THE World leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in the first major international gathering of the year to address ongoing economic, energy and food crises while laying the groundwork for a more sustainable, resilient world.
While many economists forecast recessionary risks in 2023 and see geopolitical tensions continuing to shape the global economy, there are glimmers of hope that pressures on food, energy and inflation may be peaking.
“Our world is plagued by a perfect storm on a number of fronts,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who called for urgent action on a number of interconnected challenges, including the global economic crisis, climate, income and gender inequality, US-China relations, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now more than ever, it is time to forge the pathways to cooperation in our fragmented world.”
World leaders expressed solidarity with Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country will continue to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary.” He also said that, despite the war, Europe’s largest economy will avoid a recession this year thanks to its efforts to limit the impact of the region’s energy crisis on the economy, and reaffirmed Germany’s goal of attaining climate neutrality.
China’s Vice-Premier Liu He declared his country open to the world after three years of pandemic isolation, and emphasized international cooperation, economic stability and re-globalization.
Cooperation is becoming more virtual and the Forum’s Global Collaboration Village showed how the metaverse can be harnessed for inclusive and effective international action. With the golden age of artificial intelligence under way, technology will provide more ways to bring people together.
“Through the power of collaboration, innovation, human goodwill and ingenuity, we have the capacity to turn challenges into opportunities. This is the spirit of solving problems through mutual respect and cooperation. This is the spirit of Davos,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
As crises converge, so too must the solutions. The Annual Meeting emphasized connections across big systemic challenges. With over 480 sessions, more than 2,700 leaders – including over 350 public figures government leaders and 47 heads of state – came together at the Annual Meeting 2023 to address the world’s most pressing challenges.
On geopolitical cooperation
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed participants virtually from Kyiv while his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska, spoke in person in Davos – both urged world leaders to support Ukraine’s 10-point proposal to end the war, which includes an end to hostilities, restoration of the country’s borders with Russia, release of all prisoners and deportees, as well as assurance of food and energy security and justice.
- European leaders, including from Germany, Spain, Poland and Finland, pledged their support for Ukraine, highlighting the importance of European solidarity and the need to continue supporting Ukraine’s right to defend itself.
- Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He offered assurances on continuing liberalization and a loosening of restrictions on China’s real estate sector. He affirmed China’s twin goals of achieving peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
- EC President Ursula von der Leyen outlined the Green Deal Industrial Plan to make Europe the home of clean tech and innovation. The strategy rests on four pillars: a regulatory environment that provides speed and access, financing for clean-tech production, upskilling and boosting trade.
- Latin American nations, including Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica, said they were bullish about the region’s potential to become a global leader in providing clean energy, and exporting renewable energy could be a central driver of Latin American economic growth.
- The Forum launched a new network of online regulators from the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Fiji, which aims to create synergies across geographies and protect end users.
- The Global Risks Report 2023 ranks the cost-of-living crisis as the most severe short-term global risk, while the failure of climate mitigation and climate adaptation are the biggest long-term concerns for humanity. The Risks community identified three priorities for its mandate: risk foresight, strengthening the quantification of global risks; and linking foresight and preparedness.
- The 2023-2024 term for the Network of Global Future Councils was launched at the Annual Meeting: the network is composed by 29 expertise-based thematic councils and convenes 500 experts from academia, government, international organizations, business and civil society, of which 89 of were at the meeting.
- The Forum advanced dialogue through its Special Dialogue community of Israeli and Palestinian business leaders. Under the umbrella of this community, the Swiss Envoy for the Middle East will work together with the Forum to launch a joint working group on climate and science, which will focus water scarcity, waste management and agriculture.
- Leaders were brought together to strengthen dialogue in the Western Balkans and address the political crisis in Myanmar.
On growth, investment, trade and infrastructure
- The Forum and the Government of the United Arab Emirates signed a collaboration agreement on the TradeTech initiative to use technology to overcome trade impediments across sectors and geographies. They also signed an agreement to host the Annual Meeting of the Forum’s Global Future Council 2023 in Dubai on 16-17 October.
- More than 50 countries launched a Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate to drive inclusive cooperation among trade ministers in the global response to the climate crisis, trade and sustainable development.
- The US announced new resources for the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation to advance work in bright spot countries making tough reforms.
- A Forum initiative is supporting the WTO’s Draft Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement, which is expected to be completed by the first half of 2023.
- A majority of Community of Chief Economists expect a global recession in 2023; leaders stressed the need to respond to the cost-of-living crisis through boosting open trade, managing fiscal and monetary policies and increasing productivity.
- The Future of Growth Consortium will champion a new framework that highlights the trade-offs and synergies with other priorities and values, such as the climate crisis, inequality and societal resilience.
