Frankly Speaking: WEF sending strong message by not inviting Russia to Davos, says forum’s Borge Brende

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Updated 23 May 2022

Frankly Speaking: WEF sending strong message by not inviting Russia to Davos, says forum’s Borge Brende

Frankly Speaking: WEF sending strong message by not inviting Russia to Davos, says forum’s Borge Brende
  • WEF president says violations by Iran and Israel are not comparable to those committed in Ukraine
  • Brende believes current war could end up as Moscow’s “Afghanistan or Vietnam”
  • Davos summit more timely than ever as ‘global challenges require global solutions’

DAVOS, Switzerland: The president of the World Economic Forum has said the Geneva-based organization is sending a strong signal to Moscow by not inviting Russian officials and businesses to this year’s Davos summit while issuing an invitation to the Ukrainian leader to address the gathering.

“When it comes to Russia, we chose not to invite Russian business or Russian officials because there are limits,” Borge Brende told Katie Jensen, the host of Frankly Speaking, the Arab News talk show which features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders.

“Russia has broken basic humanitarian law and international law. They are not sticking to the UN Charter and we have seen so many atrocities.”




Borge Brende with Katie Jensen on Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)

At the same time, Brende said, the WEF will not only have Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky “on video” but also several of his ministers.

“From Kyiv we will have two of his deputy prime ministers. We also have the foreign minister in Davos,” he said, adding that some chief executives will be coming together to form a group of CEOs for Ukraine to “secure the rebuilding of the country.”

Defending the WEF’s decision, he said: “The key for unlocking this is with (President Vladimir) Putin and the Kremlin. We need to see that they are taking steps to again rejoin compliance with international law before they will be reinvited to Davos. We have a strong moral obligation to also send this kind of signal in such a situation.”

Brende appeared on “Frankly Speaking” on the eve of the first in-person WEF annual meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time the event, which kicked off on Sunday, is being held in Davos in May.

He denied that for an organization that prides itself on its impartiality and reputation as a bridge builder, the decision not to invite one side amounts to a failure on the WEF’s part to encourage debate.

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Brende said it is true that for the last 50 years the WEF has always tried to bring leaders together, but “there are limits.”

“It’s an ongoing war in Ukraine, where we see that children are being killed in their schools every day. You see women being raped. We see war crimes taking place and there is no willingness for dialogue,” he said.

“Davos is about willingness to find common solutions, and if countries at least are willing to sit down and discuss the future, then it is something else. But today we see no kind of this willingness from Russia’s side. That’s why we’re very sad that we cannot have this dialogue. Hopefully in the future, but not today.”

Brende, a former foreign minister of Norway, dismissed comparisons between the charges of atrocities Israel is accused of committing against Palestinian civilians and those being leveled against Russia in Ukraine. He also denied that this is because Ukraine is seen as closer to home for many Europeans.




WEF President Borge Brende. (AN photo)

“It is unacceptable what is now happening in Ukraine and the war is ongoing,” he reiterated, explaining why inviting Russia to the annual meeting is not the same thing as, say, inviting Israel or Iran.

“When it comes to Israel and the situation in the Palestinian areas, it is at least some willingness to dialogue. We’ve seen it through the Abrahams Accords, but we also see in Davos that we are bringing together business leaders from both Israel and the Palestinian side in an initiative called ‘Breaking the Impasse.’ And they’re sitting there with global politicians, but also politicians from these areas to discuss if there is a way forward for establishing a two-state solution. At least there is a dialogue going on and we hope for future solutions.”

Asked if he thought the recently imposed sanctions on Russia were enough to end the conflict or whether an expanded NATO was the solution, Brende said: “I think Russia is incredibly surprised by the strength of the Ukrainian army. They were supposed to take Kyiv, the capital, in two, three days. Kharkiv, the second largest city, in two, three days. They have seen the resistance among the Ukrainians that, I am sure, has surprised them and that is why they’re pulling back too.”


