Davos Agenda: What can we expect of 2022? Highlights and key takeaways

Backstage at the Davos Agenda 2022
Backstage at the Davos Agenda 2022
Image: World Economic Forum/Pascal B
  • The Davos Agenda 2022 virtual event took place 17-21 January 2022.
  • It featured heads of state and government, CEOs and other leaders coming together to propose solutions to pressing global issues.
  • The conversations focused on topics including the COVID-19 pandemic response, the global economic recovery, climate action, technological innovation and global collaboration.
  • Discover all the event sessions and highlights here and follow the conversation on social media at #DavosAgenda.
  • Read more about how businesses are acting on these issues here.

The year 2022 started with a note of uncertainty. The Omicron COVID-19 variant was spreading the globe, the risks of climate crisis loomed nearer, economic recovery and development seemed to stall, and the gap between the rich and the poor stretched even wider.

It was facing those overlapping global issues that the participants of The Davos Agenda 2022 came together virtually at the World Economic Forum this week to discuss their visions for the year ahead and share solutions.

The state of the world in 2022 may be beset by global challenges - but it is not without hope. Through global collaboration, public-private partnerships, new models and innovations, and a renewed sense of social responsibility we can create a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient world.

Here are the main messages and takeaways from The Davos Agenda 2022.

We are seeing challenges mounting from supply chain disruptions, to tectonic shifts in labour markets, to inflation figures which are of concern to policy-makers and individuals alike. The year ahead is a crucial one to work together, rebuild trust and shape a better and more inclusive future for all.

—Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

Davos Agenda 2022 by the numbers

  • 25
    Sessions including 10 special addresses by heads of state
  • 45k
    Global media mentions
  • 7m
    Total views to the Forum's website
  • 3m
    Views to livestreamed sessions on website and social media
  • 18m
    Views to social media videos covering the event
  • 200
    Articles by or about world leaders featured on Agenda

Pandemic response

Many of the special addresses and panel discussions during the Davos Agenda 2022 event confronted the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, presenting lessons and offering ideas for continued pandemic response. The key message that emerged was the importance of vaccination and vaccine equity to end the pandemic.

Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, started the week reminding us that the international community has already fought a "tenacious battle" against COVID-19 and that countries needed to continue working together to close the global immunization gap.

Experts in a panel on the future of COVID-19 were cautious that an end to the pandemic is in sight, with Annelies Wilder-Smith, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stressing that Omicron will not be the last variant. Yet they also outlined a way forward.

Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, which co-leads COVAX, alongside Gavi and the World Health Organization, announced the milestone of COVAX delivering 1 billion vaccines doses and made the case for addressing the "last mile" of helping countries distribute COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses at speed. Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO, says he hopes to one day offer a single-dose booster for the flu and COVID-19. And Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to the President of the United States, stressed that with continued collaboration, COVID-19 could become endemic, meaning it's not totally eliminated but it no longer disrupts society.

A session on meeting the challenges of vaccine equity at Davos Agenda 2022 echoed these assessments. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said that while we may never end the virus, we can end the public health emergency - but to do that, we need an equitable distribution of vaccines. Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International, argued that inequality must be addressed to save lives and ensure pandemic recovery. And Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria, warned that with just 10% of Africa's people fully vaccinated, economic recovery on the continent is contingent on containing the pandemic through widespread vaccination.

Economic recovery

The economy was also front and centre during discussions at Davos Agenda 2022, with world leaders commenting on the impact of the pandemic on economies and the ongoing efforts toward recovery.

The pandemic has reversed gains in poverty reduction, lowered incomes, caused a global drop in GDP and disrupted development. World leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Nadia Calviño Santamaría, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Digitalization of Spain, and others emphasized the need to focus on strong economic recovery.

The good news is: the recovery has been "stronger than expected," said Christine Lagarde, the President of the ECB.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), added: “The response to the pandemic crisis has been anything but orthodox— in a highly coordinated manner both central banks and finance authorities have prevented the world falling into yet another great depression.”

But the danger is that the recovery risks being uneven, warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "We need to reform the global financial system in a way that it can work for all countries without being biased."

Sharon Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, echoed that sentiment during a session on renewing the social contract: "we need a new social contract, and it needs to be inclusive." Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, US Department of the Treasury also made the case for an economic recovery that was "inclusive and green."

