World Economic Forum 2023: 5 Key Takeaways

World Economic Forum 2023: 5 Key Takeaways

By Thales Dantas

The World Economic Forum is an international not-for-profit organization focused on promoting cooperation between the public and private sectors. Under the banner of their mission statement – “committed to improving the state of the world”, the epicenter of their work is the World Economic Forum 2023 annual meeting, which brings together heads of state, corporations, media, and civil society representatives in the small Swiss town of Davos to discuss international agendas and kickstart projects addressing global concerns.

This year’s Davos meeting had the them “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”, and assembled over 2,700 leaders across 130 countries leaders engaged in 480 sessions, with the overriding focus on solutions and impact on key topics, such as gender equality, climate change, global economic outlook, innovation and technology, geopolitical order and many others. Here are some 5 key takeaways from this year’s meeting.

1. Polycrisis is the word of the moment

The word polycrisis was heard in many sessions and corridor conversations at Davos. The new catchy term is a short word to convey the current state of the world: an era filled with uncertainties and global problems that need urgent attention. 

While a broad term, a “polycrisis” is an attempt to bridge the gap between the many global issues that are commonly addressed individually, ignoring the interconnectedness of such matters. Seen by many as a response to a decades-long process of globalization and global prosperity with minimal respect to the socio-environmental causes that underline any economic growth, the current polycrisis links the dots between major challenges faced by society.

Climate change and its drastic events, wars that break supply chains and reduce energy security, the rising number of refugees seeking asylum in the last decade, global pandemics, and the aftermath of the expected recession to come – these are some of the issues that make the patchwork of a polycrisis that threatens global stability at the moment. 

2. Global fragmentation is a trend worth fighting against

The general tone of Davos showed that the current global disruption is not slowing down anytime soon. The global fragmentation generated by the COVID pandemic, the rising tensions between the United States and China, and the war against Russia and Ukraine, mark a period of geopolitical and economic uncertainties. 

In the words of UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres during his special address, the war between Russia and Ukraine, which marked the year 2022 and was a central topic in all the “fragmentation conversations”, is still far from a resolution. The Secretary-general followed his address by stating that the effects of the war on international supply chains and in the energy sector will be an ongoing risk for the year to come. 

In this context, major corporations and world leaders made the case that to solve that problem, a higher market and supply-chain diversification would be a much better and more inclusive solution rather than regional economic decoupling. The Davos spirit was true to the Meeting’s theme – fragmentation would only be solved by (new forms of) cooperation. 

3. Accelerating global energy transition and climate change mitigation is a top priority

The energy transition was the most widespread topic during the whole week at Davos. From climate change to the Russo-Ukrainian war and the international policies recently proposed by major economies – the need to move away from fossil fuels was at the center of all those dialogues.

One thing was clear: the energy crisis has accelerated the shift to green energy. Controversy, the concerns related to climate change are not the main drivers of such accelerated transition. In the words of Fatih Birol, IEA’S Executive Director, the main reason for the recent growth in renewable energy is energy security rather than climate concerns. 

But one does not invalidate the other. A net-zero future can only be achieved by balancing the energy transition and energy resilience, and in this context, green hydrogen sits high on everyone’s agenda.

4. New technologies shaping the new normal

The Metaverse and ChatGPT excited the curiosity of the Meeting’s participants as global leaders tried to understand how these technologies would shape the years to come. 

ChatGPT was new to the majority of attendees at the Meeting, but it spanked their attention as just days before the beginning of the event Microsoft announced a $10 Billion investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. The tool can create content, images, and even code on demand via conversations with a chatbot. During his participation in the event, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella mentioned that this new high-tech solution can bridge the gap between those in need by revolutionizing communication and education options. Since Davos, the frenzy surrounding ChatGPT has only increased as Microsoft slowly introduces its roadmap to include ChatGPT and organizations from different sectors study the possible use of technology in their areas and Microsoft announced the inclusion of new features capitalizing on its capabilities. 

The Metaverse was also heavily discussed during Davos. Participants had the chance to once again visit the WEF’s Global Collaboration Village and enter the metaverse to experience the latest advancements in virtual reality. The World Economic Forum 2023 envisions that the metaverse can be a powerful tool to break geographical barriers and create a space to bring leaders together for global interactions (Will the annual meeting happen virtually in the future? Maybe). Additionally, the WEF signals that the metaverse could aid decision-makers by taking them out of the board room and bringing them to the (virtual) field, anywhere, anytime, and no matter how harsh the conditions are, which would increase the quality of the decisions made.

But of course, the metaverse conversations were also fueled with controversy. Cathy Li, head of Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment & Sport at the WEF, Geneva, said there is “there is tremendous economic and societal value” in the metaverse, but if left unregulated, “then there might be issues with privacy, safety and security”. But, in the words of Huda Al Hashimi, deputy minister of cabinet affairs for strategic affairs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one thing is certain: “The metaverse will be part of our lives whether we like it or not.”

5. Will 2023 be marked by a recession?

This year’s annual meeting kicked off amid fears of a deep recession. While the idea of a growing global recession was almost unanimous among the global elite at Davos, the real question was “how bad will it be?” The answer is more positive than what many might have expected. 

Two-thirds of a group of senior chief economists surveyed by the WEF think that the 2023 recession will happen, but their tone was least anticipated. The general tone points to a “mild” recession to come. While the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in the words of its deputy managing director, sees a “tough year ahead”, but with “signs of resilience”, there are also many points of uncertainty, such as the geopolitical instability due to the current wars, the economical performance of China and the US, and unemployment rates rise in several sectors due to the ongoing layoff waves. 

In this context, Kristalina Georgieva, IMF’s managing director, urged world leaders to “stay put”, as she announces that global inflation appears to be plateauing and moderate growth is expected. She followed by stating that a 2.7% global growth project is expected, which is “not fabulous”, but better than what was expected months ago as “the strength of labor markets translating into consumer spending and keeping the economy up”. Although positive news, the fight against the recession will be felt worldwide throughout 2023. 


In conclusion, the World Economic Forum 2023 promises to be a pivotal moment for global leaders and policymakers as they come together to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. From economic recovery to climate change, from social inequality to technological disruption, the forum provides a unique platform for dialogue and collaboration on these critical issues. With its focus on innovation, sustainability, and inclusive growth, the World Economic Forum 2023 will undoubtedly generate fresh ideas and solutions that can help shape a more prosperous and equitable future for all. As we look towards this important event, it is clear that the global community must work together in a spirit of cooperation and shared responsibility to ensure a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.

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