This post was written by Hannah Fraser-Chanpong
Hundreds of the world’s most influential people are set to be in Davos Wednesday for the start of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014. It’s usually skiers that can be seen here moving seamlessly from train platform to ski lift, seemingly never swapping ski boots for shoes in this small, Swiss town. But this week, the biggest names in government and business, from Prime Ministers David Cameron and Shinzo Abe to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, will make the annual journey to the exclusive gathering.
The program for this year's meeting, now in its 44th year, is built around the theme "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business." More than 250 panels, speeches, and discussions are spread across four days, designed to encourage the powerful participants to find ways to improve "the state of the world."
Sometimes considered more important than official events are unofficial ones: The high-level meetings that happen off the record, on the sidelines at the Congress Centre in Davos.
One highly anticipated attendee this year is Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The announcement earlier this month that Rouhani would participate came with speculation about a possible encounter between Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders are scheduled to deliver separate speeches to participants, along with some of the 500 registered journalists, on the same day. Rouhani's address, titled "Iran in the World" is set for Thursday morning, while Netanyahu speaks Thursday afternoon. Netanyahu's remarks will center on Israel's economic and political outlook, according to the official program. This is Rouhani's first time attending the summit. Netanyahu has participated twice before, in 2007 and in 2009.
The civil war in Syria and resulting refugee crisis are also on the agenda. Peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime are set to begin in Montreux on Thursday, more than 200 miles from Davos. There has been renewed uncertainty surrounding the talks since Sunday, when United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rescinded his invitation to Iran to attend the talks.
World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab emphasized that this year would be different than last year's meeting, because it wouldn't be "overshadowed" by any single crisis. Instead, he said at a press conference last week, participants should "push the reset button" and return this week to developing means to overcome important global challenges like job creation and urban sustainability.
"We should look at our future in a much more constructive, in a much more strategic way," Schwab said. "That is what Davos is about."