The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum — Globalization 4.0 — seems especially poignant. The absence of key global leaders and controversy over out-of-touch behaviour by participants are highlighting ongoing debate about the relevance of multilateral events in an increasingly fragmented global order.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a renewed commitment to multilateralism, global leaders — including China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the UK’s Theresa May, and France’s Emmanuel Macron were conspicuously absent.

Meanwhile there has been public backlash after the Air Charter Service estimated that up to 1,500 individual private jets will be used by participants travelling to and from the conference, held in Davos, Switzerland.  

This year’s Forum has been marked by an atmosphere of pessimism, fuelled by economic uncertainty and fear over the rise of populism. However events like this one are the hallmarks of an era of globalisation, and amidst ongoing public backlash towards the political status quo, multilateral institutions need to consider how they will adapt to a changing political order.

Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.