International Security Outlook 2030–Governance Challenges

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.

The last post showed how these two shifts are interconnected by using the example of the challenge that Daesh (aka the Islamic State In Syria or ISIS) poses to the Middle East region and eventually to the entire world.

This post will discuss other examples of frail or weakening states creating a power vacuum which is being filled by terrorist groups or criminal enterprises.

  1. Afghanistan–Gains made by US-coalition forces have been lost to resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.    For more background, see the book Taliban by Ahmed Rashid.
  2. Africa-violent and extremist groups like Boko Haram are at work in  parts of the Sahel, Northern Nigeria, the Horn of Africa, and the Central African Republic.   The security and social concerns brought about by these groups have had a dampening effect on economic growth in Africa.
  3. Latin America–organized criminal gangs have gained influence over a steady stream of drugs that continue to flow from the region, thus fueling further expansion of their activities.

All of these security concerns brought about by criminal and/or terrorist activity have a common source in the failing governance of the states they were formed in.    Terrorist groups get support from the local populace to the extent that the people are disenchanted with the services they get from the government.    These groups sometimes offer services to the people in order to gain their loyalty, although the people often find that these services come at a high price in other ways.

The next part of the report on international security deals with the second of the two themes above, the strategic competition between strong states rather than the problems caused by weak states.    The example given to illustrate this are the security issues in the South China Sea.


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