Global Risk Report 2016–The International Security Outlook for 2030

In the past week or so, I have done several posts on the first part of the Global Risk Report 2016, which came out earlier this year from the World Economic Forum.

The report is, to a large extent, similar in format to those created in previous years, which makes for an excellent way of checking up on recent trends of global risks.

One feature that was specifically commissioned for the Global Risk Report 2016, however, was a survey of the international security outlook for 2030.   International security is defined as “measures taken by state or non-state actors, individually or collectively, to ensure their survival and integrity against trans-boundary threats.”

The consensus in international relations that was achieved in the first 25 years after the Cold War created social, p0litical and economic progress for people in many countries around the world.  However, shifts in political and economic power are threatening the international security order, and these are being accelerated by:

  • technological innovation (see previous post on Global Technological Risks)
  • social fragmentation
  • demographic shifts

The two shifts that have the potential of destabilizing current international relations are:

  1. Frail or weakening states–these open up space for the rise of armed non-state actors (like ISIS) in the global security space, and present themselves as alternatives to state-based governance structures
  2. Return of strategic competition between strong states with conflicting interests–this can be seen in the competition between the BRIC  countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) on the one hand and US and NATO countries on the other.

Although these two phenomenon may seem different on the surface, the Global Risk Report 2016 says they are linked.   The first category are “asymmetrical” threats and the second category are classical threats.   However, the instability of states such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria have led to the rise of both types of threats simultaneously.  For example, in the case of the Syria, the weakening of the Assad regime’s control over the country not only to the rise of non-state actors like ISIS (one of the asymmetric threats), but to increased competition between the United States and Russia to influence the situation.

The “battlefield” in Syria, if you can call it that, has blurred the distinction between zones of war and zones of peace, as well as the distinction between legitimate combatants, non-traditional adversaries and the civilians in the areas that are undergoing conflict.

Because the two categories of threats above are linked, one conclusion to be drawn is that ISIS (aka Daesh) cannot be defeated as long as civil war rages in Syria, and major regional and global powers will need to find a political settlement.

The detailed recommendations by the World Economic Forum in the Global Risk Report 2016 to defeat ISIS will be described in the next post.





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