The World Economic Forum's 2022 gathering in Davos next week will be "the most timely and consequential" in its 52-year history, its founder, Klaus Schwab, said, as global political and business leaders gather in the Swiss resort town against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and mounting fears about the outlook for the world economy and climate.
“The return of war, epidemics and the climate crisis, all those disruptive forces have derailed the global recovery,” Mr Schwab, the forum’s executive chairman, told journalists on a virtual briefing on Wednesday, ahead of the convention’s start on Sunday.
“Those issues must be confronted in Davos, and the global food crisis in particular needs our immediate attention.”
Following the cancellation of Davos last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 2,500 leaders from politics, business, civil society and media will participate in the 2022 event, which had been delayed from its usual timing in January.
Among those headlining the five-day forum are Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who will be addressing the summit virtually from Kyiv. Almost a dozen government officials from the war-torn country will actually attend Davos – the biggest high-ranking delegation to leave the country since Russia's invasion in late February. No Russian officials or business leaders have invited to this year's event.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz, US climate envoy John Kerry, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are among the event headliners.
More than 50 heads of state and government, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, and a similar number of finance ministers will also attend the forum, organisers said.
However, two Irish regulars at Davos – Bono and businessman Denis O’Brien – will not be attending this year, according to representatives for both men.
The gathering also takes place at a time of mounting concerns about the global economy as central banks seek to rein in monetary stimulus and embark on a cycle of interest rate hikes to combat a spike in inflation.
The European Central Bank is widely expected to increase its deposit rate, which is currently at minus 0.5 per cent, in July, following recent moves by the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to increase borrowing costs.
Nervous global investors have built up cash levels in their portfolios last seen in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, amid growing fears about the twin risks of low growth and high inflation, or stagflation, according to Bank of America’s latest monthly fund manager survey, published earlier in the week.
The US banking group described the latest outcome of its keenly followed investors survey as “extremely bearish”, with money managers viewing hawkish central banks, intent on winding down stimulus programmes and raising interest rates to combat inflation, as the biggest risk to the global economy.
“In a world which is becoming more fragmented, more divided, and where many of the traditional multilateral organisations tend to become dysfunctional, or at least mistrustful, a global platform based on informal, trust-faced and action-oriented co-operation will be ever more relevant, more important than before,” Mr Schwab said.