World Economic Forum Chair Klaus Schwab told elected officials and corporate leaders gathered at the organization’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday that the world’s present economic and geopolitical challenges are opportunities for “transformation.”
The organization is a leading proponent of stakeholder capitalism, an economic philosophy in which executives consider the needs of communities and other parties in addition to shareholders, as well as increased cooperation between public and private actors to chart the direction of mankind.
“We are confronted with unprecedented and multiple challenges. First, our global economy is undergoing deep transformation,” Schwab said during his opening address. “The energy transition, the consequences of COVID, the reshaping of supply chains are all serving as catalytic forces for the economic transformation.”
He said large corporations and social media companies are now among the “messy patchwork” of superpowers, emerging powers, and rogue states “all competing increasingly for power and influence.” The German economist added that the world is marked by “increased fragmentation and confrontation.”
Schwab, who has led the controversial organization for decades, garnered worldwide notoriety for suggesting that the lockdown-induced recession presents an opportunity for elites to craft a “Great Reset” of the planet’s economic and social systems. He repeated many of the tenets of the plan during his speech.
“The spirit of Davos is positive and constructive. It means investing into a greener and therefore more sustainable economy, investing into a more cohesive society by providing everyone with the appropriate skills and opportunities, investing into the hard and soft infrastructure that modern societies require,” he said. “Through collective responsibility, innovation, and human goodwill and ingenuity, we have the capacity to turn such challenges into opportunities.”
Other prominent speakers who addressed the conference on Tuesday included Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, who remarked that the “combined influence” of the assembled nations and corporate interests is “bigger than the weight” of their common problems. “That is why it is all the more important right now to use this influence when Russia’s invasion threatens a large-scale collapse of the world as we know it,” she added.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen likewise affirmed that “Europe will always stand with the Ukrainian people” and commented that policymakers would still endeavor to “reach net zero” carbon emissions despite energy shortfalls worsened by the invasion.
The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum conference is “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” which involves “how we can tackle the numerous and interlinked challenges the world is facing and find solutions through public-private cooperation,” according to a press release from the organization. Several officials from the Biden administration are in attendance, including Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who is listed as a featured speaker on a panel about governments and corporations using “the power of catalytic philanthropy” for climate investments.
Other American officials, such as Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), and “a few members of the House of Representatives” took part in a luncheon at the conference alongside dozens of prominent executives on Monday, according to a report from CNBC. Manchin and Coons respectively discussed energy policy and governmental support of Ukraine.