Terrorism and conflicts shadow global summit

The world's political and business elite gathered for their annual meeting in the glitzy Swiss ski resort of Davos on Wednesday, with the shadow of the Paris attacks and ongoing global conflicts looming large.

Terrorism and conflicts shadow global summit
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

French President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State John Kerry will be among the 2,500 movers and shakers thrashing out the burning issues of the day next to the frozen slopes, exactly two weeks after the deadly attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The bloodshed in France, which left 17 people dead, and efforts by Western countries to prevent returning jihadists planning attacks on home soil will be high on the agenda of the four-day Davos meeting.
Alongside top European and US leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel — whose country foiled an attack plot last week — the topic will be broached at a global level with Iraqi leaders including Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Kurdish leader Massud Barzani.
The raging Ukraine conflict will also to feature high on the agenda, but President Petro Poroshenko looked under pressure to leave the alpine resort early as events in Eastern Ukraine turned sharply for the worse.
"Both terrorism and geopolitics are likely to cast their shadows on this year's meeting. Both are serious threats to political stability in Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa," Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the IHS consultancy group, told AFP.
The deadly Ebola epidemic in west Africa is also under the spotlight, with top experts firing off harsh criticism of the World Health Organization at a breakfast talk.
"Sending people without experience in the region does not help," Hans Rosling, an influential professor of infectious diseases, told the panel.

"We need . . . specialists in epidemiology with a lot of experience."

 Champagne . . . caviar, not cheap

The "World Economic Forum" meeting comes as storm clouds gather over the global economy, with the International Monetary Fund slashing its world growth forecasts.

 A gloomy survey by consulting group PwC released Tuesday showed global business leaders are downbeat on the potential for economic growth in 2015.
The European Central Bank's much-awaited likely decision on Thursday to introduce a form of quantitative easing — a huge buy-up of government debt in the euro area — also focused attention among the assembled financial elite.
Former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber warned the ECB against taking too much action, saying governments are the ones that should be doing the heavy lifting to get the economy back into shape.
"The ECB can only be part of a fix in Europe. In my view they shouldn't go too far because the more they do, there is the incentive for governments to do less.
"And the problem is if you continue to buy time and the time is not used for reforms, you have to ask yourself if more of the same is the best recipe."
Greek election where anti-austerity leftists may come out on top will also be a top topic, as will the recent plunge in the price of oil.
China's Li Keqiang, the country's first premier to attend the forum since 2009, will on Wednesday seek to shore up international confidence in the Chinese economy and allay fears over slowing growth.
Ahead of the meeting, a report by charity Oxfam that wealth accumulated by the richest one percent will exceed that of the rest of the world in 2016, made headlines around the world.

Opening the event, organizer Klaus Schwab said: "We are here to be passionate and to show our compassion. Sharing and caring should be the motto of this meeting."
This being Davos, there will be no shortage of glamorous parties as CEOs and presidents rub shoulders with celebrities and journalists in the picture-perfect, snow-covered idyll.
Among the royalty in the ski resort is Jordan's King Abdullah II, Prince Albert of Monaco and Britain's Prince Andrew — the subject of lurid headlines this month that forced him to deny allegations that he had sex with a minor.
However, this year, the consumption of caviar and champagne might be restrained as even the deep-pocketed elite blanche at the prices.
Davos, already one of the most expensive places on the planet, became 30-percent dearer overnight last week after the Swiss central bank decided to scrap a 1.20 franc-to-the-euro cap that sent the unit sky-rocketing against the European single currency.

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Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May

The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its postponed 2021 Davos summit, themed as "The Great Reset" in the coronavirus crisis, will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland from May 18 to 21.

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May
Participants at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite traditionally takes place in January against the idyllic snowy backdrop of the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

But it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, charged with remodelling the world economy in the wake of the crisis, will now be held 125 kilometres (75 miles) away in the plush Burgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne.

“The meeting will take place as long as all conditions are in place to guarantee the health and safety of participants and the host community,” WEF spokesman Adrian Monck said in a statement.

“The meeting will focus on the solutions required to address the world's most pressing challenges. “Global leaders will come together to design a common recovery path, to shape 'The Great Reset' in the post-Covid-19 era and rebuild a more cohesive and sustainable society.”

Hybrid format

The WEF announced in June that the 51st edition of its annual meeting would take place in a hybrid format, then in August said it was being delayed for several months to reduce any risks to participants from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lucerne summit will combine both in-person and virtual elements, with participants linked to a network of around 400 hubs worldwide to incorporate dialogue with the WEF's “young global shapers, to ensure openness and inclusion”, said Monck.

The summit will be preceded during the week of January 25 by digitally-convened high-level “Davos Dialogues”, when global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.04 million people while at least 35.5 million infections have been recorded since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

The pandemic has also triggered a global economic downturn, though the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that while it is far from over, it will not be as bad as originally feared thanks to a flood of government spending.

The World Trade Organization said likewise, forecasting a global trade contraction of 9.2 percent this year, rather than its previous “optimistic scenario” prediction of 12.9 percent.

But global trade will then grow by only 7.2 percent next year, rather than the previous 21.3-percent estimate issued in April, the WTO added.

Swiss cases rising

The WEF announcement comes as Switzerland announced Wednesday that daily coronavirus cases had jumped over the 1,000-mark for the first time since April 1, when the peak of the pandemic's initial wave began to recede.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has urged the country to “get a grip” and be more rigorous in applying the basic measures to control the spread of the virus.

The 2020 edition of the WEF summit, hosted in January just as the world was beginning to become aware of the new coronavirus spreading in China, drew more than 50 heads of state and government to Davos.

It focused on themes of sustainability and finding a more inclusive model for capitalism. US President Donald Trump and Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg were among its top speakers.

The WEF said it aims to be back in Davos for 2022.