The 54th World Economic Forum, which brought together 3,000 participants from different countries, ended in Davos, Switzerland. They included 1.6 thousand business leaders, 350 heads of state and government ministers, as well as hundreds of scientists, civil society leaders and entrepreneurs. This year, the main theme of the forum was "Restoring trust", as the economic elite recognized that they faced a global split.

In this article, the Finam Financial Group columnist gives an overview of the event.

Geopolitics at the forefront

Paul Knopp, CEO of KPMG in the USA, expressed the general concern of the forum's business leaders about the large number of geopolitical problems that have caused turmoil in the world. Among them are military conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, clashes in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. They disrupt supply chains and undermine the energy and food security of many countries, including European ones.

In addition, tensions between countries provide an impetus for more nationalist sentiments and isolationist policies. In 2024, it is geopolitics that is a cause for concern to a greater extent than the actual economic problems that have preoccupied business leaders in previous years.

The conclusion of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 remains relevant: "This year's meeting was held against the most difficult geopolitical and geo-economic background in recent decades, which makes targeted and effective actions even more important."

2024 is an election year

This year, elections of heads of state will be held in many countries where more than half of the world's population - 4.2 billion people - live in total. For example, parliamentary elections will be held in India, after which a new head of government may be elected. The EU will hold elections to the European Parliament, as well as presidential elections in 10 European countries. Russia and the United States will also choose the heads of state in 2024. Due to the prospect of such large-scale changes, democratic leaders are concerned about the threats of nationalism, disinformation and many other risks to the development of a free society.

"We are now approaching a turning point: 2024 will be the year when European countries and the EU will be able to decide whether we want to be sovereign or not," French President Emmanuel Macron said, addressing the French people.

The economic outlook is unclear

The global economy is unstable. The threat of recession in the United States, the cost-of-living crisis in Europe and China's insufficiently rapid GDP growth are causing economists and market participants to worry. However, their forecasts about the prospects for the global economy differ. Thus, in the latest survey of WEF chief economists conducted in November and December, 56% of experts said they expected the global economy to weaken this year. However, 44% of them do not expect this. So far, 2024 is becoming a year of economic uncertainty.

Climate is playing an increasingly important role for human health

Last year, the UN Environmental Conference held its first "Health Day". At Davos, several groups noted the growing awareness of how climate change affects human health. Nisia Trindade Lima, Brazil's Minister of health, named a long list of problems, including 

diseases transmitted through water and mosquitoes, which are accompanied by floods and heavy rains. In addition, drought leads to malnutrition, harmful and overloading of public health infrastructure during natural disasters, as well as damage to these facilities from extreme weather conditions. Among other things, climate change can be a stress factor that negatively affects people's mental health.

AI development is a strategic task

Last year showed that artificial intelligence is likely to remain in our lives for a long time, if not forever. Amy Weaver, president and chief financial officer of Salesforce, believes that companies seeking to invest in AI should start putting their data centers in order right now. According to her, it will become much easier to enter data into AI models when they are optimized, cleared of duplicates and otherwise brought into a convenient form.

This year, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, made a splash in Davos. He is considered the main face of AI in the modern world, so they tried to involve him in as many forum events as possible. Altman believes that people always overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in ten or twenty years. According to him, in ten years artificial intelligence may become completely different compared to what we mean by AI today. And now we need to work and wait for what it will lead to.