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In the months to come, Brende said, it is likely that Russia will continue with its attacks. “But Ukraine can easily turn into the Vietnam of Russia, or Afghanistan of Russia,” he said.

“When more than 40 million people are fighting back so strongly as the freedom-seeking Ukrainians, Russians will have a huge challenge. It shows that even a very modern and a very strong army cannot kill the freedom-fighting people around the world. I think this is a lesson for many countries to bring with them and reflect over.”

The WEF says its annual meeting in Davos provides “a unique collaborative environment” for public figures and global leaders to “reconnect, share insights, gain fresh perspectives and build problem-solving communities and initiatives.” However, critics say the event has become more of a show featuring politicians sticking to pre-prepared scripts. 

Brende countered that this year’s summit would see progress made on many of the most important topics. “We will, for example, have new coalitions when it comes to fighting climate change,” he said.

“We will focus a lot on trade and investments. We know that there will be no real economic recovery without a trade recovery, so that’s why it’s so important that we also have trade ministers, 30 of them together with (World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), saying that no new tariffs, no more protectionism and no more bans on exporting food.”

“Many of the challenges that we are faced with cannot be sold without business. So, with the 1,400 CEOs and chairs in Davos, I am pretty sure we are going to make progress,” Brende said, adding that “25 percent of the participants are women — it should have been 50, but we are making progress.”

Brende disputed the claim that the WEF summit in Davos has a perception problem, made most recently by the Financial Times newspaper, which said this week that the organization does not project the right image.

“I think we definitely are able to bring together leaders from all walks of life. It’s easy to be critical, but I think the past has also shown that the World Economic Forum has a positive impact,” he said.

“It was in Davos, for example, where the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) was launched (in 2001). It was here where (the anti-apartheid icon) Nelson Mandela came to Europe for the first time and launched the economic plan for South Africa.

“This time around, it is really about how to make sure that the weak recovery does not end in a new recession. It is to make sure that we walk the talk from COP26 in Glasgow. Business leaders, 120 of them, will commit to going net zero by 2050. So, this is really the place where corporate and governmental leaders are coming together, making a difference.”

Watch the full Frankly Speaking episode below:

 

 

As 2,500 members of the global elite descend on Davos, Brende said this year’s meeting could not be more timely because “global challenges need global solutions.”

“Unfortunately, because of the polarized world, we don’t see as much collaboration to really solve wars, climate change and also a weakening recovery,” he said. “But we will try in Davos to get leaders together, and at least mobilize the private sector to support in these very critical areas.”

Brende also acknowledged the reality of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it is “very important to be preparing for the next one, because we will see new diseases and pandemics unfortunately in the coming decades too.

“We moved much closer to nature. In just the last 10 years, we have lost wilderness across the world the size of the country of Mexico, so animals and human beings are much closer. And then we will also see more diseases like this.

“And we should not forget that we’re not out of the woods yet. China, the second largest economy in the world, is partly locked down now in some of the biggest and largest cities in the country, and this will also have an impact on the global economy because China is growing slower and the demand from China will of course go down.”

Looking to the future, Brende said: “We have to learn from this pandemic, that we have to have medicine, we have to have medical equipment much closer than before. We can’t wait for weeks for this to arrive. We have to be able to step up vaccination fast. We know that we have paid a huge price: 15 million people have lost their lives so far in this pandemic.”


British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 
Updated 15 sec ago

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 

British Hajj pilgrim says she feels ‘very blessed’ to be one in a million 

LONDON: A British pilgrim has said she feels “very blessed” to be among the 1 million people performing Hajj this year.

Sarah Rana, a management consultant and chartered surveyor, is performing Hajj for the first time and said she feels “special and honored” to be part of the annual gathering.

This year’s Hajj will be the first post-pandemic pilgrimage open to foreign pilgrims, and 1 million people will perform it this year as people across the globe start traveling again. 

