WEF risk report highlights disparities_china

Darnell Taylor
January 21, 2021

The report, released ahead of the virtual "Davos Agenda" summit of the WEF from January 25-29 that would be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among other global leaders, said the world needs to wake up to long-term risks, after witnessing in 2020 the catastrophic effects of ignoring long-term risks such as pandemics, which is now an immediate risk.

The report studied the opinions of some 700 global leaders from business, academia and government who were asked about their concerns for the next decade.

Existential threats (5-10 years) - weapons of mass destruction, state collapse, biodiversity loss and adverse technological advances - dominate long-term concerns.

COVID-19 has led to losses of life, held back economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world, and amplified wealth inequalities across the globe, the report said.

In the medium-term (3-5 years), respondents believe the world will be threatened by knock-on economic and technological risks, which may take several years to materialize - such as asset bubble bursts, IT infrastructure breakdown, price instability and debt crises. This will be followed by geopolitical risks, including interstate relations and conflict, as well as resource geopolitisation, it further adds. Almost 60 per cent of respondents to the GRPS identified "infectious diseases" and "livelihood crises" as the top short-term threats to the world.

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That threat became a reality in 2020, the think tank said, with Covid-19 claiming millions of lives and widening long-standing health and economic disparities.

Lessons from COVID-19 offer an opportunity for mitigation, including positioning "risk champions" before the "frenzy of the next crisis", the report said.

"Existing trends have been given fresh momentum by the crisis".

Alongside COVID-19, environmental risks also dominated the latest report, thanks to their impact on societies and likelihood of occurring, while societal fractures will make it harder to achieve the coordination needed to address continued degradation.

"The response to COVID-19 offers four governance opportunities to strengthen the overall resilience of countries, businesses and the global community: (1) formulating analytical frameworks that take a holistic and systems-based view of risk impacts; (2) investing in high-profile "risk champions" to encourage national leadership and worldwide co-operation; (3) improving risk communications and combating misinformation; and (4) exploring new forms of public-private partnership on risk preparedness", it further adds.

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