Great War's Second Davos: What Ukraine should expect from the World Economic Forum
Ukraine is still at the forefront of the global agenda, but is beginning to lose ground to the WEF's traditional topics of climate, global inequality, inflation and healthcare
The World Economic Forum has opened in Davos, Switzerland, for the second time since the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine and the first to be held in the traditional format and during the usual period, from January 16 to 20. The expected number of participants is 2,700, including 52 representatives of governments and heads of states.
Davos 2022 took place in May, when the world was at the peak of shock over the war in Ukraine, which was reflected in the forum's theme: "History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies." Participants vigorously discussed the russian military aggression and the humanitarian crisis it has caused. In general, gloomy moods prevailed in the halls, behind the podiums and on the sidelines, and financier George Soros declared in his widely circulated speech that "the invasion could be the beginning of World War III, which civilization may not survive." The participants then identified food security as the main global risk: in the spring of 2022, grain exports from Ukraine remained blocked, and world wheat prices peaked at $500 per tonne.
The traditional topics for the Davos Forum – gender, financial and educational inequality, climate change and healthcare – have not disappeared altogether, but have apparently lost their priority.
This year, they are partially taking revenge.
Even the theme of the forum is more "grazing" and hints at the search for consensus: "Cooperation in the Fragmented World." Participants will consider how to address the multiple and interconnected challenges facing the world and find solutions through cooperation between the public and private sectors. Although the WEF announcement mentions the russian invasion, it is as a fait accompli. So the emphasis is on the changes it has caused and the challenges that the world may be dealing with for decades. "Today, the world is at a critical turning point. The dual triggers of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shaken the already fragile global system. Economic growth in the world's largest economies is stalling, struggling to overcome the obstacles posed by rising food and energy prices," the forum organisers say in their welcome address. That is, the participants will discuss mainly the consequences, not the cause.
Mind looked into what will be discussed at the high-profile economic event of the year and whether there are signs of fatigue from the "Ukrainian issue"?
Is Davos still the main international economic discussion platform? Yes, this status has not been shaken so far.
This year's event is expected to have a record number of participants – 2700. Last year, the forum was attended by more than 2,500 people, including about 50 world leaders.
Has the russian delegation been invited? No.
Russia's representation at the forum was suspended last year, with the formal reason being the sanctions imposed on the country by the EU and the US over the invasion of Ukraine.
The "russian House's" space in Davos was used for an installation on russian war crimes.
In 2023, the event will again be held without a delegation from russia. There will be no Chinese officials in Davos either, although an entire session, China's Next Chapter, is dedicated to the country.
What are the main topics to be discussed at the forum? As mentioned above, the thematic plan provides for a focus on global problems that have arisen because of the russian invasion, but not on their root causes. Unlike last year's WEF, WEF-2023 cannot be called mono-Ukrainian.
The economic block is dominated by two main topics: the energy crisis and food security. As a result of combining these two, another top topic is methods of combating high inflation, low economic growth, and eliminating social vulnerabilities, as well as counteracting current geopolitical risks.
In other words, Ukraine is still the main topic on the global agenda. But not the only one anymore.
But the topic of the war in Ukraine is still being raised? Yes, of course, and repeatedly.
On the first full day of the forum alone, several discussion panels were devoted exclusively to Ukraine.
Thus, the participants of the discussion "War in Europe: Year 2", organised in partnership with Euronews, will discuss the political paths and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed in Europe this year "as it struggles with the multifaceted consequences of the war in Ukraine." The participants, other than the moderator, are Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic Eduard Heger, President of Moldova Maia Sandu, and Chairman of the Board of Engie Group Jean-Pierre Clamadier.
The discussion "In Defence of Europe" will also have a special focus on Ukraine, discussing and evaluating the effectiveness of the project to create a European defence union. The participants are President of Poland Andrzej Duda, President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda, President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, and leader of the Democratic Forces of Belarus Svetlana Tikhanovska, Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the EU and Minister of Cooperation of Spain.
In addition, there will be a whole dedicated session "Ukraine: What Next?" moderated by Mirek Duszek, Managing Director of the WEF, and attended by Oleksiy Chernyshov, CEO of Naftogaz of Ukraine, Yuliya Svyrydenko, Minister of Economy of Ukraine, Odile Renaud-Basso, President of the EBRD, Ville Skinnari, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland, and Jörg Kukis, State Secretary of the Federal Chancellery of Germany.
On the same day, Henry Kissinger will deliver a speech on retrospectives of wars, and Ukraine will surely find a place in it.
What does Ukraine bring to the forum? The Ukrainian programme includes a speech by the Head of the Presidential Office. On January 19, Andriy Yermak will present the Ukrainian formula for peace for 45 minutes.
A traditional Ukrainian breakfast will follow.
The Victor Pinchuk Foundation will present the UKRAINE IS YOU project.
The Ukrainian House, co-organised by the Western NIS Enterprise Fund, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and Horizon Capital, will host the event.
On Wednesday, January 18, a wide-ranging discussion with Yuliya Svyrydenko, Andrzej Duda, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Director of National Intelligence Evril Haynes on restoring security and peace will be moderated by CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
To what extent are Ukrainian issues still "trendy"? As cynical as it may sound, states are increasingly focused on their own needs. And although the level of support for Ukraine is unwavering and undeniable, questions about the monopolisation of this assistance and its cost are becoming louder.
In a recent interview with Time, World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley was pressed on whether he was annoyed that the US had sent $17.5 billion to Ukraine and not even half of that amount was used to help the hundreds of millions of people who are starving. The WFP official said in a roundabout way that "leaders don't have enough money to fund all the needs. They have to prioritise what is crucial for stability on Earth in favour of their national security."
The Davos Forum programme has become much more diverse than last year. Ukraine is competing for the attention of the global establishment with the next stage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the emergence of artificial intelligence in the mainstream, the problem of plastic pollution, changes in relations between employees and employers, and even the "Unpacking the Polar Crisis" to be discussed by Prince Albert of Monaco.
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