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Davos updates: Blinken says Gaza suffering 'gut-wrenching'

Published January 17, 2024last updated January 17, 2024

US top diplomat Antony Blinken addressed delegates about the Israel-Hamas war and tensions between China and Taiwan. Argentina's President Javier Milei warned that the West is 'in danger' of socialism. DW has more.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos
Blinken said that almost none of the problems that the US faces could be tackled in isolationImage: Denis Balibouse/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Global political and business leaders have gathered in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum to discuss global risks and challenges
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he does not know a time the world faced 'such a multiplicity of challenges'
  • The Davos meeting is taking place against a backdrop of conflict that includes the Israel-Hamas conflict and war in Ukraine
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's keynote speech warned of the danger Russia poses beyond his country


Skip next section Watchdog tells DW 2024 could bring more elections and less democracy
January 17, 2024

Watchdog tells DW 2024 could bring more elections and less democracy

A wave of major elections in 2024 could paradoxically lead to a setback for democracy around the world, warns Lord Mark Brown, president of the Open Society Foundation, an NGO.

Brown spoke to DW from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying elections from the US to Europe and India will put the resiliency of democratic institutions to the test when more than 2 billion people go to the polls this year.
"We could end up with a year of a record number of elections and a disappointingly less amount of democracy," he said.
Brown told DW the biggest test would be the upcoming US elections in November, where Donald Trump is poised to run against President Joe Biden.
Elections in Europe are also likely to be a test, he said, with right-wing parties seeing a wider embrace in recent years.
He spoke of the risk of "authoritarians sitting in the parliament," both in the EU and in individual member states.
India will go to the polls this year, too, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to win re-election. Critics point to Modi’s political excesses, including pressuring media outlets and pushing Hindu nationalism, as signs of authoritarian behavior.
Brown warned against portraying voters as having authoritarian tendencies or rejecting democracy. He said many simply feel pressure from rising cost of living, increased migration and growing political uncertainty.
"It's these sets of immediate quality-of-life, security-of-life and pocketbook issues that determine voting," Brown said. 

Skip next section Switzerland hit by Russian cyberattack after Zelenskyy speech
January 17, 2024

Switzerland hit by Russian cyberattack after Zelenskyy speech

A Russia-linked hacker group brought down several Swiss government websites a day after after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke at the WEF in Davos.

The Swiss government's National Cyber Security Center said on Wednesday that "the Russian-linked hacker group 'NoName' claimed responsibility for the attack, citing Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's attendance at the WEF annual meeting."

The so-called distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) flooded the websites of several ministries and federal offices with malicious web traffic in order to send them offline.

The NCSC said it took the appropriate steps to get the websites back online.

"An attack of this kind had been expected, and appropriate security measures were in place," it added.

Skip next section Argentina's Javier Milei says West 'in danger' of socialism
January 17, 2024

Argentina's Javier Milei says West 'in danger' of socialism

Argentina's new President Javier Milei slammed the threat to the West posed by socialism during his speech at Davos. It was the first international trip for the newly elected leader.

The self-styled "anarcho-capitalist" also lashed out against what he called "social justice" and "radical feminism" while touting the free market as the solution.

"I am here today to tell you that the West is in danger," Milei said.

"It is in danger because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty."

Javier Milei speaking at the WEF in Davos
Javier Milei attended the WEF in Davos on his first official trip abroadImage: Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu/picture alliance

Milei went on to call entrepreneurs "heroes" who should not be afraid of the "political caste" and "the parasites that live off the state."

"You are the true protagonists in this story. You should know that from now on, you can count on Argentina as an unconditional ally," the firebrand told business leaders at Davos.

Skip next section WHO chief tells leaders to prepare for 'Disease X'
January 17, 2024

WHO chief tells leaders to prepare for 'Disease X'

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, has told delegates in Davos that leaders should be ready to deal with an unknown future disease. 

Tedros said the idea of so-called Disease X — an unknown disease caused by an unknown pathogen — is not new and is a term the WHO has used since 2018.

While there are known threats, such as MERS, Zica, and Ebola, the WHO uses the term as a placeholder for "a disease we don’t know that may come."

Tedros said the WHO had been preparing for a COVID-19-like virus before the 2020 pandemic. "You may even call COVID the first disease X, and it may happen again."

"It is better to anticipate something that may happen, because it has happened in our history many times, and prepare for it."

"We shouldn’t face things unprepared. We can prepare for some unknown things as well."

Skip next section Pope urges Davos leaders to heal 'lacerated' world
January 17, 2024

Pope urges Davos leaders to heal 'lacerated' world

Pope Francis has urged business, economic and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos to look beyond profit and try to heal an "increasingly lacerated" world. 

In a message to the elite who are meeting at the Swiss resort, the pontiff urged leaders to make moral and ethical decisions.

Francis urged them to tackle the "injustices that are at the root causes of conflict," primarily hunger and the exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of the few.

"Sadly, as we look around, we find an increasingly lacerated world, in which millions of persons — men, women, fathers, mothers, children — whose faces are for the most part unknown to us, continue to suffer, not least from the effects of prolonged conflicts and actual wars," the pope, who is the first Vatican head to come from the Global South, wrote.

States and businesses must unite to promote "far-sighted and ethically sound" models of globalization that place the common good over the "pursuit of power and individual gain," he said.

Skip next section Blinken says world needs stabilitiy in Taiwan Strait
January 17, 2024

Blinken says world needs stabilitiy in Taiwan Strait

The United States' top diplomat Antony Blinken has said the world economy needs stability between Taiwan and China after Beijing criticized the island's new president-elect.

