Global risks are intensifying
“We are drifting deeper into global problems from which we will struggle to extricate ourselves.” This bleak outlook summarises the World Economic Forum’s recently published Global Risks Report. In short, the scale, complexity and urgency of the challenges facing the planet is breathtaking.
Those that dominate the headlines include the accelerating impact of climate change, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss, which sit alongside societal and geopolitical challenges such as involuntary migration, rising unemployment among the poor and breakdowns in governance.
Even more worrying are the underlying systemic forces which are converging in ways that are difficult to comprehend; an increasing polarisation of societies merging with the impacts of a changing climate and rising income disparity fuelling increasing nationalist sentiments, shifting geopolitical power balances fusing with issues of urbanisation and degradation of the earth’s ecosystem.
Alarmed? Disheartened? Well, according to the Forum, the picture gets even bleaker…
The collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking.
“When the challenges before us demand immediate collective action, fractures within the global community appear to be only widening.” The findings are stark; our resilience to global shocks is weakening. The report suggests that growing fissures in the international system, tensions between the interconnectedness of the global economy and the rising political nationalism present ever-deepening risks. Put another way, the adaptive capacity of global institutions, public and private alike is increasingly threatened and may not be sufficient for the kind of problems we are unwittingly co-creating.
The struggle for new approaches is more urgent than ever
“The good news is that the window for action is still open, if not for much longer.” The Forum is confirming our suspicions; that we are grappling with problems the world has never seen before, and that some of our leaders and institutions are actively dismantling the structures required to address them. In this context, whilst the demand for new ideas, approaches and action is urgent, taking concerted action is much more easily said than done.
The report itself reveals the challenge behind such ambitions; whilst offering an eye-wateringly rich analysis of the risks, trends and interconnections facing us all, it’s response to such systemic issues is wholly inadequate. But it’s not the fault of the Forum, or any other institution wrestling with these problems; we are simply sailing all-too rapidly into uncharted and uncertain waters.
But what next? How best to forge collective will and inspire adaptive action on a global scale?
“Unless stakeholders adapt multilateral institutions for this turbulent period, the risks that were once on the horizon will continue to thrive.” The report brings to light massive questions for those battling away on the front lines of shifting such complex problems.
These are questions we at Wasafiri are deeply committed to exploring. Our own experiences of grappling with systemic challenges problems as diverse as inclusive growth, climate change, sustainable food production and entrenched conflict have unearthed a few helpful clues. We’ve tried our best to capture some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way in our Systemcraft Framework, in a bid to help leaders and organisations make better choices about the battles they face.
It’s anything but a silver bullet, but we’re determined not to let our failings and flaws get in the way. Indeed, to paraphrase the Forum; even with such tools and techniques, things will go wrong. And when they do, we must learn and learn quickly. Quick fixes and superficial solutions are simply not good enough.