Interstate conflict biggest risk over the next decade, says World Economic Forum

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
15 January 2015

Interstate conflict is the biggest threat to global stability over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

In its Global Risks 2015 report, prepared ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, WEF highlights international conflict with regional consequences as the number one risk in terms of likelihood, and the fourth most serious in terms of impact.

In terms of likelihood, extreme weather events are number two, followed by failure of national governance systems, state collapse and high structural unemployment.

For impact the number one risk is water crises, followed by rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction, interstate conflict and failure of climate change adaptation.

The WEF said 2015 stands out as the year when geopolitical risks return to fore, and this has implications in areas such as economics, technology and natural resources.

The key trend of urbanisation, and estimates that 40 per cent of urban expansion is taking place in slums, will have impacts on the social stability, the spread of disease and the environment, according to WEF.

Technology is an area of risk in terms of issues such as unemployment, with estimates that 47 per cent of US jobs could be substituted by technology, and cyber crime.

John Drzik, president of global risk and specialties at Marsh & McLennan Companies, which helped compile the report, said: “As a company you are not protected [against cyber attacks] unless your supply chain is protected.”

On a regional level, WEF said the risks Europe was least prepared for were unemployment, "large scale involuntary migration" and "profound social change".

Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, lead economist at WEF, said: “Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world again faces the risk of major conflict between states.

“However, the means to wage such conflict, whether through cyber attack, competition for resources or sanctions and other economic tools, is broader than ever. Addressing all these possible triggers and seeking to return the world to a path of partnership, rather than competition, should be a priority for leaders as we enter 2015.”

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