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Davos 2023: Keeping the lights on amid geopolitical fractures 

Speaking at Davos 2023 Annual Meeting session titled Keeping the Lights on amid Geopolitical Fractures (From left to right): Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum; Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar; Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland; H.H. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia; and Christopher A. Coons, Senator from Delaware (D), USA.

Speaking at Davos 2023 Annual Meeting session titled Keeping the Lights on amid Geopolitical Fractures (From left to right): Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum; Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar; Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland; H.H. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia; and Christopher A. Coons, Senator from Delaware (D), USA. Image: World Economic Forum/Michael Calabro

Anna Tobin
Writer, Forum Agenda
Pooja Chhabria
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • The world is facing a myriad of geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges.
  • Amidst this backdrop, the panel in a World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting session titled 'Keeping the Lights on amid Geopolitical Fracture' looked at the opportunities for progress on urgent global challenges, ranging from the war in Ukraine to the possibility of a global recession.
  • Speakers included government ministers from the US, Saudi Arabia, Finland and Qatar, and Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF.

The world is in turmoil. These are very complicated geopolitical and geoeconomic times. Against this backdrop, the panel on the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting session titled Keeping the Lights on amid Geopolitical Fracture considered the present-day global challenges, from the possibility of a recession to the war in Ukraine.

On the panel were Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum; H.H. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia; Christopher A. Coons, Senator from Delaware, United States (US) Senate; Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar; and Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Børge Brende, President of the Forum, introduced the discussion by saying: "This meeting is happening against one of the most complicated geopolitical and geoeconomic landscapes that we have seen for decades, and this session is about identifying opportunities for cooperation even in a fractured world." He went on to ask Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, whether she thought there was a way to fix things. Her response called for a rational approach to global geopolitical and geoeconomic issues.

"We will not go back to the days when costs were the only consideration for where you allocate production and how supply chains work," she advised. "Covid-19 and the war [in Ukraine] told us that the security of supply requires some redundancy in supplies. In other words, there will be some cost."

"But if we are smart, we must keep that to the level where we make the world economy more resilient and don't drag the world into a place where we would all be poorer and less secure."

Maintaining a collaborative approach

Christopher A. Coons, the Senator from Delaware, US Senate, indicated that his country was still committed to supporting allies and the wider world. "I think that we will continue to have an open economy, to be committed to free trade and to see the robust value that globalisation has brought to the world," he said. "There has been a lot of comment and concern about the Inflation Reduction Act," he continued."

"The US Senate managed to do some robust things: invest in our own infrastructure, in our own scientific research and our own energy security and independence, but we recognise that as we are implementing these significant investments, we need to do it with our closest partners and allies and to do it not just for our business benefit but for the world's benefit."

Working with its neighbours is also a priority for Saudi Arabia, as emphasized by H.H. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs. "We believe very strongly that dialogue is the best path to resolve differences. And we feel quite strongly that what we are doing in the Kingdom and what others in the region, especially the GCC countries are doing, in addressing the challenges of their economies and investing in their countries, in focusing on development, rather than geopolitics, is a strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond the traditional arguments and traditional disputes towards joint prosperity," he said.

"I think the more we can build a sense of cooperation in the region, the more we can work together and the more we can deliver not just for our prosperity, but for our region and beyond."

Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said that Qatar is still working on opening up a dialogue with one of its troubled regional neighbours, Afghanistan. "We've been trying to reach out to Kandahar and to have a dialogue with them," he said.

"Until now, we haven't succeeded, but we are in continuous consultation with other countries in the region and with some Muslim countries in order to reach out to them as a group of countries."

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Standing up to Russia

Pekka Haavisto, the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Finland, focused on the Ukraine war, which is playing out closer to home. "The big challenge remains. How do we get Russia out of Ukraine? How do we get peace that is permanent in the region? And what kind of security guarantees can we organise for Ukraine?" he remarked.

"At the moment, we don't see any movement from inside Russia stopping the war, so we can only think that militarily Russia should be stopped, and militarily it should be shown that there is a red line, you cannot go over the border of a country without any consequences."

As the session progressed, Senator Coons reiterated the US's commitment to ending the conflict in Ukraine. "I think Western unity and unity in pushing back against this aggression is critical. It will determine a lot of the shape of the next few decades," he said.

"[Putin] has already made a huge strategic mistake; Finland and Sweden will join NATO. Doubling the border with Russia and bringing sophisticated advanced economies into NATO. I think what we now need to see is a path towards a successful conclusion and the liberation of Ukraine."

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