WEF postpones 2021 Davos summit due to pandemic

The WEF had already announced back in June that due to the coronavirus crisis, the 51st edition of its annual meeting would be a hybrid event, with a combination of in-person and virtual meetings.

FILE: The annual World Economic Forum is held in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: World Economic Forum.

GENEVA - The World Economic Forum said Wednesday it would postpone its 2021 Davos summit for several months to reduce any risks to participants from the coronavirus pandemic.

Next year's gathering of the world's political, economic, and business elite may not even take place against its traditional idyllic snowy backdrop of the Swiss Alpine village of Davos, the organisation hinted.

Rather than January as usual, the event will take place "early next summer," WEF spokesperson Adrian Monck said in a statement.

"The decision was not taken easily, since the need for global leaders to come together to design a common recovery path and shape the 'Great Reset' in the post-COVID-19 era is so urgent," he said.

"However, the advice from experts is that we cannot do so safely in January."

The announcement came as the death toll in the pandemic passed 820,000 and the number of cases globally since the novel coronavirus first emerged in China late last year approached 24 million, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

Meanwhile, cautious efforts to resume in-person diplomatic meetings in Switzerland's international hub Geneva this week saw long-delayed talks on amending Syria's constitution put on hold after several delegates from the war-ravaged country tested positive for COVID-19.

Switzerland has to date registered more than 1,700 deaths and over 40,500 cases in the pandemic.

'HISTORICAL MOMENT'

Monck said Wednesday that during the week of 25 January, when the summit had been scheduled to take place, the organisation would "digitally convene high-level 'Davos Dialogues' where key global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021."

As for the physical event, he said the dates and location of the rescheduled 2021 summit would be made available "as soon as we are assured that all conditions are fulfilled to guarantee the health and safety of our participants and the hosting community."

The WEF had already announced back in June that due to the coronavirus crisis, the 51st edition of its annual meeting would be a hybrid event, with a combination of in-person and virtual meetings.

At the time, the organisation said the focus of next year's summit would be on the political, economic and social disruptions caused by the crisis, which had exposed the inadequacies of health, financial, and energy systems, leaving leaders at a crossroads.

"The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that our old systems are not fit anymore for the 21st century," said WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab said in June.

"Now is the historical moment, the time, not only to fight the virus but to shape the system for the post-corona era."

The 2020 edition of the WEF summit, hosted in January just as the world was beginning to become aware of the new coronavirus spreading in China, drew more than 50 heads of state and government to Davos. It focused on themes of sustainability and finding a more inclusive model for capitalism.

US President Donald Trump and Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg were among its top speakers.

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