REVEALED: Global Risks in an Interconnected World

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Global Risks Interconnection map 2013 Infographic
WEF's Global Risks Interconnection map is created from the answers by survey respondents who were asked what where the most systemically important economic risks as well as the most important connecting risks between them.
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Global Risks Interconnection map 2013 Infographic
WEF’s Global Risks Interconnection map is created from the answers by survey respondents who were asked what where the most systemically important economic risks as well as the most important connecting risks between them.

Resilient Dynamism was the theme for the World Economic Forum (WEF) held at Davos-Klosters earlier last year. Based on an extensive survey of thousands of experts worldwide, WEF’s Global Risk Report analyses 50 global risks in terms of impact, likelihood and interconnections. The Report serves to inform and educate decision makers on the complex interconnectedness of our worlds. It divulges the external nature of global risks and emphasizes the need to strengthen mechanisms.

According to the report, global risks cannot be managed by any organization or nation on their own. They do not respect national borders, or patterns, so it has become all the more incumbent that governments worldwide work together in cross border collaboration for mitigating and managing risks and strengthening national resilience.

The Report reveals that persistent economic weakness takes away our ability to tackle environmental challenges. It lays emphasis on severe income disparity followed by chronic fiscal imbalances as two of the most prevalent global risks. Rising greenhouse gas emission was cited as the third most contributing factor.

The 50 Risks were categorized into 5 categories:

1. Economic
2. Environmental
3. Geopolitical
4. Societal
5. Technological

The report identifies 5 centre of gravity:

1. Major systemic financial failure
2. Failure of climate change adaptation
3. Global governance failure
4. Water supply crisis
5. Critical systems failure

Global Risks 2013 Report – Overview Film

[tubepress video=”btP9uve633A” theme=”youtube” embeddedHeight=”400″ embeddedWidth=”640″]

The findings were categorized into 3 major risk scenarios :

1.TESTING ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESILIENCE :

Global economic uncertainties & stress will be the no.1 risk factor that will absorb the attention of policy makers worldwide for a long time to come.On the economic front, global resilience is being tested by bold monetary and austere fiscal measures. Concurrently on the other hand, environmental resilience is being tested by rising temperatures and extreme climatic changes. There is no denying the fact that the two are interconnected and are on a collision course that could trigger a perfect global storm with grave consequences. A sudden crisis in one domain could directly affect the other’s chances of developing viable solutions to mitigate the risks.

POA to tackle the crisis: G2A2 Green Growth Action Alliance 

Emerging economies are developing “Green Growth” strategies to attract investment in sustainable infrastructure as Water, Agriculture, Energy and Transport. 50 leading companies in these sectors joined hands with financial institutions to launch G2A2 .They have a 4 point strategic plan which will be implemented in 2 year time frame:

  • Highlight innovative models for public- private collaboration.
  • Stimulate private investments at national level
  • Provide new ideas and models
  • Scale up and replicate successful projects.

2.DIGITAL WILDFIRES IN A HYPERCONNECTED WORLD :

Rumours can spread like wildfires. Technology has only further facilitated this. In 1938,thousands of Americans confused an adaptation of “War of Worlds” Novel with a News Broadcast on Radio which caused widespread panic that US was being invaded by Martians. Though it is difficult to envision such a scenario today on Radio Broadcast, because reporters have become more cautious and listeners more skeptical and savvy, the Internet, a relatively young medium is doing exactly that. A Tweet or a blog or a video can have far reaching repercussions that have shaped political and cultural turn of events. Massive Digital misinformation sits at the center of the constellation of technological and geopolitical risks from terrorism to cyber attacks. Digital wildfires can create havoc in a hyper-connected World. Where as a Radio Broadcast was one to many, in the digital world the impact is  Many to many.

From facilitating the Arab Spring, to successfully predicting election results, influencing share markets, box office outcomes and consumer reactions, the digital media is the most powerful tool there is today. There is also a darker side of the story like defamation, inciting riots as in the case of the viral video “Innocence of Muslims” and Astroturfing or negative mass campaigning in elections.

Executives interviewed by Forbes and Deloitte placed social media among the greatest risks that their corporations face.

Managing Digital Wildfire crisis:

The rules and regulations of digital content are constantly being rewritten and innovated. In a series of workshops held in Mexico City, Istanbul, Brussels and New Delhi, and supported by an internet survey in 15 countries a large scale project is being shaped to tackle digital Wildfires.

  • Develop a platform to brainstorm on issues relating to digital media to arrive at a consensus at the same time respecting freedom of expression, intellectual property and privacy in the digital world
  • Taking into consideration the regional values and cultural norms and how they are reflected in the border-less digital world.
  • To find a framework that will facilitate a conducive environment for any government or business intervention to be effective and sustainable with regulatory policies on intellectual property.
  • Technological innovation that highlights collaboration between stakeholders or leaders of a group of organization that has been successful.