Climate action

Building on the momentum from COP26, speakers at 2022 Davos Agenda argued for the need for climate action in no uncertain terms. Climate risks top the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2022, which analyzes global perceptions among risk experts and world leaders in business, government, and civil society.

John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, was clear on the need for action. "Nobody is moving fast enough," he said in a session on accelerating and scaling climate innovation. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA, speaking in a session on the energy transition, warned it would take a 'Herculean effort' to go from 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels to net-zero by 2050.

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s new Federal Chancellor, set the stage for an ambitious new approach to climate policy, saying: "We will no longer wait for the slowest and least ambitious. We'll turn climate from a cost factor to competitive advantage."

A session bringing together five heads of state from Latin America also addressed the need for urgent action, with Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, saying that environmental issues must be integrated into other policy choices, and Jose Pedro Castillo Terrones, President of the Republic of Peru, calling for a focus on biodiversity and collaboration with the private sector.

Anna Borg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vattenfall AB, and Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO of Accenture, also highlighted the important role of business.

Perhaps most poignant was the plea for climate collaboration from Matthias Maurer, Astronaut, European Space Agency (ESA), who joined The Davos Agenda 2022 live from the International Space Station. "Planet Earth is one big space ship," he said. "We all need to work together to meet the challenges of our day, like climate change."

Technological innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many of the digital transformations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution across industries, a trend that will continue in the year ahead. At Davos Agenda 2022, many of the speakers underlined the key role of technology and were optimistic about the potential for tech to help address global problems.

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, explained how the pandemic increased the use of tech and the digital economy, with the country jumping "five years ahead in digital adoption in almost the blink of an eye." Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel, explained how gleaning insights from data helped his country respond to the pandemic.

Making headlines around the world, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new European Chips Act in her special address at the event, explaining: "The European need for chips will double in the next decade. This is why we need to radically raise Europe's game on the development, production and use of this key technology."

Speakers including John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, National Security Council (NSC), and Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were also optimistic about the potential of green technologies - and made the case for ensuring the necessary funding to support innovation. Astronaut Maurer and the other speakers at the session on space and the next frontier for knowledge discussed the role of satellite data and how experiments from the International Space Station could help solve problems on Earth. Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, summed up many of the speakers' sentiments when he said that digital was the "single biggest transformative variable" in rethinking pathways in the years ahead.

Digital inclusion was also high on the Davos Agenda 2022 throughout the week. In a session on technology cooperation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda, explained that many parts of the world, including her country, are grappling with challenges of coverage and affordability. This must be addressed to reap the benefits of tech, argued Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises. Hans Vestberg, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon Communications, took it a step further, calling connectivity a human right.

Read the impact story on the first alliance to accelerate digital inclusion here and learn about how social innovators have improve the lines of 722 million people here.

Global collaboration

Underpinning all the conversations at The Davos Agenda 2022 was the power of global collaboration. This cuts across all sectors - from pandemic resilience to climate action to restoring trust in global trade and supply chains - and involves stakeholders from the public, private and civil society spheres.

For example, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the WTO, outlined how the global community must come together to strengthen the trading system and be fit for the future of trade, one that is less prohibitive and more inclusive, she said.

The global public-private effort toward Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics offers a promising example of the potential of such global collaboration. More than 140 businesses have shown support for the Forum's Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics initiative, with more than 50 already including the metrics in their reporting. Read more in the impact story here.

Standardized, transparent, collaborative efforts backed by businesses, public-sector leaders and investors can move the needle on progress, said Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO, Bank of America, in a session on ESG metrics.

But to enable that progress, businesses must move from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism, said Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yara International ASA.

As Børge Brende President, World Economic Forum, summarized, global issues will be unmanageable unless we come together. "Now more than ever the world needs to come together and collaboratively deliver global responses."

More highlights from The Davos Agenda 2022

Discover more insights from The Davos Agenda 2022 with our daily summaries:

  • Day 1 on cooperation, COVID-19 and connections: here
  • Day 2 on trust, tech and economic recovery: here
  • Day 3 on global collaboration, the green energy transition and innovation: here
  • Day 4 on ESG, trade and supply chains, and space: here
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