Around 2.5 million people performed Hajj in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and approximately 1,000 and 60,000 people from within the Kingdom performed it in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

The chartered surveyor said that she started thinking about going to Hajj during the pandemic when she began reading the Qur’an more and learning about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

Rana told Arab News that she has done “a lot of the emotional processing” and is now concentrating on preparing herself physically for the journey ahead which starts with her flight to the Kingdom on Friday.

“45 degrees is not going to be easy. That's going to be massive. If it goes over 30 degrees, my hands and feet start swelling,” Rana said. 

She said that although she walked the London Marathon last year, walking in the heat “is going to be a very different experience. So I’m not not taking it lightly. I’m thinking it through.”

Rana added that her friends and family have been giving her Hajj tips and that she is “quite well prepared.”

“I’ve been buying clothes. I found that the stuff that was more expensive was more uncomfortable. So I’m just going to take my practical stuff,” Rana said.

Muslims believe that supplications that pilgrims make during Hajj, especially on the ninth day of Dhu Al-Hijjah, are definitely accepted.

Rana said she believes that God knows her needs and will give her what is best for her. She will be praying for her kids, that the remainder of her life is a good one and for financial independence.

She said performing Hajj represents a new start for her and will give her closure from any painful experiences in the past. 

“As I turn 50 this year, I think it’s closure to a lot of stuff and genuinely about a new start, whatever that new start is. It’s very meaningful.”


Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
Updated 29 June 2022

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
  • Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena
  • He spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates' Court

LONDON: A man was remanded in custody Wednesday after appearing in a London court charged with the murder and attempted rape of a woman who had been walking home alone in east London.
It was the latest in a string of similar incidents that have heightened concern over the safety of women and girls on the British capital’s streets.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena, who was attacked after a night out in Ilford in the early hours of Sunday.
McSweeney, who is also charged with attempted rape and robbery, spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates’ Court.
In a statement, Aleena’s family mourned her death and called for an end to violence against women. They highlighted the killings of other women who were targeted by strangers in London and elsewhere.
The family expressed sympathy to the families of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others who were killed in recent months and whose deaths prompted widespread protests calling for more protection for women and girls.
The family said Aleena, a law graduate who was training to become a lawyer, “walked everywhere” and “believed that a woman should be able to walk home.”
“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home,” their statement said.
Police said Aleena suffered serious head injuries, confirmed in a post-mortem examination.
McSweeney was denied bail and remanded in custody until he is due to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Jul. 27.
A march remembering Aleena is planned in Ilford on Saturday.


Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
Updated 45 min 6 sec ago

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
  • Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.

MADRID: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Wednesday expressed support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO in a meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, on Wednesday.
“We support (Sweden’s) historic decision. We also express our respect for its efforts,” Kishida told Andersson.
NATO, which opened a two-day summit in Madrid on Wednesday, is expected to grant membership to Sweden and Finland after Turkey switched to support their participation.
Kishida said that Japan and Sweden will hold the presidency of the Group of Seven major powers and the European Union, respectively, next year.
Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.
Andersson expressed gratitude for Japan’s strong action against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan, click here to read it.


Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
Updated 29 June 2022

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
  • The decision by the Moscow City Court came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced

MOSCOW: A court in Moscow on Wednesday rejected a prominent Russian opposition figure’s appeal of the 15-day jail sentence he received on charges of failing to obey police.
The decision by the Moscow City Court, the capital’s highest municipal judicial body, came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced.
Yashin, who has publicly criticized Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, was detained late Monday in a Moscow park. Police said he grabbed an officer by his uniform and insulted police, which Yashin denied.
In May, Yashin was ordered to pay 90,000 rubles ($1700) on charges of discrediting the Russian military.
Russia has cracked down on critics of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, A well-known dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in April and remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of spreading false information about the military. The offense carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years.


NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
Updated 29 June 2022

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
  • The alliance also agreed on a new strategic concept

MADRID: NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security,” a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defense.
“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control,” the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO’s interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.