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The 2024 World Economic Forum: Highlighted Topics

The World Economic Forum met this past week in Davos, Switzerland. This is one of the largest (if not the largest) annual conferences between international business and government leadership, who meet to discuss topics for the coming year. Here are some highlighted topics.

Leaders discussed the Middle East and how the spread of violence in the region is a concern. The Houthis, Hezbollah, and Iran have ramped up their efforts to disrupt supply chains and attack U.S. and Israeli bases. They are doing this as they believe that Israel’s violence will not stop at just Gaza and aim to make the region as hostile as possible for the U.S. to force them to change their Middle Eastern policy. Some at the WEF insisted that to ensure peace, violence such as Israel’s needs to stop, and restrictions on actions in the region need to be enforced - starting with the stop of settlements. Leaders brought up utilizing a broad strategy to ensure peace. One that would encompass all of the Middle East and that the cause of tension surpasses simply Israel and Hamas. On the topic of war, Zelinsky continued to meet with potential backers to support Ukraine’s effort to fight Russia. He met with many CEOs, including Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Ukrainian panelists would also often refer to the war when answering questions. 

AI was a hot topic, as the technology will likely impact all future industries. Its potential to both enhance and threaten national defenses makes leaders feel uneasy. A give-and-take is ongoing between regulators and developers to set a standard global regulation on AI. Regulation aims to make development safe and allow for continued innovation. However, regulation is difficult to substantiate due to countries racing to maximize AI capabilities. Standardized regulation for all countries would need to be enforced so that leaders can rest assured they aren’t being unfairly prohibited in development. Interesting points related to how leaders would need to reskill their labor forces to utilize AI and how other countries like the United Arab Emirates see developing AI as a “leapfrog opportunity.”

Environmental sustainability was a reoccurring discussion. The European Union has been developing a sustainable way forward with a possible green deal and a drafted plastics treaty. Europe calls for collaboration amongst its countries for sustainable solutions to make up for inadequate individual capabilities. As for the plastic treaty, this is Europe’s attempt to address the issue of microplastics and overall plastic pollution. It calls for a binding agreement that companies must abide by. It aims to help reimagine product delivery, packaging alternatives, international waste management, changing consumer behavior, monitoring standards, and consumer behavior. The need for clean energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions was also discussed. The U.S. was praised for continuing to develop energy solutions with hydrogen. The EU is happy to incorporate a green energy source such as Hydrogen to relieve dependence on Russian fossil fuels but would need assistance setting up. Unanimously, a desire to move away from a fossil fuel base was expressed among leaders. However, there was an emphasis on sustainable alternatives needing to be implemented in a way that does not negatively impact economies.


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