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What is the 2023 Davos World Economic Forum? Who attends and when and where is it?

The annual environmental conference returns next week, bringing together world leaders and business chiefs to discuss global problems.

Global leaders gather for Davos 2023

Representatives from more than 100 countries will meet in the Swiss Alps next week for the annual World Economic Forum meeting. The five-decade-old event is held in the Alpine town of Davos and brings together business and government leaders to discuss some of the biggest issues facing the world.

After two years of pandemic-related disruption, the meeting returns with its usual format of a week-long winter summit. This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting will run from Monday 16 to Friday 20 January.

A statement on the organisation’s website explains: “The world today is at a critical inflection point. The sheer number of ongoing crises calls for bold collective action.”

“It will provide a platform to engage in constructive, forward-looking dialogues and help find solutions through public-private cooperation.”

What is the World Economic Forum?

Founded in 1971 by Swiss-German economist Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum (WEF) was an attempt to build global cooperation to deal with the biggest issues of the day.

The WEF is a rare example of both public and private sectors being brought together in a bid to find a common solution, and attendees come from all around the world. Issues in question can be related to political, social, and economic concerns and the purpose, expressed in the organisation’s mission statement, is: “Committed to improving the state of the world”.

Who will be at Davos this year?

Some of the most recognisable figures on the planet, from politicians to musicians, have attended the meeting in recent years. The likes of Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg, and Elton John have all made the trip to Davos for the occasion.

Only one leader of a G8 leader, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, will be attending this year. However the heads another 40 countries will be there, including Belgium, Colombia, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, Korea, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain.

Also there will be former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the US’ climate change envoy John Kerry.

Why is it held in Davos?

Davos is a small Alpine town and ski resort, home to a permanent population of little more than 10,000 people. It was the location of very first WEF meeting back in 1971 and the word ‘Davos’ has become synonymous with the event.

It is one of the most exclusive skiing areas in the world and its status as a high-end resort has raised some questions about its appropriateness as a venue for important change. Once a year Davos successfully brings together the influential elites that have the power to make a positive change in the world, but it has been criticised as a glitzy getaway mascaraing as a meeting.

In 2022, for example, more than a thousand planes flew in and out of airports near Davos in during the days of the meeting. It is estimated that private jet emissions quadrupled during the period as a result of Davos travel. This, at a summit where attendees discussed the dangers of climate change.

Speaking to The Guardian, Klara Maria Schenk, a member of the Greenpeace European mobility campaign, said: “The rich and powerful are swarming to Davos to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors, using the most unequal and polluting form of transport: private jets.

She continued: “Meanwhile, Europe is experiencing its warmest January days on record and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis.”


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