More than two years later, the world has been turned by the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But for the rich and powerful to come Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, little has changed.
“Davos is an example of one of the biggest challenges society faces at the moment, self-congratulatory elites,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor of management at Yale University who speaks regularly with many well-known CEOs.
The conference – which famously combines high-level debates with flashy parties – aims to bring important people together to tackle pressing issues such as inequality, climate change, the future of technology and geopolitical conflict. But the logic behind calling on some of the richest people on earth to solve these problems from a resort town seems more shaky these days.
“The past two years have dramatically illustrated what has been true for some time now, which is that the affluent elite not only leaves the rest of the world behind, but thrives delicately by trampling on everyone’s necks,” he said. Anand Giridhardas, author of Winners Take All: An Elite Charade to Change the World.
The main event will likely be a speech on Monday by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is expected to participate via video link. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are also scheduled to deliver speeches later in the week, in which they will be examined as EU countries struggle to agree on a formal oil embargo against Russia.
In the past, Russian politicians and oligarchs were an integral part of Davos. Founder Klaus Schwab has always emphasized that dialogue and deeper economic ties can promote peace between political opponents.
“At this moment in history where the world has a unique and short opportunity to move from an era of confrontation to an era of cooperation, being able to hear your voice — the voice of the President of the Russian Federation — is essential,” Schwab said when introducing Putin in 2021.
In 2020, the CEOs of Lukoil, Sberbank and Yandex were on the list of attendees, along with the country’s Minister of Energy.
Putin will not attend this year. And no Russian official, tycoons, or Russian executives will do so. Instead, the program features discussions on issues such as “Cold War 2.0” and “Back to War”.