As the world staggers away from a difficult 2020 marked by coronavirus and political unrest, the World Economic Forum (WEF) have proclaimed 2021 “A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust”. It is under this theme that the Davos Agenda 2021 - a virtual event taking place from 25-29 January - will convene as world leaders meet to address the world’s most pressing problems. 

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to reset priorities and the urgency to reform systems have been growing stronger around the world. Rebuilding trust and increasing global cooperation are crucial to fostering innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery,” says Klaus Schwab, WEF’s Founder and Executive Chairman. 

Participants will explore five themes to develop bold and innovative solutions to fight the pandemic and drive robust recovery in 2021. These include designing sustainable and resilient economic systems, driving responsible industry transformation and growth, enhancing stewardship of global commons, harnessing the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and advancing global and regional cooperation. 

More than 1,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 70 countries will take part. Leaders of international organisations include UN secretary-general António Guterres, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International will be among the civil society leaders present. 

SEE:World Economic Forum to be held in Singapore in May

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Chinese president Xi Jinping and German chancellor Angela Merkel will be among the government leaders who will address the forum. Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong will also grace the event. The US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry will be speaking on climate change at the event too. Key government officials including foreign ministers, finance ministers and central bankers will also be involved with the conference. 

“The private sector will be represented by more than 1,000 leaders from the Forum’s member and partner organizations. Seven of the top ten companies by market capitalization are engaged year-round with the Forum and many will participate in The Davos Agenda week. As a working meeting to advance ongoing project work, more than 500 chief executives and chairpersons will take part in sessions throughout the week,” the WEF told the media. 

The fruits of the week’s discussions will be fed into task forces working on global issues. These will subsequently be used to define the agenda of the WEF Special Annual Meeting in Singapore from 25-28 May. Aside from being the second time that the WEF Annual Meeting has been held outside Davos and the first time it has been held in Asia, Schwab notes that this will be the first in-person global summit that will take place since the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

The Davos Agenda will also see the launch of several new WEF initiatives. The goal is to move towards progress towards net-zero emissions, advocate for new standards for racial justice, ensure ethical Artificial Intelligence development in the global public interest and to close the digital divide. Further details on these initiatives will be disclosed at the meeting itself. 

SEE:The challenging arithmetic of climate action

WEF will also be releasing its Global Risks Report 2021 on 19 January in the run-up to the Davos Agenda. Professor Schwab will also launch his newest book on 25 January, “Stakeholder Capitalism: A Global Economy that Works for Progress, People and Planet.” The book explores how societies can build the future post-COVID based on the concept of “stakeholder capitalism”.

Schwab sees the Davos Agenda and the Singapore meeting as playing a crucial role in shaping the global agenda in the lead up to the G7, G20 and COP-26 meetings. Despite the event having to be virtual, Schwab is more than confident that the “spirit of Davos” will be on full display at the virtual event. 

“I am really encouraged by our partners. We have more partners now than we had at the beginning of the crisis, which shows that our partners are not just interested in networking...but they really want to engage,” shares the WEF founder.