After Covid-19 hiatus, Davos paints gloomy world picture

Here is a roundup of the main issues tackled by the World Economic Forum at the Annual Meeting 2022

By AFP
Published: May 27, 2022 11:23:43 AM IST
Updated: May 27, 2022 12:01:16 PM IST

After Covid-19 hiatus, Davos paints gloomy world pictureParticipants with Permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations office in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko (R) Ukrainian former boxer Wladimir Klitschko (2nd R) and Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko (3rd R) applaud the speech of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (screen) following his address by video conference during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 23, 2022. (Credits: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP​)


From the Ukraine conflict to warnings of climate cataclysm and soaring inflation, the world's political and business elites tackled some gloomy matters in their first Davos summit in more than two years.

Instead of the usual snowy winter wonderland of past gatherings, grey skies and rain added to the gloomy mood during the four-day forum that wrapped up Thursday.

The 2021 World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic and the Omicron variant forced this year's event to be postponed until spring.

Here is a roundup of the main issues tackled by the WEF:

Zelensky demands more weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was the guest of honour on Monday, appearing via video link in his trademark olive green T-shirt.

He called for "maximum" sanctions against Russia following Moscow's invasion of its neighbour, including an oil ban and an end to all trade with the country.

Three months into the Russian assault, with bombing and artillery strikes intensifying in the eastern Donbas region, Zelensky asked above all for more weapons—echoed by his country's representatives present in person throughout the summit.

Zelensky complained that if Kyiv had received "100 percent of our needs at once back in February, the result would have been tens of thousands of lives saved".

Third World War 

US billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros added to the sombre mood during his traditional dinner speech on the sidelines of the WEF.

"The invasion (of Ukraine by Russia) may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilisation may not survive it," Soros said.

He also took aim at the "two dictators", Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Clouds over global economy 

International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva warned that the Ukraine war means the world faces "a crisis on top of a crisis", following hard on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Families were already struggling with higher energy and food prices and "the war has made this much worse."

While most countries are still forecast to achieve positive growth, the future is "extraordinarily uncertain", Georgieva said, warning of a deep divide between rich and poor countries.

Even in advanced countries, inflation "has become a clear and present danger" and "a massive setback for the global recovery," she said.

Hunger fears 

Russia's invasion of its neighbour has raised fears that it could lead to hunger in other countries as Ukraine is a major agricultural power that is now unable to ship its wheat and cooking oil.

"We're taking food from the hungry to give it to the starving," World Food Programme director David Beasley said.

"What do you think is going to happen when you take a nation that normally grows enough food to feed 400 million people, and you sideline them?" he added.

Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said 200 million face acute hunger.

"When people are not able to feed themselves, governments are not able to provide for food in the marketplace, then politics quickly moves on to the street," Steiner warned.

Ukrainian officials said they were in talks with the United Nations about the possibility of creating a safe passage for ships that would carry wheat and grains out of the port of Odessa.

Climate fears 

US Climate Envoy John Kerry also came to the WEF with a warning.

"We should not allow a false narrative to be created that what has happened in Ukraine somehow obviates the need to continue forward and to accelerate even what we are trying to do to address the crisis of the climate," Kerry said.

Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, said some countries "may end up burning more coal" due to supply fears and soaring energy prices in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Noting that emissions rose six percent last year and coal use jumped nine percent, Kerry warned in a panel discussion: "Wrong direction folks. That's before Ukraine. Before Ukraine."

By Sophie ESTIENNE

© Agence France-Presse

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