Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 July 2020

Davos 2020: Gebran Bassil will be held 'very much to account' for Lebanon unrest

Lebanon's Foreign Minister in the caretaker government will be interviewed on stage on Thursday

The journalist due to interview Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday has vowed to hold him "very much to account" for the continuing unrest in the country for the past three months.

"There’s been a lot of concern in the last 24 hours from our Lebanese viewers about whether or not this gentleman should be on a panel, considering he’s part of the caretaker government," Hadley Gamble, of CNBC, said on Monday night.

The panel will discuss "The Return of Arab Unrest".

Lebanon has been rocked by mainly peaceful anti-government rallies since October 17 but the protests turned violent over the weekend amid political stalemate and the deepening economic crisis.

More than 540 people were injured in the demonstrations, as wrangling delayed the formation of a new government to replace that of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who quit last year after demands by protesters.

Gamble said many of CNBC's Lebanese viewers have been in touch with her on social media, saying they did not want Mr Bassil to represent their country at Davos.

She said another concern was that Lebanon had one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world.

"I really want to point out for them that it’s such a critical time for the Lebanese people," Gamble said.

"As a journalist, as someone who holds Lebanon very close to my heart, I have many people there I consider to be members of my own family ... we are going to hold Gebran Bassil very much to account to what is happening in Lebanon."

Earlier on Monday, the President of the European Commission told the world’s leading companies and its governments that they would no longer be allowed to use the planet’s resources with little regard for environmental damage.

Ursula von der Leyen, who took up her post last year, opened the World Economic Forum annual meeting with the message that “a sustainable economic system is possible” in a period marked by increasing environmental activism and the bushfires in Australia blamed on climate change.

“For too long, humanity took away resources from the environment and in exchange produced waste and pollution," Ms von der Leyen said.

"I believe we can reconcile our economy with our planet, human development with the protection of our home. But we can only do it together."

The 28 member states of the European Commission include France, Germany and Italy.

Ms von der Leyen's speech on Monday evening raises the curtain on an event that climate change activists including Swedish teen Greta Thunberg have promised to make a platform for their efforts to curb investment in fossil fuels.

“There are two kinds of capitalism: shareholder capitalism and stakeholder capitalism, stressing the responsibility of business to the whole of society,” she said.

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab. Reuters
World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab. Reuters

Ms von der Leyen’s words will also set the scene for US President Donald Trump’s address on Tuesday. Mr Trump has rolled back his country’s commitments to the 2015 Paris deal to limit global warming.

He is also expected to challenge European leaders in Davos on trade and in particular the French for taxing America’s big technology companies.

But Ms von der Leyen said the only way to meet the current climate crisis is through co-operation.

“Davos is the place where people who wouldn’t even speak engage with one another,” she said.

The Forum’s founder, Prof Klaus Schwab, was on stage with Ms von der Leyen on Monday in Davos to celebrate 50 years of the annual meeting.

"You have always had a vision for how to shape a better future, for Europe and the world," she told Prof Schwab. “You were one of the first to question Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

In recent weeks companies including German industrial group Siemens and the world’s largest manager of assets, BlackRock, pledged to put sustainability and the environment at the heart of their practices.

BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink said he expected capital to be reallocated away from assets that were at risk from climate change.

About 3,000 people are expected to attend the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.

As well as climate change and trade, the escalation of tension in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, will be high on the agenda.

Updated: January 21, 2020 07:36 PM

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