3.THE DANGERS OF HUBRIS ON HUMAN HEALTH : 

The past 100 years has seen some of the most groundbreaking advances in Medicine and yet paradoxically, humanity has never been under threat from infectious diseases than ever before. We have no doubt advanced in diagnostic skills and monitoring methodologies, and there are far lesser mortality rates from pandemics than a century ago, Modern Medicine is constantly challenged with newer disease ever on the horizon. Though recent pandemics like SARS, avian and swine flu have been contained, they are a testimony to the fact that deadly viruses can mutate and cross species. New biological mutations eventually overcome prior human innovation. And though Viruses are seen as the biggest pandemic medicine, it is the antibiotic resistant bacteria that is emerging as the deadly silent killer. It is a fact that we will always fall behind the bacterial mutation curve.

Most of us see antibiotics as the panacea to all our ills. But the horrifying truth is that every dose of antibiotic gives an advantage to the small numbers of bacterial population that is drug resistant. Therefore more an antibiotic is used, the more quickly the bacteria resistant to that drug is selected and increase in numbers. The most worrying fact is that none of the drugs currently under development is effective against the most deadliest of bacteria that have become resistant to the most powerful of antibiotics- The Carbapenems.

Experts have started giving a scenario where all antibiotics could be rendered ineffective even against common infections. Things as common as a minor scratch of skin or sore throat could have grave consequences. The highest impact will be seen in developing or underdeveloped nations where the spread of the pathogens will be facilitated better by poor hygiene, polluted waters , overpopulation,and large presence of immuno compromised patients.

Though the mortality figures are comparatively low, experts believe that the figures will increase alarmingly in a 10 year time frame.

Why Antibiotics Are Overused:

1. Doctors are pressurized by patients for antibiotic prescription which they believe will cure all their illness even when its viral.

2. In certain countries gross unethical practices such as incentives for antibiotic prescription that encourages over-prescription  Some hospitals make major chunk of their profits this way from drug pharma companies.

3. In many countries, antibiotics can be bought over the counter without prescription. This encourages self prescription and spread of antibiotic resistance. In India pharmacy sales of strong antibiotics increased sixfold from 2005 – 2010.

4. Antibiotics are over used in livestock and fish farming around the world. Thus resistant bacteria are easily transferred to humans through contact, the food chain and waste water from these operations , hospitals and pharmaceutical plants.

Tackling Antibiotic Resistance:

The WHO has launched a global strategy for containment of antimicrobial resistance in 2001.

Policy makers have to take the threat of hubris seriously. The fact remains that these strains do not know borders and are spread easily. It requires cross border collaboration and International strategies to curb spread of pandemics.

All efforts to increase Public Awareness on the abuse of Antibiotics should be made.

Market failure to develop new antibiotics have been tackled by incentivising research and development in the field by governments and philanthropists. The incentives encourages pharmas to develop drugs that meets the stated criteria and hence enables the sales and marketing to be restricted to public interest.

Sharing of knowledge among academia, private companies and government regulators will go a long way in a breakthrough in antibiotic innovation. Philanthropic foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are in collaboration with pharmas like Glaxo SmithKline and pioneering “open lab” approach to research which is against the secrecy and patented monopolies that have been the hallmark of medical innovation, bringing together academics, government, biotech scientists, and researchers.

International efforts in addressing licencing and regulatory barriers to development of antibiotics. Clarity of regulatory framework and harmonization in processes of clinical trials should be standardized. Nations should collaborate in data gathering to enable constant monitoring of global spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Decreasing the use of antibiotics in agriculture, aquaculture and animal husbandry.

GLOBAL RISK FACTORS AND IMPACT : A SCHEMA

Top 5 Risks by Likelihood and Impact
Top 5 Risks by Likelihood and Impact. Image-WEF
Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Impact and Likelihood 2007-2013
Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Impact and Likelihood 2007-2013. Image-WEF

CONCLUSION:

In an ideal world, interconnectedness and interdependence would be the key in tackling global risks. But we do not live in an ideal world and the reality is that countries are in the frontline alone when it comes to cataclysmic events. One nation’s failure to address a global risk therefore can have a ripple effect on the rest of the world. The World Economic Forum through the Global Risk Report aspires to build a network of risk experts to guide global leaders to mitigate,  monitor and enhance resilience to global risks. They propose to develop and refine National Resilience Rating that will help nations to focus on key areas of risk,and thwart the emergence of the cataclysmic Black Swan.

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