GENEVA – The Swiss town of Davos will host 52 heads of state and government and nearly 600 CEOs as the World Economic Forum hosts its annual meeting in the Alps next week, organizers said Tuesday.
Forum organizers said their latest lineup for the elite gathering of political leaders, business executives, cultural trend-setters and international organization chiefs will tackle issues facing a divided world as 2023 begins, with war and conflict, economic pressures and climate change in focus.
“There is no doubt that our 53rd annual meeting in Davos will happen against the most complex geopolitical and economic backdrop in decades,” said forum President Borge Brende, pointing to challenges like the threat of global recession, soaring energy and food prices, and the need to better address global warming.
Russia's nearly yearlong war in Ukraine and COVID-19 restrictions and now a wave of infections in China have helped weaken the global economy.
Brende pointed to “record participation” of 52 heads of state and government, more than half of them from Europe, as well as some recently elected leaders including President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, President Gustavo Petro of Colombia and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines. Nearly 300 government ministers were expected to take part.
The forum president said some delegations had asked for the names of their participants “not to be shared” right away for security reasons. Brende said, for example, that unspecified “high-level” delegations from China and Ukraine would attend.
The U.S. will be represented by Biden administration officials including presidential climate envoy John Kerry, head of national intelligence Avril Haines and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai as well as several governors and congressional lawmakers.
The meeting offers a grab-bag of issues discussed in hundreds of public sessions as well as in more secretive backroom deal-making by business leaders in the upscale hotels along Davos’ Promenade, near the conference center that hosts the gathering.
The agenda is stacked with discussions about ideas, innovations and the search for public-private cooperation on issues like energy, climate, investment, trade, future technologies, jobs, health and social mobility, among others.
It’s hard to predict if the high-minded discussions will yield substantial announcements that make headway on the world’s most pressing challenges. The event has been criticized for hosting wealthy executives who sometimes fly in on emissions-spewing corporate jets.
On the gathering’s opening day Monday, four figures from art and culture will be honored: Artist Maya Lin, soprano Renée Fleming, and actors Idris and Sabrina Dhowre Elba will receive the forum’s “Crystal Award” — given in recognition of artists who are “bridge-builders and role models for all leaders of society.”