Implications and Outcomes
Though none of the three scenarios presented here will occur exactly as described, the security landscape of the future may manifest multiple elements from one or more of the scenarios, probably simultaneously. Indeed, it can be argued that we have already entered the period of “walled cities”, as the refugee crisis seems to lead some nations to the reflex reaction of closing borders – both physical and political – as described in Part 1.
The three scenarios may come across as somewhat dystopian, because they are extrapolations of existing, negative trends. The world does not need to arrive at these dystopias, however. Our collective knowledge, connectedness, technological advances and social innovations present endless opportunities to change the outcome and shape a more secure world, given strong leadership and the right decisions being taken at the international level. This last point brings us back to the purpose of this Report: to cast new light on decisions that need to be taken today. The following set of recommendations is intended to aid in envisaging possible futures and to help change control the trajectory we are on and improve the outcome.
Overhauling the Social Contract
Above all, these three scenarios point to the need to overhaul the social contract between citizen and state. Re-establishing trust in governance, improving the accountability of institutions and leaders, reducing social and economic divergences and delivering better services should be top objectives for policy-makers. In these areas,26 technology is not only a potential disruptor but also a key enabler.
More effective governance alone may not suffice, however, without also building greater social cohesion. The fabric that binds citizens to the state and to each other is fraying. A critical task for the state is to reinforce notions of citizenship and narratives of inclusion within national discourse, which can pave the way for reconciling political and theological differences both domestically and internationally.
Rewiring Global Governance
All three scenarios reflect uncertainty around the future role and ability of global governance institutions to deliver on security. In an ideal world, a strong global body would have the tools and standing to mitigate conflicts involving either terrorism or competition between great powers, and to contain and resolve peripheral conflicts. At present, however, the multilateral system appears overwhelmed by the number and complexity of issues, and international mechanisms are often fragmented, co-opted or undermined by the special interests of chosen member states.
If states want to strengthen their ability to take collective decisions on key international security matters, they need to improve the efficiency of the multilateral apparatus. Progress on meaningful reform of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions to reflect current political and economic realities has been slow and unfocused. Piecemeal reform of the system itself will not suffice: the choice is between implementing comprehensive reform to create the right mechanisms and responses for future global cooperation on security, and allowing the “death by a thousand cuts” of the global governance system – an outcome that would not favour international security.
Fostering Global Leadership
Today’s world is in clear need of strong leadership, new compromises, innovative ideas and a capacity for long-term thinking. This is not limited to government and international organizations but also applies to civil society and the business sector. Because power is distributed among many sectors, multistakeholder cooperation is more important for tomorrow’s security than ever before.
The digital revolution, at times a source of disruption, can also be a tool for enhanced transparency – and transparency, if genuine, offers the potential to rebuild trust.
As suggested by the “strong regions” scenario, beginning that process at a regional level, with new architectures that are parallel to the existing international system, could ultimately strengthen rather than undermine global stability.
Enhancing the Role of Cities
Refocusing some security efforts at the level of the city could be another contribution. As urbanization gathers pace, cities will increasingly rival states as the most natural level of government for harnessing technology to deliver public services and security. Cities have also proven their advantages as sites of innovation, employment creation and higher productivity, because they, at times, prove to be more focused on practical problem solving than on the “status and prestige” issues that tend to obscure interstate relations. Devolving resources from national to municipal levels and creating new ways for city leaders to collaborate on security matters may also be faster than reforming established mechanisms for multilateral collaboration among states.
Promoting Private Sector Engagement
A strong argument could be made for increasing the participation of the private sector as a stakeholder in international security.27 The implications of security risks affect companies assessing where to invest and do business as much as they affect governments engaged in trade, diplomacy and maintaining the security of their citizens. Yet the potential of the private sector to contribute to peace and security is not reflected in global security mechanisms or at the multilateral level.
Businesses often see global security as a risk management and compliance issue. Limited understanding of one’s own global, regional and local impact might sometimes even lead to inadvertently reproducing or confirming negative patterns in society and governance. The traditional business response to geopolitical skirmishes has been to view them essentially as intractable externalities: companies seek to minimize downside risks while waiting for a crisis to blow over. However, in a hyperconnected world, volatility in one place can have immediate repercussions on the other side of the globe. Avoiding investment in known or potentially volatile places does not insulate companies from the impacts of volatility. In today’s world, companies might be well advised to understand their own potential to influence international developments.
Many companies are already dealing with the root causes of insecurity, directly or indirectly. From inefficient governance to corruption, environmental degradation, social disparity and unrest in surrounding communities, many companies have policies in place to protect their interests while also addressing these drivers of insecurity within their core areas of operations. For example, a mining company seeking to minimize environmental impacts on local communities, a telecommunications company training local workers in the skills they require and thereby also empowering those workers, and an infrastructure company working with local government to improve quality and transparency around public tenders may all be contributing towards addressing the drivers of geopolitical instability. Another way the private sector can contribute is through company norms that forbid involvement with corrupt practices; this may, over time, spur better governance and reduce social resentment.
Encouraging New Behaviour
Multistakeholder cooperation might also be conducive to mitigating the security implications of technological innovation. Ethical frameworks and norms guiding technological innovation could be elaborated between those actually involved rather than relying only on regulators, which will struggle to keep up with the pace of change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Likewise, common understandings about the security dimension of an increasingly connected world could involve key private and public stakeholders from both the emerging technology and international security spheres.
Viewing climate change through an international security lens also suggests several policy options where multistakeholder action is critical. These include the search for new mechanisms to reflect externalities related to resource scarcity or environmental effects, while simultaneously safeguarding social stability by guaranteeing affordable access to the necessities for survival. Public-private partnerships established to identify technological solutions to improve the efficiency and resilience of food production and water use is another example.