(Reuters) – A record number of business and government leaders will descend on the Swiss resort of Davos today to pore over challenges ranging from global economic slowdown to environmental collapse as the World Economic Forum returns to its winter slot.
Criticised by some as a talking shop for the jetset that merely adds to the world’s carbon footprint, the forum insists it has the power to bring decision-makers together in a world facing multiple crises amid growing geopolitical mistrust.
“We are all stuck in a crisis mindset,” WEF executive chairman and founder Klaus Schwab told the pre-meeting news conference of a world grappling with the Ukraine war, climate change and simultaneous energy and food supply crunches.
The last in-person Davos winter gathering was in 2020, just days before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health emergency. The 2021 event was held virtually and last year’s was shifted from January to May after a spike in infections.
“Davos should help to shift that mindset,” Schwab said of a week-long set of discussion panels, informal gatherings and events under the banner of “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”.
While the Russian delegation will be conspicuous by its absence, organisers hailed a record turnout in terms of the number and diversity of participants, with expectations of a “high-level” Chinese presence.
Fifty-two heads of state and government will show up next to 56 finance ministers, 19 central bank governors, 30 trade ministers and 35 foreign ministers. Heads of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation will be among 39 leaders of international agencies.
The upmarket ski resort will host its biggest ever business participation, with 600-plus CEOs among 1,500 business leaders that include the highest ever number of female executives.
Discussions are due to focus on short-term challenges like how to avoid the risk of a global recession in 2023 and how to ensure a failing global effort to tackle climate change is not set back even further by the energy crunch exacerbated by the Ukraine war and sanctions on Russia.
Organizers said that Ukraine, which dominated last year’s forum, would send another high level delegation and that there would be several sessions related to the war.
As advanced economies around the world struggle with tight labour markets, there will be debate on the importance of re-skilling workforces, generating properly remunerated jobs and overcoming shortfalls in gender parity and racial equity.