Davos gears up for World Economic Forum post-pandemic gathering; Indian presence significant

The biggest congregation of global leaders will return Monday to the usual snow-laden setting of this Swiss ski resort town with thousands of participants, including about a hundred from India set to discuss ‘cooperation in a fragmented world’.

The World Economic Forum had to host its last annual meeting in 2022 in May as the summit could not take place in the usual month of January due to Covid-related restrictions. Before that, the 2021 meeting could take place online only.

Though Covid-19 is yet to be declared totally over, restrictions are few and the war in Ukraine and the economic fallout of geopolitical, as well as health crises, have made the Davos meeting, often described as the biggest congregation of the global elite, very interesting.

Participating members

Nearly 50 heads of government or state are expected over the next five days for the meeting beginning Monday, while four Union Ministers, Mansukh Mandaviya, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Smriti Irani, and R K Singh, as also Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, along with a number of officials and business leaders would be present from India.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Karnataka’s B S Bommai were also earlier listed, but they are unlikely to attend the summit. AAP leader Raghav Chaddha is also here, and so are Telangana Minister K T Rama Rao and Tamil Nadu Minister Thangam Thennarasu.

Among business leaders, Gautam Adani, Sanjiv Bajaj, Kumar Mangalam Birla, N Chandrasekaran, Nadir Godrej, Ajit Gulabchand, Sajjan Jindal, Sunil Mittal, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Nandan Nilekani, Adar Poonawalla, Rishad Premji, and Sumant Sinha are likely to be present.

The meeting will call on leaders from across the globe to address immediate economic, energy, and food crises while laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and resilient world.

The organisers expect significant participation from Asia, including China and Japan.

The theme of the 53rd Annual Meeting would be ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’ and it will convene more than 2,700 leaders from 130 countries, including 52 heads of state/government.

Top political leaders taking part include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, South Africa President Cyril M Ramaphosa, Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Swiss President Alain Berset, and Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Other top leaders include John F Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States of America; Avril Haines, US Director of National Intelligence; Martin J Walsh, Secretary of Labor of the United States; Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; and Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank.

Heads of international organisations taking part include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

‘Cooperation in a fragmented world’

The WEF said the annual meeting comes as multiple crises deepen divisions and fragment the geopolitical landscape, and leaders must address people’s immediate, critical needs, while also laying the groundwork for a more sustainable, resilient world by the end of the decade.

“We see the manifold political, economic, and social forces creating increased fragmentation on a global and national level. To address the root causes of this erosion of trust, we need to reinforce cooperation between the government and business sectors, creating conditions for a strong and durable recovery,” WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said.

“At the same time, there must be the recognition that economic development needs to be made more resilient, more sustainable, and nobody should be left behind,” he added. The programme of the 53rd Annual Meeting focuses on solutions and public-private cooperation to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.

“It encourages world leaders to work together on the interconnected issues of energy, climate, and nature; investment, trade, and infrastructure; frontier technologies and industry resilience; jobs, skills, social mobility, and health; and geopolitical cooperation in a multipolar world,” said the WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation.

Special emphasis is on gender and geographical diversity across all sessions, it added. This year will bring about the highest-ever business participation at Davos, with over 1,500 leaders registered across 700 organisations, including over 600 of the world’s top CEOs with top-level representation from sectors, such as financial services, energy, materials and infrastructure, and information and communication technologies.

Leaders from civil society taking part in the meeting include Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance CEO Seth F Berkley, International Transport Workers’ Federation General-Secretary Stephen Cotton, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad’s President Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Religions for Peace Secretary-General Azza Karam, and Art of Living Foundation Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. More than 125 experts and heads of the world’s leading universities, research institutions, and think tanks will also join the meeting.

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