As billionaires, heads of state, and the world’s corporate elite head to Davos, Switzerland, this week for the annual World Economic Forum, only snow threatens to throw a wet blanket on the festivities.
More than 60 heads of state and government, including U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as hundreds of business leaders, academics, civil-society advocates, and celebrities begin meeting for four days from January 23 in the Swiss mountain village under the banner “Creating A Shared Future In A Fractured World.”
With the global economy surging, the Dow Jones Industrial Average above the 26,000 mark for the first time ever, and optimism that an overhaul of the U.S. tax system will boost corporate earnings, optimism is high as the gathering at the luxurious ski resort in the Alps gets under way.
“I’m happy [for the snow] because it provides Davos with what it should be — the aspect of a global village, but a village where you know nature plays still a very important role and, in our discussion, the whole environmental issue will also be at the forefront of what we do here,” the forum’s chairman, Klaus Schwab, told Reuters in an interview on January 21.
Heavy snow in the Alps has made travel difficult in many regions, and Switzerland went on avalanche alert on January 22 after fresh snow fell.
Inside the halls of the forum, some 400 debates and panels will be convened on topics such as economic growth, the environment, terrorism, artificial intelligence, the outlook for Africa, and ways that refugees can contribute to their host countries.
A decade after the bankruptcy of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers helped trigger a global financial crisis that plunged economies into recession, Trump is expected to dominate much of the conversation even before his speech on the final day of the forum.
Minor protests have already been held, while another was expected in Zurich on January 23 even though authorities had already rejected a request by left-wing groups to demonstrate in the village on January 25, saying there wasn’t enough space because of heavy snowfalls.
Still, a Swiss anti-Trump petition, calling on the U.S. president to stay away, has garnered more than 16,000 supporters online.
The move to halt the protest was “a way of hiding behind the power of global elites,” Tamara Funiciello, the head of Switzerland’s Young Socialists, was quoted by AP as saying, adding that the authorities “need stronger spines.”
Swiss police are deploying more than 4,300 officers to the region to help with security, which officials say is on similar to levels from previous years even though it will be only the second visit by a serving U.S. president.
The rock-star treatment of guests doesn’t stop with the corporate elite at Davos. Singer Elton John and actress Cate Blanchett are just two of the dozens of celebrities expected to attend to raise awareness of social issues during panel discussions, lunches, and cocktail parties.
The forum this year will also include several sessions on sexual harassment, a nod to the #MeToo movement that erupted after allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and others.
In the face of charges of sexism, the forum this year has appointed seven female co-chairwomen, including Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM.