The World Economic Forum began with a warning from its founder about the impact humanity is having on the environment and a call for global co-operation on finding sustainable solutions.
In an opening address on Tuesday from Klaus Schwab, the organiser of the event in Davos, he stressed issues around the theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Mr Schwab thanked those in attendance, saying, "we are here a true multi-stakeholder community...we have to listen to the young people and that is what we will do in this meeting."
Following his speech, Mr Schwab chaired a panel of young leaders, one of whom was a resident of a refugee camp in Kenya.
Mr Schwab, who founded the forum in 1971 added: "This meeting is a truly global meeting and I'm very pleased we have record participation from emerging nations," welcoming, in particular, the Chinese delegation.
Watch live: Davos 2019 welcoming remarks
The executive chairman of the economic forum then introduced Globalisation 4.0, his vision for the future of the global economy.
"I want to make a differentiation between globalisation and globalism. Globalisation is a fact...globalism is a philosophy with which we approach globalisation," he said.
"We feel Globalisation 4.0 has to be more human centred...we can't afford anymore to leave people behind," he said, adding that Globalisation 4.0 has to be much more sustainable.
Before the founder began speaking, a series of video clips showed both the progress and pitfalls of the global economic system: space travel, glittering cities, polluted rivers and popular uprisings.
World Economic Forum in Davos:
The annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland is an opportunity for government officials, business leaders, NGOs and academics to discuss the state of the global economy.
This year, the meeting will be filled with hand-wringing about the future of the global economic order, hoping to find an identity for Globalisation 4.0, the next iteration of the system which has created immense wealth for many of those in Davos, but in recent years has created a catalogue of problems.
Under the theme of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", issues of climate change, energy supply, labour reskilling and AI will be discussed.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed will lead the UAE's delegation in Davos.
"The UAE is keen to contribute to the enhancement of international cooperation and global efforts that aim to benefit humankind," the Crown Prince of Dubai said ahead of the event, stressing the importance of the country's contribution.
The meeting will be attended by heads of state from Germany, Japan and Brazil, but there will be some notable exceptions.
Donald Trump will miss out on the meeting due to the ongoing US government shut down, while Theresa May will remain in the UK to focus on Britain's departure from the EU, and Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa will also not attend amid protests met with a violent government crackdown.
Some prominent business leaders will also be absent from this year's event. Automotive industry executive Carlos Ghosn will spend the week in prison in Japan, where he is under investigation for under-reporting his income, and prominent PR executive Sir Martin Sorrell will be in attendance, but not as chief executive of WPP.