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The case for Davos in the Desert II- Still on, still strong

News abounds about global leaders canceling their trip to the Saudi Future Investment Initiative (FII)  set to take place between the 23 and 25 October, at the Ritz Carlton, as the ongoing investigation into the October 2nd disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi unfolds.

Riyadh has strenuously denied any report accusing it of involvement in the disappearance.

This is a two-way street. According to a recent Business Insider article, Saudi is walking away from a deal with Virgin Hyperloop, quoting the Financial Times (FT), after company founder Sir Richard Branson announced he wasn’t attending.

But there are many reasons for making the case to attend, as many leaders indeed are.

Related: Tadawul bounces back, shows strength, faith in Saudi

At Fortune’s Global Forum in Toronto last Tuesday, international relations expert and managing partner of FutureMap Parag Khanna shared opinions on the matter.

Khanna explained that investment is the way to create change in societies, saying it would be a mistake for business executives to pull out from the upcoming Saudi conference.

“The way change happens, and the extent to which global countries can influence international societies, is not by backing away from them,” Khanna said.

Khanna emphasized that capital investment is an important part of furthering societal progress.

Khanna is not alone.

Global leaders to attend

Arab News recently reported that up to 150 global leaders will be in Riyadh for the second version of ‘Davos in the Desert’, originally held last year and where the $500 bn mega NEOM project was launched.

“The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has revealed the program for a high-profile gathering of global leaders, business chiefs and innovators in Riyadh next week,” said Arab News.

“More than 150 speakers from 140 different organizations have confirmed their attendance for the event.”

Read: Where Saudi $billions worth of investments are going and why

Future Investment Initiative (FII) features 3 key themes for this year’s event which are:

. Investing in transformation

. Technology as an opportunity

. Advancing human potential

“FII is a global platform focused on identifying future economic trends and opportunities, defining the future of industries and discussing how investment can contribute to overall global prosperity and development,” the PIF, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, said on Monday.

The next installment of FII will include a panel called “One World” — a look at how leaders from business and government develop a collective vision for the future, according to Arab News.

“Other sessions cover digital currencies, capital flows, market drivers, immersive technology, sustainability and giga-projects such as NEOM, Arab News added.

Read: Saudi denies delaying $200bn project, vows future spending

 Strong support

CNBC said recently that Larry Fink, chairman, and CEO of the world’s largest money manager, BlackRock, said Tuesday his firm won’t “run away” from doing business with Saudi.

“We do business in 80 different countries. There are many countries where we may disagree,” said Fink, whose firm manages $6.4 trillion in assets.

“I’ve been going to Saudi for years and years and years, as much as three or four times a year,” he said. “As a friend of the country’s, I wanted to do this in a way … that preserved the relationship that we have, that we worked so long for.”

Reuters reports that Fink will skip the event this year.

According to Bloomberg, senior investment bankers from HSBC Holdings Plc, Societe Generale SA and Credit Suisse Group AG are planning to attend the FII, even though their chief executives have told the world they’ve canceled appearances there.

“Wall Street firms which have yet to publicly signal their intentions, are also expecting to send executives,” people familiar with the companies told Bloomberg, asking not to be identified because the details are private.