Stage set for 50th edition of World Economic Forum

DAVOS, Switzerland (AA): Amid global upheavals such as the escalation in northwestern Idlib city of Syria, the ongoing civil war in Libya and a U.S.-Iran crisis, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual gathering is set to begin on Jan. 21 in Davos, Switzerland.

About 3,000 people, of which 24% are women, from 117 countries, are set to gather in the Davos ski town of the Swiss Alps for the 50th anniversary of the WEF. U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among 53 heads of state or government who will be attending the forum.

With a focus on reshaping capitalism, this year’s Davos Summit — themed Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World — will deliberate on making the world a better place, protect the planet from climate change, and especially establish bridges to resolve conflicts in global hotspots.

Beginning on Jan. 21, the four-day annual gathering will be held under the shadow of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its ensuing huge transformations in the global economy, from the rise of China and the big tech sector to worsening income inequality and the emergence of ethical companies.

Top political leaders

Among those who are attending at this year’s summit is Trump with a large delegation including his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

Struggling with impeachment charges against him, Trump will give the first keynote speech on the first day of the meeting.

Special addresses are expected to be given by Merkel, Iraq’s President Barham Salih, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Turkey has a very strong ministerial representation with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, Turkey’s Central Bank Governor Murat Uysal.

Albayrak and his French counterpart Bruno Le Mair will speak at a session titled Shaping the Global Growth Agenda, focusing on the issues such as global debt levels, inflation, and interest rates.

Historic ‘one minute’ clash

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was invited to this year’s meeting but he will not be attending it, as he once pledged “I will never come to Davos again” after a historic debate on Gaza with then Israeli president Shimon Peres during a session in 2009’s forum.

Erdogan, who served as prime minister at that time, stormed off the stage at the WEF since he had been given much less time to speak than the Israeli leader.

“One minute” he called several times as the session’s moderator tried to stop him from talking on Israeli’s occupation in Gaza.

Climate heroes at Davos

At this year’s Davos summit, young climate activists aim to mobilize corporates in responding to the risks of climate change, ensuring that measures to protect biodiversity span the globe from forest floors to ocean beds.

Greta Thunberg, a renowned teenage climate activist, will be in Davos along with other activists such as Cruz Erdmann, 14, an award-winning marine wildlife photographer, and 13-year-old Naomi Wadler, a campaigner in the U.S. against gun violence.

Davos in its 50th year

Since 1971, Davos summits have been a mirror of major world events of their time — from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the rise of economic globalization and runaway climate change.

Another remarkable highlight, according to WEF’s website, was the tense relationship between Greece and Turkey.

Two countries almost escalated into war in 1988 but thanks to the meetings at Davos between then Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal and his Greece’s counterpart Andreas Papandreou built enough trust to stave off conflict.

At Davos 1988, they negotiated and signed the Davos Declaration aimed at normalizing relations.

The summit will host more than 1,000 media representatives — one for every three participants — to keep the public informed.

This year, over 150 sessions that would be open to public attendance can be watched online.