We asked Global Agenda Council members to identify and predict the most important global trends that will likely impact the global economy, society and environment in the next 12-18 months. The top stories that emerged from the results are aggregated and analysed in this visualisation.
The survey results are not only used to determine the topics for discussion at this year’s Summit on the Global Agenda, but will, in turn, shape the agenda which faces world leaders when they convene in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in January 2013.
This year’s survey show two issues, in particular, moving rapidly up the global agenda: cracks in the Eurozone and a clear indication of a global leadership crisis.
Pressure on the Eurozone leaped to become this year’s top issue. By contrast last year’s number one spot, public debt, this year fell to tenth place. We see these results as reflecting a deepening appreciation of the underlying structural issues in the global economy, of which public debt levels are only one manifestation. The instability of the global economic outlook occupied second place in our survey in both 2011 and 2012.
Does the more holistic view on the economic situation also imply a greater readiness to think boldly about the structural economic solutions that might be needed? Supporting this interpretation, the second most rapidly-rising issue in the top ten was concern about a perceived lack of global leadership and coordination – having scored down in 24th in 2011, this concern ranked sixth overall in 2012.
Likewise on the move, from 20th up to seventh, was the issue of global interdependency. This is reflected also in the fact that cracks in the Eurozone was far from being a concern confined to respondents from Europe, with Asia likewise scoring it particularly highly.
We saw this especially in regard to scarcity of resources, a concern which ranked fourth overall, up from seventh in 2011. This issue also topped our “controversiality” index for 2012, meaning that when we asked respondents to nominate the issues they thought were most underestimated and most overestimated, it scored highly in both lists.
Second on the controversiality index came cyber risk, or the idea that we should be concerned about our increasing reliance on the virtual world to deliver critical services. The controversiality may be partly explained by the timeframe, with respondents being asked to think only 12-18 months ahead; many believe cyber risks will take longer to manifest. They figure prominently in a parallel Forum initiative, the Global Risks Report, which takes a ten-year time horizon.
Respondents were, however, in no doubt of the importance of the digital and communications revolution, which ranked as our third most important issue overall – up a position from a year ago. There was a clear regional split, with respondents from Latin America especially likely to emphasise on the opportunities presented by leapfrogging other technologies. Also more likely to rank this issue highly were business respondents and those aged under 50.
Sharp divisions of opinion over the importance of issues such as cyber threats and resource scarcity – and growing recognition of the need for global coordination and leadership – emphasise the need for multistakeholder platforms through which leaders from public and private sectors can improve understanding, find common ground and explore collaborative ways forward. It is precisely this purpose that the World Economic Forum exists to serve.
In all the various multistakeholder platforms we host, in Dubai, but also in Davos, at our Summer Davos in China and at our Regional events, recognition of both interdependency and the need for global leadership and coordination are implicit. The increasingly explicit recognition of these concerns among global opinion-leaders can only be an encouraging sign, although the prospects for carefree sleep for the members of the Global Agenda Councils less so.
Martina Gmür, Head of the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils