A virtual keynote speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be a focus of the first day of the World Economic Forum gathering of corporate executives, government officials and other VIPs that kicked off Monday in Davos, Switzerland.
The village in the Swiss Alps has been transformed into a glitzy venue for the four-day confab ostensibly dedicated to making the world a better place. The event is resuming in person after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also delayed this year’s meeting from its usual winter slot because of uncertainty over the omicron variant.
For the attendees, there’s much to tackle amid soaring food and fuel prices, Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change, inequality and persistent health crises. But it’s hard to predict if the high-minded discussions will yield substantial announcements that make headway on the world’s most pressing challenges.
The elite attendees have filled the conference venue, to both schmooze and listen to panel discussions on topics like the Russia-Ukraine war, climate change and the global economic outlook. Attendees also are visiting nearby pavilions on Davos’ main drag set up by companies like Intel, Accenture and Facebook owner Meta.
Besides Zelenskyy’s speech, there’s also a sizable Ukrainian government delegation attending in person, making their case for more Western support in the country’s fight against Russia.
Russian officials have not been invited to Davos this year, with what was dubbed the “Russia House” having been transformed by critics — including Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk and the country’s Foreign Ministry — into what they call the “Russia War Crimes House.”
The venue features photos of crimes and cruelties that Russian forces are accused of perpetuating. Some victims will speak out — including Anatoliy Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, a town near Kyiv where killings of civilians drew outrage.
While Ukraine will capture attention on the meeting’s first day, climate and environmental issues will be a constant theme as the forum looks to future challenges as much as the current ones.
One-third of the roughly 270 panel discussions through Thursday’s finale will focus on climate change or its effects, with extreme weather, efforts to reach “net zero” emissions and finding new, cleaner sources of energy on the agenda.
AP reporters Kelvin Chan and Peter Prengaman contributed from Davos.