- Industry and government leaders rallied around the launch of the Clean Power and Delivery Accelerator, which will focus on scaling clean power.
- The Forum and the Maharashtra Institution for Transformation (MITRA) signed a partnership to work together on the urban transformation agenda, providing strategic and technical direction to the Maharashtra government.
- The Circular Transformation of Industries initiative generated commitments from 20-plus leading organizations to drive circularity systemically and at scale to enable an innovative, sustainable and resilient economy through industry-level projects.
- The Forum, in partnership with the AfCTA Secretariat, launched the first-ever report by global business on the opportunities presented by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, with participants agreeing to develop an action plan for the Annual Meeting 2024.
- Nine leading industrial clusters in China, Indonesia, Japan, Spain and the United States have joined the Forum’s Transitioning Industrial Clusters towards Net Zero initiative to help industries reduce emissions.
- Capgemini is joining forces with the Forum and International Centre for Industrial
Transformation to scale a new global benchmarking tool to assess the sustainability maturity of industrial operations.
- Leaders laid the foundations for a Market Creators Alliance to improve public-private collaboration in creating new models of innovation and industrial development.
- Eight manufacturing companies committed to join forces and mobilize resources to further scale the Global Lighthouse Network initiative to accelerate digitalization, sustainability and inclusive workforce engagement at scale.
On climate, energy, nature and sustainability
- A new initiative, Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), will leverage philanthropic capital to help generate the $3 trillion needed each year from public and private sources to tackle the climate crisis and nature loss.
- The Global Battery Alliance launched a proof of concept for its Battery Passport to help facilitate the rapid scaling of sustainable, circular and responsible battery value chains to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement through electrification of the transport and power sectors.
- CEOs from Avison Young, Edge, Ivanhoé Cambridge, JLL, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Schneider Electric and Signify announced their adoption of the Green Building Principles, first published by the FMS Real Estate Team in 2021, pledging to reduce real estate-related emissions by 50% by 2030 and be fully net zero by 2050.
- The Food, Nature, Health Transitions – Repeatable Country Models report offers a roadmap for investment and partnerships with early mover countries, with CEOs committing to “leadership sprints” for key cross-cutting areas that can scale technology innovation for regenerative food systems. This includes farmer-focused regenerative food systems, consumer-centric health and food transitions and public-private coalitions on agroforestry.
- The president of Tanzania and NITI Aayog CEO committed to joining the Food Action Alliance.
- The Forum signed a new partnership with the Government of Indonesia to support its ambitions to scale blue carbon restoration and ocean conservation efforts.
- A new Forum Chief Sustainability Leaders Community was launched with 60 CSOs representing 12 industry sectors, 22 countries and an estimated 4.8 million employees. The community will work to further corporate action on sustainability transformation.
- The newly formed Community of Climate Governance Experts, an interdisciplinary knowledge network, will develop cutting-edge thought leadership and help corporate board action on climate.
- The ASEAN Leaders for Just Energy Transition was launched, leveraging the Forum’s platform to strengthen intra-regional and international public-private cooperation.
- The First Movers Coalition ramped up collective climate action by doubling their membership from 35 to 70, adding Canada and the UAE as government partners.
- 1t.org welcomed two additional pledges, taking the initiative to over 80 companies committing more than 7 billion trees in over 65 countries by 2030, bringing the world closer to conserving, restoring and growing a trillion trees by 2030.
- The Voluntary Carbon Market: Climate Finance at an Inflection Point report outlines a set of science-based decarbonization targets.
- The Whole Fish Champions community convened at Global Collaboration Village for a first meeting “underwater” in the metaverse to address seafood loss and waste.
- Business leaders agreed to work towards operationalizing the Framework for Business Action on Climate Adaptation.
- A new initiative by the Forum and Wellcome will document the impact of climate change on global public health through evidence-based solutions.
- A Hoffmann Fellowship will help drive collaboration between the Forum, University of Exeter and Arctic Basecamp to improve science-based communication in support of the Arctic and Antarctic poles.
- Thirty-nine organizations signed the Global Health Equity Network Zero Health Gaps Pledge and committed to take concerted action to advance health equity globally. The pledge includes 10 key commitments all signatories have made to embed health equity principles throughout their operations, workforce and guiding philosophies.
- The Forum and the Africa CDC announced a formal collaboration to establish multisectoral partnerships in support of Africa CDC’s Pathogen Genomics Institute’s (PGI) vision for a continent-wide pathogen surveillance system. This includes safe data-sharing practices, bioinformatics, genomics and supply chain and logistic systems collaboration.
- The Forum launched its first thematic centre on healthcare and life sciences in Telangana, India, in collaboration with the state government.
