What are the most important opportunities and challenges facing the world in 2014? A new report from the World Economic Forum ranks the top ten global trends, based on a survey of 1,592 experts in various spheres of business, academic life, and government.
The survey, called Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014, was conducted to help world leaders to better understand the major issues of our time, caused by faster than ever breakthrough technologies, demographic and social shifts and economic trends.
The Outlook provides expert perspective from the Global Agenda Councils within the World Economic Forum on the upcoming challenges and opportunities in next twelve to eighteen months. The report was launched in time for the Summit on the Global Agenda which discussed its findings from 18-20 November, 2013 in Abu Dhabi.
The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 was launched in July and received responses from a total of 1,592 top experts, thought leaders, and global shapers from 112 countries. Besides a comprehensive overview of the global issues, the Outlook also provides deep insights into specific regional challenges. Here are the top ten trends of 2014, ranked by global significance.
Rising societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa – There is potential for development and general shift in the direction of the post Arab Spring countries. But, as a whole, the long-term outlook remains unclear with expanding polarization between ideological viewpoints. 45% of respondents rank political instability as the biggest challenge, while only 27% say unemployment is main reason for pressure.
Widening income disparities – The gap between rich and poor is widening around the world, which leads to a number of threats – lack of access to high quality basic primary and secondary education, increase of chronic diseases while access to medical help is limited, high rates of youth unemployment.
Persistent structural unemployment – Unemployment is increasing in some sectors, although globalization has lead to creating new jobs for instance in the IT sector. Governments and the private sector should take a global view on unemployment and take measures to provide more opportunities.
Intensifying cyber threats – Governments are always a step behind the emerging technologies and their ignorance leads to a major threat – they simply cannot be controlled or regulated. Private firms and NGOs are also unaware of most cyber treats. One of the issues is the so-called “internet of things”, or the fact that physical objects can be internet-enabled.
Inaction on climate change – Action is being taken and the humanity is generally moving in the right direction, but it is all too slow. Part of the complexity of this issue is in the responsibility, shared by all governments, businesses, academic circles and regular people.
Diminishing confidence in economic policies – Young people in particular have lost faith in economic policy and institutional integrity, responsibility and ability to set the rules.
A lack of values in leadership – It’s a growing believe that leaders are not driven by ideal for the common good, which is the only way to prosper, but by self-interest. Leaders’ and institutions’ values are shifted and there isn’t shared views and vision of the future.
The expanding middle class in Asia – There is a huge rise in living standards across Asia with many important reforms either launched or already completed – free-market economics, a culture of pragmatism, mastery of science and technology, the rule of law, education, a culture of peace, meritocracy. This growth in the middle class also presents a challenge to the environment – an overconsumption of global resources can lead to disaster.
The growing importance of megacities – An important key to solving major regional and global challenges is understanding how the cities work. What lies behind their social and economic success? By 2025, there will be 35 mega cities, compared to 22 in 2011. If Tokyo for example, was a country, by 2025 it would be 31st largest in the world.
The rapid spread of misinformation online – Here, the survey names social media and Twitter in particular, as a major source of complex and large volume of data that should be observed more closely. The interpretation of information is also common, so we should look beyond the specific misinformation and tons of data we are receiving every second and look at the political-cultural setting that it spreads (or possibly designed to spread).