Looking back at the events that unfolded in 2023, significant developments captured the attention of people and nations around the world. Others received minimal if no scrutiny. Vulnerable populations struggled with deadly conflicts (Sudan, Gaza and Israel to mention a few). This coupled with record-breaking heat conditions, drought, wildfires, and flooding. Societal discontent was notable across the globe, with news bulletins dominated by polarisation, violent protests, and riots. Although globally destabilising consequences, such as those experienced at the initial outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war or the COVID-19 pandemic, were largely avoided, the longer-term outlook for these developments could lead to further global shocks.
As 2024 begins, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published its 19th edition of the Global Risks Report which sets against a backdrop of rapidly accelerating technological change and economic uncertainty, as the world is plagued by a duo of dangerous crises: climate and conflict. In the words of Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director of the WEF, “underlying geopolitical tensions combined with the eruption of active hostilities in multiple regions is contributing to an unstable global order characterised by polarising narratives, eroding trust and insecurity.”
The Report’s results highlight a predominantly negative outlook for the world over the next two years that is expected to worsen over the next decade. The Report surveyed 1,500 risk experts across the globe, the majority of which (54%) anticipate some instability and a moderate risk of global catastrophes, while another 30% expect even more turbulent conditions. The outlook is markedly more negative over the 10-year time horizon, with nearly two-thirds of respondents expecting a stormy or turbulent outlook.
Short and Long-Term Global Outlook
The Global Risk Report 2024 puts its analysis through the perspective of four structural forces that will shape the materialisation and management of global risks over the next decade. These essentially comprise longer-term shifts in the arrangement of and relationship between four systemic elements of the global landscape:
Technological acceleration; and
The Report analyses global risks over one, two and 10-year horizons with the aim of supporting decision-makers in adopting a dual vision that balances short- and longer-term risks. The Report’s results for 2024, 2026 and 2034 highlight current crises that corrode resilience, as well as new and rapidly evolving sources of risk that will reshape the next decade.
Global Risks ranked by Severity over the Short and Long Term
The world is undergoing multiple long-term structural transformations: the rise of AI, climate change, a shift in the geopolitical distribution of power, and demographic transitions. These structural forces are global and pervasive, and charged with momentum. Against this backdrop, known and newly emerging risks need preparation and mitigation.
- Localised strategies, breakthrough attempts, collective actions and cross-border coordination all contribute to addressing these risks.
- Localised strategies, leveraging investment and regulation, are critical for reducing the impact of global risks, and both the public and private sector can play a key role in extending benefits to all.
Through prioritising the future and focusing on breakthrough research and development, the efforts of single entities can make the world a safer place. The actions of individual citizens, companies, and countries can move the needle on global risk reduction if they reach a critical mass. Finally, cross-border coordination remains the only viable pathway for the most critical risks to human security and prosperity.
The Global Risk Report 2024 can be accessed through the following link.