WEF Annual Meeting 2024 begins amid growing concerns over conflicts, climate change, deepfakes

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 commenced with an opening concert dedicated to the Sahara desert and Amazon rainforest

The opening concert, transformed into an AI-driven immersive experience, featured world-class musicians and emphasised the urgency of environmental action (photo: DW)
The opening concert, transformed into an AI-driven immersive experience, featured world-class musicians and emphasised the urgency of environmental action (photo: DW)


The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 began on Monday evening, 15 January with an opening concert dedicated to the Sahara desert and Amazon rainforest amid growing concerns among world leaders over climate change, conflicts and misinformation.

While the sessions and panel discussions set to begin on Tuesday, 16 January the opening ceremony saw annual Crystal Awards being presented to three artists -- architect Diebedo Francis Kere, actor Michelle Yeoh and guitarist Nile Rodgers.

Calling the three awardees bridge-builders, the WEF said they connect us to each other, they help us reflect on the human condition, and they provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short term or linear thinking.

Kere, a native of Burkina Faso, was given the award for his exemplary leadership in providing the Gando community the means towards a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable future through projects that focus on education, health and the environment.

"I have witnessed the power of architecture as a tool for social transformation, from laying the bricks for a school building in my native Gando, to designing a new National Parliament for Benin. Regardless of wealth, we must be conscious of our environmental impact and strive to bring comfort and a sustainable future to all," he said.

Yeoh made history by becoming the first woman of Asian descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The internationally acclaimed actor has starred in over 60 films, including James Bond's Tomorrow Never Dies, Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Sunshine, The Lady, Crazy Rich Asians, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and sci-fi franchise TV series Star Trek: Discovery.

Through her works, she has challenged the traditional views of Asian women by creating very strong female roles.

"Our true identity as human beings lies not in our differences but in our collective ability to embrace and include every individual, regardless of their background or beliefs. It is through this acceptance and unity that we uncover the essence of our shared humanity," she said.

Raising awareness about wildlife conservation and climate change, she travelled to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China to help launch the Pandas for the Global Goals campaign in 2016.

She collaborated with National Geographic to produce the documentary Among the Great Apes with Michelle Yeoh while emphasising the importance of responsible consumerism and ethical business practices.

Her recent appointment as a member of the International Olympic Committee in October 2023 has endowed her with the power to promote global understanding and goodwill through sports.

Rodgers received the 2024 Crystal Award for his extraordinary efforts to make the world a more peaceful, equal, and inclusive place through his iconic music, his exemplary commitment in fighting systemic racism, inequality, and injustice, and by championing innovative youth voices to decision-making tables.

His work in The CHIC Organization, including Sister Sledge (We Are Family) Diana Ross (I'm Coming Out), David Bowie (Let's Dance) and Madonna (Like A Virgin), have sold over 500 million albums, while his Grammy Award-winning collaborations with Daft Punk (Random Access Memories) and Beyonce (Renaissance) reflect the vanguard of contemporary hits.

"My parents socialised me to care about people and give to others though we were ourselves financially poor. When music gave me the opportunity to reach hearts the world over, I realised I'd been given a priceless gift. When I give that gift to others, I get back more than the wealthiest person on earth," he said.

The Opening Concert transcended a traditional performance, transforming into an AI driven immersive experience created by Refik Anadol.

Alluding to the deep interconnectivity of the distant ecosystems of the Sahara and the Amazon rainforest, the concert was performed by a specially formed group of world-class musicians, featuring the multi-award-winning singer and activist Angelique Kidjo, the French Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, and the Brazilian singer, composer and guitarist Will Santt.

The concert underscored the urgency of environmental action, delivering a resonant message that in the face of our planet's pressing challenges, the merging of art and advocacy has the power to inspire a collective response.

The Opening Concert was supported by Intesa Sanpaolo.

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Published: 16 Jan 2024, 8:26 AM