Davos Agenda

Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, calls for unity at Davos 2023

Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, Office of the President of Ukraine, speaking at Davos 2023

“Unity brings peace back," Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, said at the Annual Meeting 2023 at Davos Image: World Economic Forum / Boris Bal

Spencer Feingold
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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  • Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, delivered a special address at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, Switzerland.
  • Zelenska called on world leaders to recognize that the war in Ukraine is deeply intertwined with other global issues.
  • The First Lady's remarks come as the war in Ukraine nears its one-year mark.

Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, urged world leaders and business heads to wield their influence in support of Ukraine in a special address delivered Tuesday at the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting.

Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, Office of the President of Ukraine, speaking at Davos 2023
Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, Office of the President of Ukraine, speaking at Davos 2023. Image: World Economic Forum / Boris Bal

“I am meeting at the Davos forum because deep inside we believe there is no global problem that humanity and mankind would not be able to resolve,” Zelenska said at the summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Zelenska's speech comes nearly one year after Russia invaded Ukraine. So far, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians and forced nearly 8 million Ukrainian refugees to flee across Europe.

We are facing a threat of the collapse of a world as we know it, the way that we are accustomed to it and to what we aspire.

Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine

Zelenska called on the world to first and foremost recognize the human suffering that is ongoing across Ukraine.

“I want to emphasise that these points are not purely political,” she stated. “Each one has a tangible human dimension. This is the dimension of those crying in an ICU where doctors are trying to fight for the life of the wounded child. A boy whose family was shot by the occupiers as they were trying to evacuate. This is the dimension of farmers who are afraid to go back to their fields because mines are scattered all over the field by the occupiers.”

“I am constantly trying to convey that in Ukraine there is no place that is completely safe,” Zelenska added. “You cannot take a day off from war. Everyone now in Ukraine has to risk their life every day. There is nothing off limits for Russia.”

Zelenska was introduced by Børge Brende, President of World Economic Forum, who praised the First Lady for working “tirelessly to redress the human impact of the war.”

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The Forum’s Annual Meeting is gathering over 2,700 leaders and experts from 126 countries. This includes over 50 heads of state and more than 300 sessions dedicated to tackling the myriad of issues facing the world.

Zelenska urged attendees to recognize that the war in Ukraine is intertwined with the various other global crises including the climate crisis and global energy and food instability. “How will they achieve climate neutrality if they have not even stopped the burning of entire cities in Ukraine?” she asked.

Moreover, Zelenska stressed the need for a unified front against Russian aggression, telling world leaders that “unity brings peace back.”

“If people come together,” she said. “We believe the world will unite in peace.”

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