We publish the 2019 edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report at an important moment. The world is facing a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges—from slowing global growth and persistent economic inequality to climate change, geopolitical tensions and the accelerating pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In isolation, these are daunting challenges; faced simultaneously, we will struggle if we do not work together. There has never been a more pressing need for a collaborative and multistakeholder approach to shared global problems.
This is a globalized world, as a result of which historic reductions in global poverty have been achieved. But it is also increasingly clear that change is needed. Polarization is on the rise in many countries. In some cases, the social contracts that hold societies together are fraying. This is an era of unparalleled resources and technological advancement, but for too many people it is also an era of insecurity. We are going to need new ways of doing globalization that respond to this insecurity. In some areas, this may mean redoubling efforts at the international level—implementing new approaches to a range of issues: technology and climate change to trade, taxation, migration and humanitarianism. In other areas renewed commitment and resources will be needed at the national level—tackling inequality, for example, or strengthening social protections and the bonds of political community.
Renewing and improving the architecture of our national and international political and economic systems is this generation’s defining task. It will be a monumental undertaking, but an indispensable one. The Global Risks Report demonstrates how high the stakes are—my hope is that this year’s report will also help to build momentum behind the need to act. It begins with a sweep of the global risks landscape and warns of the danger of sleepwalking into crises. It goes on to consider a number of risks in depth: geopolitical and geo-economic disruptions, rising sea levels, emerging biological threats, and the increasing emotional and psychological strain that many people are experiencing. The Future Shocks section again focuses on potential rapid and dramatic changes in the systems we rely on—topics this year include quantum computing, human rights and economic populism.
The Global Risks Report embodies the collaborative and multistakeholder ethos of the World Economic Forum. It sits at the heart of our new Centre for Regional and Geopolitical Affairs, which is responsible for our crucial partnerships with the world’s governments and international organizations. But the breadth and depth of its analysis also hinge on constant interaction with the Forum’s industry and thematic teams, which shape our systems-based approach to the challenges facing the world. I am grateful for the collaboration of so many colleagues in this endeavour.
I am also particularly grateful for the insight and dedication of the report’s Advisory Board. I would like to thank our long-standing strategic partners, Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group, as well as our academic advisers at the National University of Singapore, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania. As in previous years, the Global Risks Report draws on our annual Global Risks Perceptions Survey, which is completed by around 1,000 members of our multistakeholder communities. The report has also benefitted greatly from the input of many individuals in the Forum’s global expert networks.
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