World Leaders Gather at Virtual Davos Forum

Discussion of key risks and challenges . . . 

With the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Annual Meeting delayed until the summer, the Forum is hosting a virtual meeting of some 2,000 heads of state, business leaders, international organizations, and civil society groups this week to discuss the most pressing global challenges in the year ahead. Through a series of ‘State of the World’ sessions, participants will address potential solutions to these challenges. Earlier this month, the WEF released its Global Risks Report 2022 to guide the discussion. The report highlights climate change risks, the pandemic’s effects on social cohesion and livelihoods, the increased dependence on digital infrastructure, growing cybersecurity risks, and geoeconomics confrontation as the world’s most critical short-term risks.

Asian leaders advance their priorities . . .

China’s President Xi Jinping was the first world leader to address the virtual Forum. On Monday, Xi repeated his call to reject a "new Cold War" mentality and warned about other states’ “overstretching the concept of national security” to limit economic and technological co-operation. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed and pitched the idea of a "P-3 (pro-planet people) movement" to help achieve a sustainable environment. He declared that India’s growth over the next 25 years will be green, clean, sustainable, and reliable. Speaking Tuesday, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan will promote a green and digital transformation and seek a new form of inclusive capitalism. On Thursday, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo argued that the World Health Organization showed limited capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that Indonesia will push for a new global health agency as part of its role in holding the G20 presidency this year.

Effective forum or talk shop?

The annual WEF gathering at Davos is often criticized for focusing on the rich and powerful while ignoring the rest of the world. The Forum's exclusivity and elitism are well known. Still, it has played a role in helping push through some significant global initiatives over the last 50 years – including the New Development Bank, or the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance. In its ‘in-person’ format, the Forum also allows global leaders from different spheres to hold more informal and often more productive discussions on the sidelines of the main event. While the pandemic-era virtual format may not be ideal, it at least provides a platform for discussions on solutions and partnerships needed to tackle key global challenges.