The World Economic Forum 2023: Expectations and Realities 

Our world is increasingly plagued with war, famine, and poverty. Leaders will meet during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos between January 16 – 20 to discuss existing predicaments and suggest solutions. However, experts doubt whether proactive actions will be undertaken.

The past year witnessed numerous adverse events, such as the Russo-Ukrainian war and the US-China trade war. As a result, Europe is concerned about its energy security, while millions of people ponder about their food security. 

In light of these circumstances, WEF identifies imminent and long-term risks. Among the former, the cost-of-living crisis, natural disasters, and geo-economic confrontations are noteworthy. The failure to mitigate climate change ranks high among the latter. Several high-ranking personalities, ranging from the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund to the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, are, therefore, expected to discuss these issues.

Global Economy: Ghosts of Recession

IMF foresees a major economic slowdown for 2023. As such, there are several economic concerns. The cost-of-living crisis is looming, inequality gaps are widening, and inflation and debt distress pose difficulties. Worse, governments, even financial institutions, need help to address such problems. In short, the future is not bright.

The flip side of the coin is not any brighter. The global economic order is undergoing turbulent times. China’s rise to global influence elicits mixed feelings. Hence, protectionism is rising, and Western countries are adopting more aggressive policies. Consequently, visions of a globalised world are slowly eroding. 

Therefore, WEF aspires to discuss the future of globalisation, trade, growth, and investment, focusing on sustainability and resiliency. Moreover, it will lay the views of its prominent members on how to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and recession. The Forum will also examine future monetary and industrial policies, including policies regarding cryptocurrencies. 

A Wide Array of Issues

Climate change is real. Global temperatures are rising, and the world is already witnessing natural disasters. This year, Pakistan went through severe floods. Tuvalu is threatened by the high tides and will likely become non-inhabitable soon. WEF puts climate change at the top of its agenda, with meetings covering climate finance, decarbonisation, and climate-related issues such as water supply and food security.

WEF will also explore tech-related subjects, such as artificial intelligence, data collaboration, and cyberspace protection. 

Moreover, energy is at the top of EU concerns for 2023. Europe feared a dark and cold winter in 2022. Germany, for example, took several energy-saving measures to keep its natural gas storage at a sufficient level. So far, the worst-case scenario has been averted. While Europe can no longer rely on cheap Russian gas, it does not have enough natural gas storage. Therefore, Brussels must contemplate radical solutions. 

Given the importance of energy for security and the environment, WEF will explore energy-related issues, such as energy resilience, affordability, sustainability, net-zero energy technologies, and energy transition.

Meanwhile, the importance of businesses in addressing global crises is more apparent than ever. With the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially the manufacturing of vaccines, the business sector made a case for its significance. Thus, WEF approaches business and investment-related issues from numerous vantage points: quiet quitting, diversity, start-ups, inclusiveness, investment in times of uncertainty, and investing in intangible assets. 

Initiating Effective Actions: Why the Prospects are Dim?

Talking about problems and suggesting solutions are easy. The challenge is to allocate responsibilities and put action plans in motion.

2022 has mostly revealed the impotence of the international community. For example, the UN Security Council could not pass a resolution on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The highest UN instances were paralysed until Türkiye spearheaded the grain deal to address the worsening food crisis. Meanwhile, several countries, including the US, initiated questionable trade restrictions, which contradict the rulings of the World Trade Organization, amid general apathy. 

Given the complexities associated with these dossiers, the chances of any magic bullet solutions at Davos are dim. The Forum does not have the power to make decisions; it can only influence decisions. Nevertheless, WEF remains significant because it sets the stage for critical discussions by reputable personalities to draw attention to important issues. 

Amid the gloomy picture, there are some bright spots too. For example, this year, the negotiations on a new WTO Agreement on Investment Facilitation for Development are expected to conclude. The launch of a coalition of Trade Ministers for Climate is also on this year’s agenda. 

The World Economic Forum 2023: At the Crossroads to a New Global Order

The world is going through tectonic shifts. Last year’s events already proved that. This year does not seem to be different either. Even if it carries low probabilities for prompting drastic actions, WEF remains an important platform to analyse the world’s present and future.

This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the website Middle East Monitor.

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