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Major forum on worldwide trends identifies top priorities Comment on this post ↓
November 24th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Inequality, instability

top list of global concerns

Sultan Saeed Nasser Al Mansouri of the United Arab Emirates was Co-Chair of the Summit on the Global Agenda. World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

A SIGNIFICANT DISCUSSION of the most important issues facing the global community went almost unnoticed by most media this week.
The Summit on the Global Agenda hosted by the World Economic Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates arrived at some alarming and pessimistic conclusions about the state of the world.
The trends of most significance to most people were identified as inequality, instability and weak governance, according to the final report from the conference.
Although these issues are of vital importance in many countries, the report elicited little coverage in mass media anywhere.

THE RESULTS OF the conference were summarized in a Nov. 20 news release titled Inequality, Instability and Weak Global Governance Lead to Pessimism, Leaders Warn
“The sixth World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda – the world’s most extensive brainstorming event – ended [Nov. 20], with business, government and civil society leaders warning of the dangers of inequality, instability and the weakness of global institutions, but offering optimism for the future,” the release said.

The web presentation by the World Economic Forum on the top 10 trends of 2014. Click image to enlarge.

The comments from leaders seemed to reflect the top issues of their regions.
“Inclusion and jobs – that is the number one issue for us,” said Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank in Tunis, in the closing session of the three-day summit.
“The public’s disillusionment with leaders is a problem that must be addressed through concerted action,” said Stefano Scarpetta, of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.
A report from the conference based on a poll of 1,592 leaders from academia, business, government, and non-profits is entitled What are the top trends facing the world in 2014? And what should we do about them?
Listed at the top of the report are: “Tensions in the Middle East. Rising living standards. Adaptation to climate change. Paralyzed government. Innovative cities.

A map depicting the relative importance of the top 10 issues in various regions of the world. Click image to enlarge.

“The world is changing faster than ever. We’re connected to each other in ways that would have been thought impossible just a generation ago, enabling enormous potential but also exposing our institutions to great strain. If we are to effectively address the challenges we face as a planet, decision-makers need to keep pace and anticipate what lies ahead.”
The background is then explained.
“To foresee the changes awaiting us in 2014, we asked the vast network of Global Agenda Council Members to identify and prioritise the issues that will exert the greatest force on the world in the coming 12 to 18 months. Using a selective survey tool, we began by determining the top 10 global trends.”
These trends were analyzed by the Pew Research Center in its article Experts rank the top 10 global trends in which Jacob Poushter compared the WEF results to surveys previously conducted by Pew on similar topics.
The first item on the list is rising societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa.
“People in this region were mostly dissatisfied with their country’s direction, according to the Pew Research Center’s survey of people across the globe this year. This includes particular disappointment in Lebanon (88% dissatisfied), the Palestinian territories (87%) and Tunisia (81%),” Poushter wrote.

The Pew Research Center analysis of the WEF findings. Click image to enlarge.

Second was widening income disparities:  “One of the most striking findings from [Pew’s] recent survey of general publics across the globe was the degree to which people see the gap between rich and poor as a major challenge. In 31 of 39 nations, half or more of those polled said inequality is a very big problem in their country,” Poushter reported.
Persistent structural unemployment was also found to be “a very big problem. When asked which of the four issues – inflation, unemployment, inequality or debt – the government should address first, 22 of the 39 publics surveyed said jobs.”
The other seven top global concerns listed and analyzed by Pew are Intensifying cyber threats; Inaction on climate change; Diminishing confidence in economic policies; A lack of values in leadership; The expanding middle class in Asia; The growing importance of megacities; and the rapid spread of misinformation online.
The analyses of these issues should be required reading for politicians everywhere.
Few would argue they are indeed the most important issues facing people around the world, even if their exact position in the top 10 might vary among difference regions.
But, perhaps most pessimistic of all is that included in this list is lack of confidence in leadership. Exhibit A would have to be the dysfunctional U.S. Congress, which has been unable to even keep the government open and functioning without interruption.
We have little reason to be optimistic that this will change significantly any time soon. It’s too bad, because all the other issues on the list depend on leaders having the political will to address them.
The WEF should be applauded for focusing global attention on what truly concerns each one of us. Let us hope the politic elites are listening.

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