Blinken told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the weekend election win by Lai Ching-te had been a "powerful affirmation of democracy."

Blinken pointed to the vast flow of commerce through the Taiwan Strait, and said: "If that were to be disrupted, it would affect the entire planet. And it's about the last thing we need, especially coming back from COVID."

He noted Taiwan's importance as a major producer of advanced semiconductors.

"Taiwan plays an outsized role in the world. That's why so many countries have a stake in preserving peace in preserving stability," Blinken said.

China lays claim the island of Taiwan, and it has not ruled out taking control of the self-governing democracy by force.

Skip next section Blinken says war in Gaza is heartbreaking
January 17, 2024

Blinken says war in Gaza is heartbreaking

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the suffering caused by the war in Gaza is "gut-wrenching."

The top US diplomat said that what was needed was a Palestinian state "that gives people what they want and works with Israel to be effective."

"The suffering breaks my heart," he said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. "The question is what is to be done."

Blinken said that, from what he was hearing, virtually every country in the Middle East felt that the United States had a part to play in regional stability.

When asked if be believed that Ukraine and Russia were any closer to a ceasefire, Blinken said he did not.

Blinken also said there was a need for a "pathway to a Palestinian state," and Israel would not "get genuine security" without that.

The Secretary of State said he had never known a time when the world faced "such a multiplicity of challenges."

Skip next section UN chief says fossil fuel phase-out 'essential and inevitable'
January 17, 2024

UN chief says fossil fuel phase-out 'essential and inevitable'

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that it is necessary to find alternatives to carbon-based fuels if the world is to avoid a climate catastrophe.

"Let me be very clear again: the phase-out of fossil fuels is essential and inevitable. No amount of spin or scare tactics will change that. Let's hope it doesn't come too late," Guterres told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Last month, almost 200 countries agreed at the COP28 climate summit to start reducing global consumption of combustible fuels to curb the worst of climate change.

The deal was struck after two weeks of negotiations and was meant to send a message to investors and policy-makers that the world must end its dependence on fossil fuels.

"We must act now to ensure a just and equitable transition to renewable energy," Guterres added.

Skip next section Guterres says parties in Gaza conflict 'ignoring international law'
January 17, 2024

Guterres says parties in Gaza conflict 'ignoring international law'

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, speaks at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
Guterres said a cease-fire in Gaza must lead to a process that leads to sustained peace for Israelis and PalestiniansImage: Gian Ehrenzeller/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says parties to the conflict in Gaza are "trampling" on international law.

Speaking on the second day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Guterres urged Israel and Hamas to implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

He said the  warring parties were "ignoring international law, trampling on the Geneva Conventions, and even violating the United Nations Charter."

"The world is standing by as civilians, mostly women and children, are killed, maimed, bombarded, forced from their homes and denied access to humanitarian aid," he said.

"I repeat my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and a process that leads to sustained peace for Israelis and Palestinians, based on a two-state solution."

Skip next section Ukraine's Kuleba says air superiority needed
January 17, 2024

Ukraine's Kuleba says air superiority needed

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has reiterated an appeal for more air power in 2024 as Russia's full-scale assault enters its third year. 

"In 2024, of course, the priority is to throw Russia from the skies. Because the one who controls the skies will define when and how the war will end," Kuleba said in an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"We defeated them on the land in 2022. We defeated them in the sea in 2023 and we are completely focused on defeating them in the air in 2024," the minister said in a panel discussion at the Swiss resort.

The message echoed the summit's keynote speech a day earlier by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said air superiority was necessary for his country's military to have a chance of winning on the ground.

Various NATO countries are currently training Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets and have promised they will supply the warplanes. Ukraine is also in talks with Sweden about the possible acquisition of its Grifen combat planes.

Skip next section US Secretary of State to address delegates
January 17, 2024

US Secretary of State to address delegates

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken is about to address the World Economic Forum in Davos.

His speech comes as US President Joe Biden's administration was expected to redesignate Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as specially designated global terrorists. 

It was Blinken himself who delisted the Houthi militias as foreign terrorist organizations and specially designated global terrorists in February 2021. 

That move came as the US administration sought to make it easier to get humanitarian aid into Yemen.

Former US President Donald Trump's administration had designated the Houthis as a terrorist group, which aid organizations said stopped much-needed food, medicine and other aid flowing to Yemen.

The decision to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group once again follows US airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi targets who were targeting shipping in the Red Sea.

According to the planned new designation, aid would still be allowed to flow into Yemen.

The airstrikes were criticized by Russia and Iran, with some US allies in the Middle East also voicing concern about a possible escalation.

Skip next section Argentine firebrand has place on podium
January 17, 2024

Argentine firebrand has place on podium

One of the most anticipated speakers at Davos today is Argentina's self-styled "anarcho-capitalist" leader, Javier Milei.

The eccentric libertarian is set to address the global elite in Davos as he wrestles with the task of restoring confidence in his country's economy.

The trip is his first trip abroad as president of a country that saw inflation of more than 200% in 2023.

The 53-year-old gave a brief preview of his speech while on his way to Europe on Tuesday aboard a commercial plane. 

"I come to plant the seeds of freedom in a forum that is contaminated by the socialist agenda 2030, which will only bring misery to the world," he said in a video.

Milei has vowed to drastically cut spending in Argentina, and has devalued the peso by more than 50 percent.

He has also cut state subsidies of fuel and transport and reduced the number of ministries by half.

Argentina's Milei backtracks on peso switch

rc/lo (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)