Resilience, Peace and Security

World leaders, humanitarian experts discuss crisis in Gaza at #SpecialMeeting24

Bisher Hani Al Khasawneh, Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Mirek Dušek, Managing Director, World Economic Forum; Mohammad Mustafa, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Mostafa Madbouli, Prime Minister of Egypt; Sigrid Kaag, Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, United Nations, New York; Speaking in the Briefing on the Gaza Crisis session at the Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development 2024. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 29 April 2024. King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center, Plenary.Copyright: World Economic Forum/Deepu Das

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Hani Al Khasawneh, centre, speaks on a panel about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Image: World Economic Forum

Spencer Feingold
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum Geneva
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  • Residents in Gaza are enduring a dire humanitarian crisis.
  • Leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum's Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development to discuss the worsening situation.
  • Participants ranged from heads of state to humanitarian experts.

World leaders, top diplomats and humanitarian experts discussed the ongoing war in Gaza and Israel at a World Economic Forum gathering in Saudi Arabia this week, with many calling for an urgent end to the suffering in the region.

The event — the Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development — welcomed Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, who called for an immediate end to hostilities in Gaza and for humanitarian aid to be allowed to reach those in need.

"We completely condemn the attacks on any civilian, whoever they are,” Abbas stated, adding that an urgent “political solution” is necessary.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also attended the summit and spoke in conversations with World Economic Forum President Børge Brende.

Blinken, who participated in sideline diplomacy during the event, reiterated US support for Israel and called on Hamas to release Israeli hostages and pursue a ceasefire. He also called for greater protections for civilians and increased access to humanitarian aid.

“We are determined to do everything we can to bring an end to the terrible human suffering that we're seeing every single day in Gaza, among children, women, men who've been caught in a terrible crossfire of Hamas' making,” Blinken said.

Humanitarian crisis

The conflict in Gaza, which erupted after the 7 October attack on Israel, has created a major humanitarian crisis for the territory's roughly 2 million people — over half of whom have been displaced. According to humanitarian organizations, famine and disease have spread across Gaza as the death toll, already in the tens of the thousands, continues to rise.

At the Forum’s event, Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations’ Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, said there needs to be a “paradigm shift” in how humanitarian aid is delivered into the region.

"We need diverse goods. You cannot deal with the tremendous impact of this crisis on the civilian population with only flour or only limited types of goods,” Kaag stated. “People need to have healthy produce, they need to have medication, they need to have access to treatment.”

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The reconstruction cost of Gaza, which for critical infrastructure is estimated at $18.5 billion, as well as efforts to develop a lasting peace plan were also discussed by participants.

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Hani Al Khasawneh, who warned that further aggression would be a “catastrophe that adds on to a catastrophe”, noted that the estimated cost of reconstruction in Gaza equals over 90% of the GDP in Gaza and the West Bank in the preceding years. “This in itself is quite horrific,” he said.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli also called for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state. “Now, not tomorrow, the whole world should gather to recognise the right of Palestinians to have their own state,” he said.

Ayman Al Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan, echoed calls for a two-state solution and said that Jordan is ready to “work on a plan that will ensure the protection of Palestinian rights and will also ensure security for Israel.”

In the event's closing plenary, UK Secretary of State David Cameron also spoke about the crisis in Gaza. Cameron urged Hamas to accept a recently released proposal for a ceasefire and spoke about the conditions for lasting peace.

“You've got to see a political future for the Palestinian people, but you also crucially have to see security for Israel,” he said. “Those two thing have to go together.”

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