At the Annual Meeting, the World Economic Forum officially launched the Risk Response Network - a practical framework for the global community to improve global risk management. The need for such a mechanism for global cooperation was underscored just days before participants gathered when terrorists attacked Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. In an opening address to 2,500 participants in the enlarged Congress Hall of the freshly renovated and expanded Congress Centre in Davos, Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev declared: “All our efforts to further develop the world economy will be for nothing if we fail to defeat terrorism, extremism and intolerance, if we fail to eradicate altogether these evils which are the greatest danger to mankind.”
Medvedev was one of over 35 heads of state or government at the Annual Meeting, where all of the permanent members of the G20 were represented at the ministerial level or higher. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy which would host the World Economic Forum on East Asia later in the year, warned of increasing food and energy prices and how they can lead to increased poverty and social and political unrest. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France declared that his country and Germany would never permit the euro to collapse. He reminded participants that European integration and cooperation had ensured peace and stability on the continent for more than six decades.
Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan, outlined a new diplomatic approach, aimed at opening up his country to the world. He said that Japan will continue to take the lead in grappling with problems facing the world, emphasizing technological innovation, climate change and trade liberalization. Less than two months later, Japan would be hit by a severe earthquake, which would trigger tsunamis and significant damage to a nuclear power facility in Fukushima. The disaster resulted in more than 18,000 deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damage.
In an audio recorded speech to Annual Meeting participants, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released from house arrest in November 2010, asked world leaders gathered in Davos “to use their particular opportunities and skills as far as possible to promote national reconciliation, genuine democratization, human development and economic growth in Burma, so that our people may in turn be able make their own contribution towards a safer, happier world.”
Egypt was also a focus of attention, with discussions on whether the protests there would lead to the fall of the government, as had happened in Tunisia days prior to the Annual Meeting. Participants debated the broader implications of the “Jasmine Revolution” that seemed to be sweeping through the Maghreb region. By the second week of February, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down from office in the face of demonstrations across the country, including in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, UN Middle East Quartet Representative, told participants that “unless ordinary people see tangible progress over the next three years, there will be a huge popular backlash.”
Engaging young people and emerging leaders has always been an important part of World Economic Forum activities. Having firmly established the Forum of Young Global Leaders as the premier network for the world’s young business, government and civil society leaders, the Forum launched the Community of Global Shapers. This network of self-organizing local city hubs brings together emerging leaders in their twenties who have already demonstrated potential for leadership roles in society. Global Shapers have fully integrated into all Forum events and activities, while pursuing their hub projects and initiatives. As of July 2014, there were 355 hubs and more than 4,000 Shapers.