Amidst multiple global crises, the World Economic Forum’s annual extravaganza for the world’s richest individuals is taking place in Davos again this year, with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo also in attendance in the Swiss town to attract investors.
“The corona crisis has made us more aware than ever of how vulnerable we are. If we want to improve the state of the world, health is the most important thing,” De Croo said in De Standaard, addressing an audience of Belgian and international business leaders and scientists Tuesday evening in Hotel Grusha in Davos.
De Croo believes that Belgium can have a positive impact on the ambitions of the World Economic Forum. Belgium was a large producer of the coronavirus vaccines and moreover, Belgium’s international research & development centre IMEC in Leuven, works on microchips and semiconductors.
The latter is a key issue due to the global semiconductor shortage, which the EU Commission is drawing attention to with its Chips Act to further production within Europe.
A different Davos
While De Croo was ‘visibly in his element’ among the business elite, according to a De Standaard commentator, it was a reportedly different Davos.
The WEF meeting was set in springtime. The summit is usually set in depths of winter in January but due to the pandemic, the meeting was postponed.
Apart from gathering during a different season, the WEF comes together in a moment confronted with a series of crisis, ranging from recovering from the pandemic to the climate crisis and to navigating the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although the WEF is now meeting in person, it met virtually in 2021. The potential risks of yet another global pandemic are to be discussed along with vaccine equity and how the global economy can weather such an event again, despite widespread distrust of WEF participants .
No Russian delegation
WEF even organisers chose not to extend an invitation to Russian companies or individuals following extensive sanctions on Russia. But Russia’s absence was filled with something unexpected.
— Sasha Vakulina (@sashavakulina) May 21, 2022
The empty Russia House, which previously housed the Russian delegation, was taken over by a Ukrainian foundation and renamed “Russian War Crimes House”.
The house will now exhibit war crimes committed by Russian troops and will officially open on Monday. Ukraine will be a big part of the agenda during the summit, with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky addressing delegates via livestream on Monday. Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, is going to Davos in person.
Climate crisis and inequality
The climate crisis remains a key issue at the WEF, although there is notable pushback from organisers as many participants arrive by private jet.
In the run up the 2022 meeting, climate activists took to the street in Zurich and staged an anti-WEF event. Climate is set to garner more attention due to several bleak milestones, as the last few years saw extreme weather with intense heatwaves and severe floods in Europe.
Further to this, protestors gathered in Davos itself to protest against rising inequality. Throughout the pandemic, the world’s ten richest men saw their fortunes double, according to an Oxfam report, rising from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion.
Yet the pandemic saw the incomes of the majority of humanity fall and over 160 million people forced into poverty, highlighting how the inequality that a few benefit from actually contributes to deaths of 21,000 people every day.
Many are left skeptical of the solutions that the Davos elite offer, including Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor of Fight Inequality Alliance, writing in Al Jazeera.
“Policy choices made by governments and international institutions throughout the pandemic have fallen woefully short of protecting people… But the richest few, who continued to increase their wealth in the past two years, are still benefitting from the crisis.”