Davos 2021 summit shifts to Singapore due to pandemic

Robin Millard, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 08 2020 08:07 AM

General view of the Davos Congress Centre, where the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting takes place, in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Denis Balibouse, Reuters/file

GENEVA - The World Economic Forum said Monday the coronavirus pandemic had forced it to move next year's summit from Switzerland to Singapore, where it will be held in person from May 13-16.

The annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite traditionally takes place in January against the idyllic snowy backdrop of the Alpine village of Davos.

It had already been postponed until May due to the virus, with organizers saying the focus would be on remodeling the world economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

The WEF had announced in October that the summit venue would shift to Lucerne, Switzerland, before saying Monday the pandemic situation was forcing a move out of the country altogether.

"The change in location reflects the Forum's priority of safeguarding the health and safety of participants and the host community," the Geneva-based WEF said in a statement.

It was decided that Singapore was best-placed to hold the meeting, which had previously been branded as "The Great Reset".

"The Special Annual Meeting 2021 in Singapore will be the first global leadership event to address worldwide recovery from the pandemic," the statement said.

"This in-person meeting will bring together leaders to focus on shaping solutions to the world's most pressing challenges."

'SAFE, NEUTRAL VENUE'

WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab said the Singapore summit would be crucially important in plotting the recovery from the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.

"Public-private cooperation is needed more than ever to rebuild trust and address the fault lines that emerged in 2020," he added.

The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 1.54 million people while more than 67 million cases have been registered since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said the WEF's decision reflected its "confidence in our management of the Covid-19 pandemic thus far" and Singapore's ability to provide a "safe, neutral and conducive venue for global leaders to meet".

It said the country had successfully prototyped new protocols at large-scale conferences, including on-arrival tests, pre-event and periodic antigen testing, as well as contact tracing of attendees.

"Despite the ongoing pandemic, we are confident that Singapore will be able to continue maintaining public health and safety while supporting the WEF's mission to effect positive change through collaboration and engagement," said trade minister Chan Chun Sing.

VIRTUAL PRE-CURSOR

The move to Singapore will mark only the second time in the summit's history that it will be held outside of Davos, after a meeting was held in New York following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The WEF said it will return to Davos in 2022 for the 52nd edition of its annual meeting of the world's power players.

Ahead of the Singapore meeting, the forum will host a virtual event featuring world leaders, chief executives, civil society and global media figures during the usual Davos summit week, from January 25. 

The event will aim to "rebuild trust and shape the principles, policies and partnerships needed for 2021", the WEF said.

"Building a better future for work, accelerating stakeholder capitalism and harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be important topics on the agenda."

A global technology governance summit will also be held in Tokyo on April 6 and 7, aimed at ensuring "the responsible design and deployment of emerging technologies through public-private collaboration".

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.

© Agence France-Presse

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