War tensions around the world and the exponential growth of Artificial Intelligence are the main topics that will concern the “rich and powerful” at this year’s Davos.

“Rebuilding Trust” (Rebuilding Trust) is the motto of the 54th World Economic Forum which starts on Monday in Davos, Switzerland and lasts for five days. More than 2,800 participants from the world’s business elite, together with 60 heads of state and government, are here to discuss or rethink important aspects of globalization. Their agenda includes, among other things, the war conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the use of Artificial Intelligence with all that it implies for increasing productivity and the labor market, concerns about a new international debt crisis, the consequences of climate change.

As World Economic Forum (WEF) CEO Mirek Dusek told reporters, “the agenda is a response to the erosion of trust that is evident in our nations and societies. Some would say that it is also connected to deep changes that are happening around us, geopolitical, geo-economic changes or also changes concerning the climate and the protection of the environment”.

Diplomatic background on Gaza, Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Argentina’s new president Javier Millay and Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis are participating in this year’s session of the World Economic Forum, among others.

Possible consultations on the war in Gaza are awaited with interest. In the Swiss resort will be the American Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the Israeli President Isaac Herzog, as well as the Prime Minister of Qatar Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country has so far assumed a key role in the behind-the-scenes negotiations to conclude a truce, but also the “next day” in the Middle East.

The war in Ukraine remains in focus, for another year. The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is attending Davos, while at the same time intensifying his efforts to provide new economic and military aid from his Western allies. However, according to the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, on Sunday Zelensky made a stopover in Bern, in order to present to representatives of 80 countries a ten-point plan to resolve the crisis. Swiss Foreign Minister Ignacio Cassis spoke of a plan “that can be a basis for peace”, while Zelensky’s close associate Andriy Yermak also sees “encouraging signs”.

Prices are rising, growth is stifling

Concern over international economic developments is also evident. Growth rates are struggling to recover, the cost of living is getting more expensive, and interest rates remain high. According to recent World Bank estimates, at the end of 2024 the international economy will register the lowest growth rates of the last 30 years.

But while the US is resisting and still showing high growth rates, geopolitical instability is weighing on many other countries. In addition, slowing growth in China, the world’s second-largest economy, is causing shockwaves in developing economies in Asia and Africa, exacerbating the chronic problem of high debt.

According to the United Nations, about 3.3 billion people live today in countries that pay more money for interest payments than for public health and education. The problem is exacerbated by rising food and energy prices. African leaders such as Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto will attempt to sensitize participants to the issue of public debt.

Leonard Stiegler, entrepreneur, publisher and media investor, joins the Africa Collective platform, which promotes Africa’s interests internationally. In his view, “the point is to build trust in Africa, which offers significant opportunities. When we talk about future jobs, when we talk about attracting human resources, Africa gives us solutions and this is something that African leaders will point to.”

Artificial Intelligence is also on the table

The explosive development of Artificial Intelligence also offers business opportunities, but at the same time, it causes strong concerns. Not only for the looming loss of many jobs, but also for the risks of disinformation that its reckless use entails, and indeed in a year of crucial electoral contests in Europe, the USA, India and elsewhere.

This is pointed out by the World Economic Forum’s latest research, released on Wednesday, which warns that falsified information may well be used for dark purposes, causing social unrest or other side effects. The comment of Mirek Dusek from the World Economic Forum: “Last year we saw an exponential growth of Productive Artificial Intelligence in the market. We want to look positively even at the paranoia of cutting-edge technologies and have already put the issue up for discussion in a dialogue between the public and private sectors. We don’t want to be left behind in the developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence…”

Asutos Pandey
Edited by: Yiannis Papadimitriou