5 things to know about Davos 2023

Highlights from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos 2023.
Highlights from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos 2023.
Image: World Economic Forum/Pascal Bi
  • Trade, tech and tackling the climate crisis were just some of the topics under discussion this week in Davos.
  • We've also heard from global leaders on Ukraine, the economy and health.
  • Here's a snapshot of what you might have missed this week at Davos 2023.

That's it for our 53rd Annual Meeting in Davos. We've covered a huge range of topics and themes at a difficult time for the global community as it faces a series of interlinked crises - as this year's Global Risks Report explained, a polycrisis.

It's against this backdrop that leaders met under the theme 'Cooperation in a Fragmented World'. And this call for cooperation echoed across speakers, sessions and topics.

As World Economic Forum President Børge Brende told us in his closing remarks, "In an uncertain and challenging time, one thing is clear. We can shape a more resilient, sustainable and equitable future, but the only way to do so is together."

You can rewatch sessions on the website, read all our blogs on Agenda, and follow us on social media to find out what you might have missed. Here's just a snapshot of the key trends that emerged this week.

Call for unity and collaboration

"There are no perfect solutions in a perfect storm," António Guterres stressed on Wednesday. "But we can work to control the damage and seize opportunities."

"Now more than ever, it’s time to forge the pathways to cooperation in our fragmented world."

The scale of the challenge, the sense of urgency, and the importance of collaboration was a thread that linked all the discussions this week, whether on Ukraine, the climate crises, supply chains, technology and innovation, health, the economy and so much more.

Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine urged world leaders to use their influence to bring an end to Russian aggression. She also stressed the ongoing human impact of the war.

Her husband, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressed Davos via video link. He also called for decisive action from world leaders, following a minute's silence after the helicopter crash earlier that day.

And the sense of unity was clear. Leaders, from Alain Berset to Sanna Marin and Andrzej Duda, expressed their continued support for Ukraine.

But, the need for collaboration goes beyond Ukraine, to the interlinked crises that were a key point of discussion. On topics from the climate crisis to trade, a call for cooperation rang clearly at Davos 2023.

Trade for resilience, growth and climate action

Global, interlinked crises require global, interlinked solutions. This week at Davos the role of trade, both the challenges it's faced, for example as a result of supply chain disruption, but also as a solution featured across discussions.

A new Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate launched, bringing together over 50 countries to boost 'international cooperation on climate, trade and sustainable development.' As four trade ministers explain in the article you can read below, "connecting the dots is vital to find coherent global solutions."

Yoon Suk Yeol used his special address to also stress the value of free trade.

"Even in the current global economic landscape marked by fragmentation, the
free trade system, which has contributed to global economic growth and
enhanced humanity’s freedom remains a global public good that can never be
forsaken," he said on Thursday.

Liu He underlined his country's opposition to 'unilateralism and protectionism'.

And in our Relaunching Trade, Growth, and Investment panel on Tuesday, we heard about the economic risks of fragmentation and decoupling. World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was clear then, and on Thursday evening, about these risks, but also the role trade can play as a solution if they're avoided.

The Global Economic Outlook also tackled the issue of trade, particularly in light of the US Inflation Reduction Act and subsidies, as a part of our toolkit to tackle climate change.

Global trade systems are a 'lynchpin' for growth and resilience, Børge Brende told us in his closing remarks.

The global economic outlook

Closely linked to trade is the prospect for the global economy - and the economic outlook was on the agenda all week. We started with the launch of the Chief Economists Outlook on Monday, and throughout this week, we've looked at the cost of living crisis, fiscal expansion, growth in Europe, global inequality, and monetary policy.

The Chief Economists Outlook struck a cautious tone, with two-thirds of those surveyed expecting a global recession this year.

However, we've seen a bit more positivity in Davos. For example, European Central Bank President, Christine Lagarde, explained yesterday that things are looking better than had been feared. And today, Kristalina Georgieva, agreed. It's less bad than we feared, she said. However, that doesn't yet mean good. Realism is essential, we must avoid getting too optimistic or too pessimistic, and she urged leaders to "be pragmatic, collaborate, do the right thing, and keep the global economy integrated for the benefit of all of us”.

As we navigate an uncertain economic outlook, we also heard about the future of work. In particular, there were continued calls for the importance of reskilling in order to prepare current and future workforces for the green transition, the digital transition and the jobs of the future.

The World Economic Forum's Reskilling Revolution, launched in 2020 at Davos, has now reached 350 million people with just this in mind.

Tackling the climate crisis

We've heard from leaders, including Olaf Scholz, on the urgent action needed to tackle the climate crisis and nature loss.

And, it's been clear this week about the links that bind challenges, crises, and topics together. Energy is perhaps an obvious one, and Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, told us on Monday about the increasing role of energy security in driving growth in renewables - not environmental concerns.

But, we also heard on the links to challenges you might not expect:

  • Gabriela Bucher told us about the link to inequality
  • We heard on Wednesday about the links to health
  • Trade has a role to play, as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala explained about supply chains
  • And Ursula von der Leyen told us on Tuesday about the role of technology

A new initiative was launched this week to leverage philanthropic capital to unlock funding for the climate crisis. Read more on it here.

Talking technology

It's not just for climate change that technology emerged as a solution. Whether how articifical intelligence can boost access to government services in India or bringing people together in the metaverse through the World Economic Forum's Global Collaboration Village, a prototype of which was launched this week, the potential of technology has been clear.

But, as the Global Cybersecurity Outlook made clear, there are risks. According to the report, only 4% of experts worldwide are 'confident' that connected devices are properly secure.

“This is a global threat, and it calls for a global response and enhanced and coordinated action,” Jürgen Stock, the Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), said in Davos.

The role of innovation, from household names in areas like the metaverse, and also from those just starting out, was echoed again and again. Whether from UpLink or the World Economic Forum's Global Innovators Community, we've heard from those who are harnessing the power of creativity and entrepreneurship to help tackle the challenges we face.

Because, as Larry Summers told the Global Economic Outlook on Friday, "I've never been so impressed by the potential of technology" - but he added that it needs the "right political and financial foundations."

Kristalina Georgieva added a strong message as she addressed participants: "Optimism depends on the people in this room".

You can find out more about what's been discussed this week and its impact here.

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