Davos agenda: Better capitalism, climate change

Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg, Angela Merkel to attend the 50th WEF

Photo: EPA Klaus Schwab speaks during a press conference in Cologny, near Geneva, Switzerland, 14 January.

The World Economic Forum unveiled the programme for its 50th Annual Meeting, which will take place from 21 to 24 January in Davos, Switzerland. The overarching theme is “Stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world”, Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, said on Tuesday.

The participants are invited to agree a “Davos Manifesto” for a new type of stakeholder capitalism. The idea is to urge companies to act responsibly towards society and the environment, rather than only to shareholders.

Some 53 heads of state are due to make the trip to the Alps as well as 35 finance ministers and some 30 trade ministers. US President Donald Trump will be the star attraction at this year's Davos forum, which will also focus on the fallout of climate change. Although Trump attended the WEF event held in the Swiss mountain resort in 2018, he did not participate last year and his return comes amid moves for him to face impeachment charges.

Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who has sparked the #FridaysforFuture global protest movement, will return to Davos for the second year and participate in a session on Averting a Climate Apocalypse. Klaus Schwab said he has not only invited Greta for the second year in a row but has also adopted some of her language. “The world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast,” he told reporters. “We do not want that the next generations inherit a world which becomes ever more hostile and ever less habitable - just think of the wildfires in Australia,” Schwab added. In an open letter published ahead of the forum in Davos, Thunberg and a group of young climate campaigners demanded an immediate global stop to subsidies and investments related to fossil fuels.

The summit would also focus on various other pressing problems, including slowing global economic growth, trade wars, geopolitical tensions in East Asia and Middle Eastern hot spots.

Schwab also announced that a global initiative would be launched next week to train one billion people over the next decade so that they can cope with the changes that digitalisation brings to workplaces; as well as a new plan to plant one trillion trees by 2030.

The World Economic Forum prides itself of having served as a venue for fostering diplomacy in the past 50 years, including a 1987 speech by West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that has been cited as a watershed moment for the end of the Cold War. A year later, meetings between Turkish and Greek leaders in Davos helped to prevent a war between the Mediterranean rivals.

In addition, the forum has helped to spawn several international initiatives, such as the G20 group of major developed and developing economies. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, were also launched in Davos. Despite these achievements, Davos has also been criticised of being a place where great new ideas are pondered by the world's elites, with few concrete results.

Other key participants in this year WEF edition will be Chinese VP Han Zheng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. British PM Boris Johnson, who is busy finalising Britain's departure from the EU at the end of this month, will not attend.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who had been due to attend Davos according to a preliminary guest list, is no longer expected to arrive, following the tension between Tehran and the West.

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