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Davos 2020: everything you need to know about this year's World Economic Forum

Who will be there, what is on the agenda and four things to watch out for

The World Economic Forum is hosting its 50th Annual Meeting between Tuesday and Friday, January 21 to 24, 2002, in the Swiss ski resort of Davos-Klosters in the Alps.

The Annual Meeting is often simply referred to as ‘Davos’.

Typically, about 3,000 world and business leaders gather there to discuss the most pressing global, regional and industry issues during the meeting. More than that number descend on Davos for the various side events, meetings and discussions that go on in the town during the week.

However, the Forum has received criticism in recent years and the annual meeting has been called an elitist gathering and an echo chamber for billionaires and chief executives.

The Forum has, however, worked hard to shed this image and has increased inclusivity for anti-capitalist voices – for example Occupy Wall Street co-founder Micah White is attending this year – as well as adding focus on real-world impact rather than talk.

The Annual Meeting has a strong track record over its half century and notable successes include helping Greece and Turkey pull back from the brink of war in 1988.

Who will be in Davos this year?

There will be 220 participants from the Middle East including a large delegation of ministers, officials and executives from the UAE. Among those expected to attend include Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Mubadala chief executive Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed.

Saudi Arabia is set to be well represented by officials including defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

Regional leaders scheduled to attend include Barham Salih, Iraq’s president, and Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani.

Omar Al Razzaz, Prime Minister of Jordan, and Kais Saied, the new president of Tunisia, are attending too, organisers say. Prime Minister of PakistanImran Khan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh will also be there.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Geir Pederson and Ghassan Salame, the UN’s special envoys to Iraq, Syria and Libya respectively, will be in Davos too.

US President Donald Trump will be one of 53 heads of state in Davos.

The American delegation includes Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as well as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Also expected to be there are Germany’s Angela Merkel, Han Zheng, China’s Vice-Premier, Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam is also set to be there.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be among 34 heads of international organisations in Davos. Britain’s Prince Charles will also attend.

Governments from 85 countries are represented in Davos. Civil society including labour unions will also attend. Governors of Central Banks and about 30 trade ministers too.

Almost 1,700 business leaders including the chief executives of eight of the world’s largest companies.

According to Bloomberg’s count, 119 billionaires will be in Davos – more than half that number from India and the US. Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, musician will.i.am and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are among the famous artists scheduled to attend. Cambridge University scholar Mary Beard will also be there as part of the meeting’s arts and culture festival.

Greta Thunberg is expected to be among climate activists present in Davos to put pressure on political and business leaders to scale back investments in fossil fuels.

“To the world leaders and those in power, I would like to say that you have not seen anything yet. You have not seen the last of us, we can assure you that. And that is the message that we will bring to the World Economic Forum in Davos,” the 17-year-old said on Friday.

Founder of the Forum Professor Klaus Schwab told the Financial Times last week: “my dream for Davos is to get the big investors and hedge funds and so on together and to say, we are committing ourselves to finance only investments that are environmentally not damaging”.

What else will be discussed there?

Regional tension, particularly the escalation between the US and Iran and the fallout from this in Iraq, are high on the agenda.

The meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”, seeks to find a way forward for governments and companies to benefit from more equitable globalised trade while also making progress on meeting sustainable development goals.

Key areas of interest include “avoiding a technology war”, higher economic inclusion, protecting biodiversity, reskilling more than a billion people over the next decade and conflict resolution in “global hot spots”.

The emphasis on stakeholders is there to make sure all those impacted by a company or institution such as employees are taken into account and not just shareholders who mainly benefit financially from profit and revenue growth.

Major initiatives that will be unveiled next week by the Forum include an open source digital platform that allows people to engage behind the UN SDGs and the planting of one trillion trees by the end of the decade.

Technology is always a focal point of discussion at the Forum’s annual meeting but this year there will be much emphasis on the impact this decade on manufacturing from 3D printing.

4 things to watch out for at Davos 2020

  1. Wall Street titans and chief executives of global corporations will be making every effort to prove they are walking the walk on climate change. Particularly after the world’s largest manager of assets BlackRock, whose chief executive Larry Fink will be in Davos, said it is exiting some investments carrying climate change risks.

  2. Officials and ministers from both sides of the Atlantic will show how they are working on avoiding an all-out trade war between Europe and the US.
  3. As part of the overall trade tensions, there is hope that America and France could also make progress on resolving a dispute over the taxing of ‘Big Tech’ companies.
  4. Amid an impending impeachment trial in the Senate, President Donald Trump travels to Davos. Expect lots of feverish excitement if he ends up in the same room as Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine.

Updated: January 20, 2020 09:42 AM

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