Organised with the slogan of Cooperation in a Fragmented World, the 53rd Davos Summit brought together approximately 2,500 leaders from 130 countries on the basis of states, companies, and international organisations, 52 of which are heads of state/prime ministers. In this article, I will examine the prominent themes of the meeting that took place between 16-20 January.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) was founded in 1971 as an international foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The foundation, which has more than a thousand member companies, is financed by the contributions of these companies. While developments affecting the world economy, such as Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, continued; this year, country and company leaders came together under the risk of economic recession.
Main themes of the year
Interrelated themes included new energy, climate change, employment, tourism, health, technology, and banking.
In addition to the rising climate crisis, the need for a sustainable and affordable new energy source was one of the most important items on the agenda in terms of protecting both companies and individuals, especially with the effect of the recent changing discourse and sanctions against countries, such as Russia and Iran. On the other hand, young people who had the chance to speak at the session on climate change stated the need to act globally and drew attention to the changes that must happen.
Especially the continuation of the effects of Covid-19, as well as the interrupted production chain as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, makes the issue of employment crucial from different perspectives. While the theme of tourism readdressed the problems related to Covid-19, women's health and what could be changed globally this year were discussed with the theme of health. Under the theme of technology, the innovations of artificial intelligence in predicting and preventing large-scale fires were emphasised. Finally, under the theme of banking, the digitalisation of trade and its ability to meet the world's needs were discussed.
The ineffectiveness of the Biden government drew attention
In addition to the absence of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken from the US government, which manages the economy of the world's 1st or 2nd country according to different calculations, three Council of Ministers Advisors who attended the forum did not make opening speeches. It was said that Davos 2023 was greeted with silence by the Biden government. Bloomberg columnist Saleha Mohsin noted that former US President Donald Trump is the only US President to attend Davos twice, writing that Biden received support from the American working class and ‘made clear to his supporters that Davos, an elite forum, is not his style.’ .
On the other hand, the participation of only Chancellor Olaf Scholz from Germany, among the G-7 countries other than the USA, was one of the issues that were emphasised. Former political advisor Ed Owen noted that despite citing the busy agendas of most government representatives, in fact, politicians in many countries cannot afford ‘being seen hobnobbing with a global financial elite’ while the public is struggling to make ends meet.
Rising powers came to the fore at Davos, as well
Although companies, banks, and participants from major international organisations have shown the influence of western states in the forum, countries such as China and India, which have recently resolutely reflected their economic and political powers, seem to have created a wider sphere of influence in the forum, especially with the low participation from the governments of the G-7 countries.
Speeches on topics that will affect the economy and social transformation, such as India-focused energy transformation and gender equality, were among the prominent topics of the forum. India, which is predicted to be the world's third economy with more than 10 trillion dollars in 2035, has been recorded as one of the important country economies where most of this year's themes are discussed together.
On the other hand, Xinhua, a Chinese government affiliated news agency, wrote that China had an impact as an important participant while underlining that there was no participant from Russia in Davos 2023 and that policies that would isolate Russia were advocated by European countries, representatives, and companies. Observing that the focus has shifted from economic growth to resilience in Davos 2023, Xinhua news also once again stated that it is a lesson learnt from the forum that ‘only in unity can the global community make steady progress and achieve its long-term goals’.
Ukraine did not fall wide from the agenda
One of the important topics was the latest situation in Ukraine. It was noted that President Volodymyr Zelenski 's wife, Olena Zelenska, gave a letter to the Chinese delegation at the Davos Summit, which was ‘an invitation to dialogue with Beijing’. It is thought that China, which has become one of the important actors in shaping international public opinion and politics, may turn the balance against Russia. Thus, during the Davos Summit, we observed the importance of unity not only in global disaster scenarios, such as the climate crisis, but also in regional crises.
Can Davos 2023 offer a solution?
If we go beyond the perspectives of individual countries, the most important point that Davos 2023, attended by DEVA Party leader Ali Babacan from Turkey, revealed, was that the global economic system was insufficient and created problems for today's political economic conjuncture. Therefore, what Davos 2023, where we have witnessed many conversations about the worrying issues of the last period, such as renewable energy, energy security, and climate change, can and will not change in practice is an issue that needs to be talked about.
The forum, which creates a platform for both short-term and long-term policy recommendations, also continues to deal with these issues in its following publications, stating that we have entered a major global transformation, targeting 2030. However, Davos Summits, speeches, and publications, which are criticised as ‘meeting of the elite’, are often not enough to affect the practice.
One reason is that the participants are representatives from countries and big companies that are already destroying nature for economic development. UN Secretary-General Guterres pointed to this issue and stated that ‘fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival.’. With these words, Guterres underlined the limits of the World Economic Forum. After the Davos Summit, which is a platform where ideas are put forward and discussed, we will observe the changes that will take place in practice and therefore the sincerity of the participants in the upcoming period.