The year 2021 will be crucial and pivotal for the future of humankind, said World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, calling on world leaders to focus on rebuilding trust and creating more resilient, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Speaking to journalists on Monday at a briefing session via the Zoom platform on the forum's virtual Davos meeting this year amid a resurgent Covid-19 pandemic around the world, Professor Schwab said: "It will be crucial because we have to continue to fight the virus.
"What we have to do is restore trust in our world. Trust is needed in order to overcome the crisis and to have a base for a future-oriented mind and to construct a world for tomorrow."
He called on leaders to share their vision for the creation of sound economic goals that would be more resilient, inclusive and sustainable.
More than 1,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 70 countries will convene for the Davos Agenda 2021 week, which will be held virtually from Jan 25 to 29, to discuss critical issues facing countries as they navigate their paths back to recovery.
The theme for this year's Davos meet is: A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.
Discussions will focus on designing resilient economic systems, driving industrial transformation and growth, enhancing stewardship of global commons (such as the earth's shared natural resources), harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and advancing global and regional cooperation.
"The need to reset priorities and the urgency to reform systems have been growing stronger around the world," said Prof Schwab.
"Rebuilding trust and increasing global cooperation are crucial to fostering innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery," he added.
WEF president Borge Brende said Asia will have a strong role to play in the recovery of the global economy. The region accounts for 50 per cent of the world's GDP and population, he said.
Several key leaders from the region have confirmed their participation for the Davos summit. They include Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chinese President Xi Jinping, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in.
Discussions during the Davos Agenda week will feed into task forces working on global issues that will be taken up during the Special Annual Meeting to be held in Singapore from May 25 to 28, with a focus on solutions that need to emerge.
The meeting here will also be the world's first large-scale in-person meet since the pandemic and the forum has reiterated its faith in Singapore's facilities to host it while addressing health and safety issues.
"We are really, really looking forward to meeting physically in Singapore," said Mr Brende, noting that several government and business leaders had shown interest in coming to the Republic for the meetings.
"In Singapore we have to address trust and confidence and the three Cs... Covid-19, climate change and cooperation," he said, pointing out that governments had already spent over US$12 trillion (S$15.9 trillion) in stimulus. This makes it even more important to have "concrete results" when the meeting takes place in the city state, he remarked.
Just two weeks after the Singapore meeting will be the Group of 7 meeting, followed by the Group of 20 gathering of leaders and the COP26 climate change meeting, noted Prof Schwab.
The Straits Times and the Forum are collaborating on a few initiatives during the Davos Agenda week. ST and WEF will host a webinar, titled Geopolitical Reset 2021: Implications for Asia, that will be released by both institutions on Jan 29 via their platforms.
Professors Chan Heng Chee, Wang Gungwu and Kishore Mahbubani and Singapore's former foreign minister George Yeo will discuss the theme together with ST's US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh and China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei. The session will be moderated by associate editor Vikram Khanna.
Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of the English/Malay/Tamil Media Group of Singapore Press Holdings and ST editor, will host a panel discussion at the Davos meet, titled Building Crisis-Resistant Healthcare Systems in a Post-Covid World. ST associate editor Ravi Velloor will join WEF's digital editor Robin Pomeroy for a podcast during the Davos Agenda week.