Photograph — World Economic Forum

The 2018 edition of the World Economic Forum was expected to be a shift from the norm, and it is already living up to that expectation. This year’s forum, with the theme “Creating a shared future in a fractured world,” began yesterday and is scheduled to end on the 26th of January. It will feature more than 400 sessions of talk, with seven women leading the discussions this year, a change from the usual ‘male business executive’ synonymous with WEF. Yesterday’s session featured speakers like the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Mordi, who talked about his country, India (currently the fastest growing economy in the world), Hollywood actress, Cate Blanchett who also talked about her work in refugee countries, etc.

The first speaker at this year’s WEF was Prime Minister Mordi of India, who began his speech by listing what he believes are the world’s greatest challenges: Climate Change, Terrorism, and anti-globalization. He says they “pose the greatest threat to the survival of the human civilization” and that countries “were becoming more and more focused on themselves” in what was a dig at the attempts by many countries to offer a toxic kind of nationalism as an alternative to globalization including Donald Trump’s America with the “Make America Great Again” slogan. “Everyone is talking about an interconnected world, but we will have to accept the fact that globalization is slowing losing its lustre,” he said.

Indian immigrants were attacked in the USA last year due to what many saw as a direct result of the xenophobia of Donald Trump. However, it is important to note that while India is making giant strides in its economy, and in its efforts to leave poverty, it has also contributed to the rising wave of anti-globalization. Indians have attacked Africans on home soil recently, despite the fact that many Africans bring a lot of money into India through medical tourism and education. The sentiments expressed against anti-globalization should probably start from India too.

Cate Blanchett received a Crystal Award from the WEF yesterday for her work with refugees around the world. And she spoke extensively about them. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR. She said a major problem for refugees around the world is media “misinformation”. The narrative is that migrants from the developing world “are a burden”. She emphasized the importance of individual refugee stories.

The all-female panel of co-chairs, first time ever in the history of the World Economic Forum, include IMF Managing Director Christine Largarde, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Mann Deshi Foundation founder Hetna Sinha Sinha, IBM Chairman Ginni Rometty, Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher, CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti, ITUC’s Sharan Burrow. They all spoke on topics ranging from gender equality, corruption, illegal money flows, financial access for the unbanked and under-banked, etc.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan also spoke on his work championing women and children’s rights in India. “A woman is not allowed in a society to assert her choice… there are different ways and methods and levels of brutalization that men go to so that women don’t assert their choice and this is the most brutal,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on sexual harassment in the workplace, addressing the #MeToo campaign, while he also announced a new agreement in the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

Yesterday’s session ended with a speech from Sinead Burke, a 105 cm tall activist, who advocated for inclusivity for everybody, and the importance of helping people forge their own identity.

The speakers today include Brazil president Michael Temer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron among others. You can follow live proceedings here.


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