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Global Risks Report 2021: what are our biggest risks?

The 16th edition of the Global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum, highlights the disruptive implications of major risks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, that may reshape our world in 2021 and over the next decade. The report draws on the survey results from nearly 700 experts and decision-makers globally who were asked to rank their top concerns in terms of likelihood and impact.

The 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report analyzes the risks of societal fractures – manifested by persistent and emerging risks to our health, rising unemployment, growing digital divides, disenchantment among young people and geopolitical fragmentation. Companies risk a disorderly shake-out that will exclude large groups of workers and companies from the markets of the future.

  1. billions of people risk missing out on the digital leap forward, due to growing inequality and fragmentation of digitization and technology;
  2. in the medium term, the global economy is threatened by the domino effects of the corona pandemic and the ever-accumulating ecological crisis, which will also leave geopolitical stability vulnerable for the rest of this decade;
  3. climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental risks continue to pose increasing threats, and according to the World Economic Forum, these risks remain our greatest challenge in terms of likelihood and impact.

With COVID-19 and the health crisis, social and community cohesion is more important than ever

The degradation of our environment – still the greatest, existential threat to humanity – threatens to coincide with social and societal crises, with serious consequences. But as the world seems more attuned to risk with COVID-19, wise lessons can be learned to strengthen response and resilience. In 2020, the risk of a pandemic became a reality. As governments, businesses and societies grapple with COVID-19, social and community cohesion is more important than ever. The latest edition of the Global Risks Report presents a disconcerting picture of the global pandemic, economic downturn, political and social unrest, and worsening climate crisis. The report examines how governments, businesses and societies can respond to these risks.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 had a major impact on the 2021 report compared to the 15th edition in 2020. Infectious disease risk now ranks number one, whereas in 2020 a potential pandemic was still ranked 10th.

Widespread effects

According to the Global Risks Report 2021, the acute social and economic costs of COVID-19 are very serious. The main threat is that years of progress – with regards to reducing poverty and inequality and social cohesion – is eroded and creates new risks. The pandemic has put infectious diseases at the top of the Impact list.

COVID-19 has not only resulted in widespread loss of life, it is also inhibiting economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world and further increasing wealth inequality globally.

At the same time, there are concerns that the fight against the COVID pandemic is taking away needed resources for other critical health challenges, including vaccination programs against measles, polio, and other diseases in especially poor countries.

Concerns among tomorrow’s leaders

Despite the inevitable consequences of COVID-19, ecological risks and challenges still dominate the top 10 in the report, as they did in the 2020 edition.  These human-caused problems are called “an existential threat to humanity.” Notwithstanding a drop in carbon emissions due to lockdown and declines in international trade and travel, there are major anxieties that greenhouse gas emissions will rebound as economies begin to recuperate.

In particular, among young future leaders, there are great concerns about climate-related threats and they see these risks as “the most likely” and “most impactful long-term risks. In addition, this generation also warns for the dangers of “disillusionment and illusions” among young people around the world. In particular, they see personal and humanitarian risks as immediate threats, while macro risks are envisioned more for the medium term. Fundamental geopolitical risks are expected by these Global Shapers to be much more long-term.

Among the short-term threats, which are likely to materialize within the next two years, are infectious diseases, livelihood crises, digital inequality and disillusionment among young people. As for medium-term risks over the next three to five years, the Global Shapers identified the collapse of “asset bubbles,” IT infrastructure failures, price instability and debt crises.

In the longer term, these young people expressed concern about weapons of mass destruction, state collapse, loss of biodiversity, and harmful technological advances that could turn against humanity.

More blogs and stuff coming up:

In addition to the risks listed, the Global Risks Report 2021 reflects the lessons we can learn from the pandemic to strengthen global resilience of people and communities. For example, the report articulates analytical frameworks and creates new forms of partnership in radical interdependence. The report also describes how we can restore confidence in each other and in our governments and businesses through transparency and clear, consistent communication.

The coming weeks, I will be publishing regular blogs and columns about the World Economic Forum meeting (in Davos from January 25-29, 2021). The agenda of the World Economic Forum calls itself a groundbreaking mobilization of world leaders to shape the principles, policies and partnerships needed in today’s extraordinary times. According to the World Economic Forum, it is essential for leaders from all walks of life to collaborate virtually immediately for a more inclusive, cohesive and sustainable future.

The coming weeks I will be publishing blogs on the following topics, which are closely related to the Davos meeting and the 16th edition of the Global Risks Report:

  1. Summary of the Global Risks Report for people and organizations who want to make a concrete contribution to creating a better, more sustainable world and inclusive society;
  2. Global Risks 2021: a fractured future – what is the impact of COVID-19 on society and community and how can we repair the damage and ensure greater resilience and agility?
  3. Error 404: blockages to digital inclusiveness – people are becoming more and more disparate in their digital autonomy and it is very important that everyone gets and keeps access to digital markets and technology. How do we prevent a further increase in the digital divide and lack of social cohesion?
  4. Pandemics and youth in the age of missed opportunities – the prospects of the young generation had already deteriorated due to the regression of our living environment, increasing inequality and social disruption.How can we prevent this generation from becoming disillusioned and losing its dreams?

Additional information and sources:

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