WEF examines the Risks of Global Marginalisation

World Economic Forum | Global Risks 2012 | January 2012


A new report from the World Economic Forum highlights the increasing importance of marginalisation as a security issue over the coming decades. The seventh edition of the WEF’s Global Risks report describes what they see as the ‘seeds of dystopia’ threatening both social and political stability across the world.

The report describes dystopia as “the opposite of a utopia, describes a place where life is full of hardship and devoid of hope.” The reality is that after years of unequal growth and a growing divide between elites and non-elites both between and within countries, this description has become a reality for the majority of the world’s population. It would seem that the neoliberal economic consensus which has dominated the WEF’s own discussions for years has finally caught up with the long-term consequences of a global free market unable to effectively price externalities be they social, environmental or even strategic.

The report’s analysis of the interconnections between a number of risks reveals “a constellation of fiscal, demographic and societal risks signalling a dystopian future for much of humanity.”

Yet this is not just a problem for the developing world which the West can view from afar. The report warns that the states that could make up this dystopian future could be “developed economies where citizens lament the loss of social entitlements, emerging economies that fail to provide opportunities for their young population or to redress rising inequalities, or least-developed economies where wealth and social gains are declining.”

The report is part of a growing awareness of the linkages between seemingly unrelated events and flashpoints such as the Arab Awakening, the “Occupy” movements worldwide and civil unrest in countries from Thailand to Chile, to Israel to India. The link according to a report is a common and “growing frustration among citizens with the political and economic establishment, and the rapid public mobilization enabled by greater technological connectivity.” The importance of this is that what appear to be simply isolated national problems may in fact be the symptoms of a much larger global trend (or more accurately a series of interlinking trends). This means that ad-hoc national approaches are insufficient for genuinely addressing the challenges of a marginalised majority world, as the WEF report puts it, “A macro and longer-term interpretation of these events highlights the need to improve the management of global economic and demographic transformations that stand to increasingly define global social trends in the decade to come.”

Perhaps the most worrying finding of the report is that “As the world grows increasingly complex and interdependent, the capacity to manage the systems that underpin our prosperity and safety is diminishing.” As the tagline of this website says, we need global responses to global threats. 

The full report can be read here. 


Image source: ectopic (ibandera). 


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