- The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) has set a 100-day goal for the deployment of new vaccines for future pandemics; the coalition also announced a new partnership with the Pasteur Institute of Dakar to manufacture vaccines for distribution across Africa.
- The Regionalized Vaccine Manufacturing Collaborative (RVMC) announced a framework to sustainably grow vaccine production in routine and pandemic times.
On technology and innovation
- The Forum unveiled the Centre for Trustworthy Technology in Austin, Texas, to promote responsible production and use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, virtual reality and quantum computing.
- 10 water-focused entrepreneurs were chosen winners of the Forum’s Global Freshwater Innovation Challenge for their solutions to improve freshwater resilience in the face of the climate crisis and restore water quality around the world.
- The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship awarded 16 organizations for their innovative approach and potential for global impact, joining a community of 435 innovators operating in 190 countries.
- The Forum and King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology signed a letter of intent to launch the Markets of Tomorrow Accelerator, which will identify promising new markets and develop strategies to unlock their potential to drive economic growth and competitiveness.
- The new Global Cybersecurity Outlook report was launched, providing a roadmap for leaders as they grapple with new cybersecurity trends that disrupt businesses and undermine societies’ social and economic activities.
- The Cybercrime Atlas was launched with support from Fortinet, Microsoft, PayPal and Santander to facilitate a collective effort to map the cybercrime landscape and promote operational collaboration.
- The Forum’s UpLink and Manulife launched a global innovation challenge to surface scalable, high-impact solutions for sustainable forestry and improving human health and well-being.
- The Defining and Building the Metaverse Initiative Steering Committee reviewed first output on
interoperability and future themes of privacy, security, safety and identity.
- The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Strategic Intelligence launched a global GovTech network to accelerate solutions for the digital transformation of government.
On jobs, skills and education
- The Forum announced that more than 350 million people are being reached with better skills, jobs and education through commitments made as part of its Reskilling Revolution initiative, which works with more than 20 governments, 60 global chief executives and a network of over 350 organizations.
- More than 310 million people are being reached through 110 commitments made by businesses and governments, while an additional 40 million people are being reached through a network of 17 national Skills and Education Accelerators; Italy announced its intention to collaborate on establishing an Education Accelerator.
- Twenty ministers and CEOs joined the Jobs Consortium to drive and implement a new vision for a better future of work.
- The Good Work Alliance aligned on how to attract talent and drive retention, and build a resilient, equitable and human-centric future of work. This included newly published metrics and reporting guidelines to help companies establish a benchmark for job quality.
- The Education 4.0 Alliance launched a new interactive education 4.0 taxonomy and announced 16 finalists selected as education lighthouses, examples of the most innovative and forward-looking education initiatives from around the world.
- Leaders discussed lessons learned from the labour market integration of Ukrainian refugees based on a briefing paper from the Forum’s Refugee Employment and Employability Initiative and considered how to scale these learnings in other contexts.
- The newly created Education Industry community held its inaugural meeting to discuss the growing economic importance of the sector and its role in shaping the future of human capital; more than 10 university leaders met to discuss the future of higher education and committed to shaping a more cooperative future on education, science and research.
On equity, inclusion and diversity
- 27.5% of women participants took part in the Annual Meeting 2023, bringing the Forum closer to its objective of doubling women participation by the Annual Meeting 2030.
- The Forum’s Global Shapers Community launched its Davos Hub, which will unite diverse and dynamic young people from the Annual Meeting’s host city who, together, will create projects and change for their communities.
- Honduras joined the Forum’s network of 13 Gender Parity Accelerators, which has to date created better economic opportunities for over 600,000 women around the world, increasing labour force participation, advancing pay equity and accelerating gender parity in STEM.
- The Global Parity Alliance (GPA), a global coalition of 250 CEOs, ministers and other leaders, met to design strategies to renew growth and resilience through diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations and across the corporate ecosystem. The alliance launched the Lighthouse Programme, highlighting best-in-class diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives from leading companies around the world.
- Eight Indigenous leaders ensured companies embed Indigenous knowledge in the conservation and restoration of landscapes, as outlined in a new report.
- 56 business members of the Partnering for Racial Justice in Business Initiative – representing over 7 million workers globally – published the Global Racial and Ethnic Equity Framework to assess gaps, track progress and take action on issues related to race and ethnicity within their organizations.
- The Global Coalition for Digital Safety developed a new set of principles translating international human rights in the digital context, driving multistakeholder alignment, and enabling positive behaviours and actions across the ecosystem.
On arts and culture
- Artist Maya Lin, acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming, and actors Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre were recipients of the 29th Annual Crystal Award.
- The Forum and Swiss Federal Office of Culture launched the multistakeholder Davos Baukultur Alliance dedicated to advancing quality design and construction of more sustainable and vibrant communities and landscapes.