Smriti Irani, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Hardeep Puri to represent India in WEF Davos meeting

The annual meeting, which will be held under the theme of 'Rebuilding Trust' from January 15-19, will also be attended by nearly 100 political and business leaders from India.

January 14, 2024 02:34 pm | Updated 03:20 pm IST - Davos

A logo is pictured in the Congress Center ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on January 13, 2024.

A logo is pictured in the Congress Center ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on January 13, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Grappling for answers to crises ranging from climate to conflicts to fake news, more than 2,800 leaders from around the world, including India, have begun gathering in this Alpine resort town for an annual five-day talkathon.

Those present for the 54th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting beginning on January 15 would include over 60 heads of state and governments, while Indian presence would be marked by three Union ministers, three chief ministers along with their ministerial colleagues and over a hundred CEOs.

Also Read | World Economic Forum 2024: Leaders gather in Davos to discuss climate, conflicts to economic crisis

A day before the ceremonial start to the WEF meeting, Davos is hosting for the first time national security advisors from 90 countries to discuss a peace plan for Ukraine, which would also be a key point of discussion at the WEF sessions, alongside the Israel-Gaza conflict, threats from AI-generated deep fakes in a bumper election year, climate change, economic slowdown, and a lot many problems before the world.

The World Economic Forum, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation committed to improving the state of the world, has been hosting this meeting in Davos for over five decades, and many times, there have been positive outcomes for key concerns before the world leaders.

Complicated and challenging geopolitical scenario

In an online pre-meeting press conference, WEF President Borge Brende said the meeting will take place in a very complicated and the most challenging geopolitical and geo-economic scenario.

The annual meeting, which will be held under the theme of 'Rebuilding Trust' from January 15-19, will also be attended by nearly 100 political and business leaders from India.

Also Read | After GIM 2024, Industries Minister heads to World Economic Forum

The Indian delegation would include three Union ministers — Smriti Irani, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Hardeep Singh Puri — as well as three chief ministers — Maharashtra's Eknath Shinde, Telangana's Revanth Reddy and Karnataka's Siddaramaiah.

Describing India as a key country with over 8% GDP growth, Brende said several ministers from the country will attend the meeting despite being in the middle of an election season.

Besides, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das and Ministers from Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana will be also there, alongside several CEOs, including Gautam Adani, Sanjiv Bajaj, Kumar Mangalam Birla, N Chandrasekaran, Nadir Godrej, Sajjan Jindal, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Nandan Nilekani, Rishad Premji and Sumant Sinha.

The meeting will be attended by over 40 Finance Ministers and 16 central bank governors, as well as by 30 trade ministers from across the world, along with the World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Macron, Li Qiang, Zelenskyy, Blinken to attend

Among global leaders, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will take part.

Key Foreign Ministers from the Middle East will be also there.

The WEF said the meeting will drive dialogue, cooperation and partnerships on global imperatives, including economic growth, climate and nature action, energy security, technology governance and human development.

"We face a fractured world and growing societal divides, leading to pervasive uncertainty and pessimism. We have to rebuild trust in our future by moving beyond crisis management, looking at the root causes of the present problems, and building together a more promising future," WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said.

The meeting will also be attended by South Korean President Han Duck-soo, Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Swiss President Viola Amherd, Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Iraq President Mohammed Shyaa Al Sudani, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Heads of international organisations taking part include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank President Ajay S Banga, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Misinformation and societal polarisation, key topic of discussion

An estimated 1,600 business leaders, including 800-plus of the world's top CEOs and chairpersons, will also participate, while there will also be more than 150 global innovators, tech pioneers and unicorns, as also over 35 cultural leaders.

With a large number of countries, including India and the US, headed to elections this year and the next one, misinformation and societal polarisation have emerged among the biggest immediate risks before the world, and that would be a key topic of discussion at the WEF meeting.

In the case of India alone, 'misinformation and disinformation' pose the top-most threat in the next two years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in its annual 'Global Risks Report'.

It is followed by infectious diseases, illicit economic activity, income inequality and labour shortage, among the five biggest short-term risks.

On a longer-term horizon of ten years, the biggest global risk would be from extreme weather events.

The report, released ahead of the WEF's five-day annual meeting in Davos beginning January 15, argued that cooperation on urgent global issues could be in increasingly short supply, requiring new approaches to addressing risks.

"Two-thirds of global experts anticipate a multipolar or fragmented order to take shape over the next decade, in which middle and great powers contest and set 'but also enforce' new rules and norms," it said.

On a short-term horizon of two years, the report identified 'misinformation and disinformation' as the biggest risk, followed by extreme weather events, societal polarisation, cyber insecurity and inter-state armed conflict in the top five.

Emerging as the most severe global risk anticipated over the next two years, foreign and domestic actors alike will leverage misinformation and disinformation to further widen societal and political divides, the report said.

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