework that will prevent a decade of low growth and set people on a path toward increased prosperity.
The third issue under discussion is the role of artificial intelligence (AI) as a driving force for the economy and society. Key questions to be addressed include how to leverage AI for the benefit of everyone, how to strike a balance between promoting innovation and managing societal risks, and how AI will intersect with other transformative technologies such as 5G/6G, quantum computing, and biotechnology.
Lastly, there will be a focus on climate-related matters, complementing international efforts and the outcomes of the Dubai Climate Conference (COP28). Participants will engage in discussions regarding the development of a long-term strategy encompassing climate, nature, and energy, recognizing the need for comprehensive action on climate change.
The Swiss ski resort will be under close surveillance, as approximately 5,000 Swiss soldiers will be engaged in a security mission that involves continuous patrols by fighter aircraft in the country’s airspace.
The Forum, titled “Rebuilding Trust,” not only addresses global conflicts but also places significant emphasis on the role of AI, which the organizers describe as a powerful force for the economy and society. Distinguished figures from the realm of global capitalism, such as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Open AI CEO Sam Altman, which launched the ChatGPT AI platform, will be present.
Climate change and cybersecurity are also prominent topics on the agenda, along with the associated risks of misinformation. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024, published just days before the event, highlights the potential threat posed by the widespread dissemination of misinformation and the use of tools designed to spread false narratives. These risks could undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments, particularly as many countries are set to hold elections in the upcoming year.
In a statement, the WEF acknowledges the impact of ‘societal polarization’ and AI-generated mis- and disinformation. These factors contribute to the ongoing crisis of public trust, amplifying concerns on a global scale.
For more news on the economy, click here.