The World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos is set to convene amidst significant global challenges. More than 2,800 participants, including over 60 heads of state and government, will gather in the picturesque Swiss resort town from Monday, January 15, for a five-day event centered around the theme of “Rebuilding Trust.”
Global leaders address the erosion of trust
WEF Managing Director Mirek Dusek highlighted that the chosen theme directly responds to the erosion of trust within societies and among nations. This erosion is attributed to deep transformations in geopolitics, geo-economics, and climate-related issues.
Prominent leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Chinese Premier Li Qiang are expected to participate alongside Argentina’s newly-elected President Javier Milei.
Focus on conflict resolution in Gaza and Ukraine
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will represent the United States at the meeting, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani joining discussions concerning the ongoing conflict in Gaza. This gathering seeks ways to end the conflict and prevent further escalation.
The war in Ukraine is another critical topic. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is attending to garner support for Ukraine as the US and the EU work to unlock crucial aid for Kyiv.
Economic challenges and debt crisis loom
The global economy is grappling with sluggish growth and a persistent cost-of-living crisis, driven partly by higher interest rates. The World Bank warns that 2024 may conclude with the slowest half-decade of GDP growth in 30 years.
While the US’s robust growth has alleviated global recession fears, rising geopolitical tensions remain a concern. Additionally, China’s slowing economy overshadows developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Furthermore, many developing economies, particularly in Africa, have accumulated substantial debt in recent years, addressing various crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, energy shortages, and climate change. According to the United Nations, a significant portion of these countries now spends more on interest payments than on education or health. High food and energy costs and rising borrowing costs are straining their financial resources.
African leaders, including Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, will put the state of the economy and the debt crisis on the agenda during the meeting. They seek to promote Africa as a hub of opportunities, particularly in harnessing its demographic dividend for job creation and workforce development.
Artificial intelligence revolution and misinformation concerns
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a major topic at this year’s meeting, with numerous panels dedicated to the technology revolution. A recent WEF risks survey identified AI-driven misinformation and disinformation as the most significant danger in the next two years.
The survey predicts that the nexus between falsified information and societal unrest will be at the forefront in major economies like the US, the EU, and India as they head to the polls.
The WEF emphasizes the importance of proactive engagement with frontier technologies and other emerging issues to ensure effective public-private dialogue and cooperation. This approach aims to prevent a scenario where the world is caught unprepared, as is sometimes with generative AI.