In preparation for its upcoming Davos summit, the World Economic Forum has released its Global Risks Report, 2018.
The report can be summed up in three words - "worse than expected." It focuses on the usual suspects, environmental catastrophes, cyber-warfare, and nuclear war. Tossed into the mix is what is described as an "unsettling geopolitical phase."
Multilateral rules-based approaches have been fraying. Re-establishing the state as the primary locus of power and legitimacy has become an increasingly attractive strategy for many countries, but one that leaves many smaller states squeezed as the geopolitical sands shift. There is currently no sign that norms and institutions exist towards which the world’s major powers might converge. This creates new risks and uncertainties: rising military tensions, economic and commercial disruptions, and destabilizing feedback loops between changing global conditions and countries’ domestic political conditions. International relations now play out in increasingly diverse ways. Beyond conventional military build-ups, these include new cyber sources of hard and soft power, reconfigured trade and investment links, proxy conflicts, changing alliance dynamics, and potential flashpoints related to the global commons. Assessing and mitigating risks across all these theatres of potential conflict will require careful horizon scanning and crisis anticipation by both state and non-state actors.