The world is unprepared for heightened environmental, societal and technological risks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned today.
In a new report, the WEF said that leaders must act now against an interconnected “avalanche of future systemic shocks”, such as the climate crisis, geopolitical turbulence, rising inequality, strains on mental health, and gaps in technology governance.
It warns that economic distress and social discontent will rise over the next 18 months unless world leaders, businesses and policy-makers work together to manage the fallout of coronavirus.
But by embedding greater societal equality and sustainability into the recovery, the report highlights how the world has an opportunity to “unleash a new era of prosperity”.
WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said: “We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive.
“As well as managing the immediate impact of the pandemic, leaders must work with each other and with all sectors of society to tackle emerging known risks and build resilience against the unknown.”
The report draws on the views of nearly 350 senior risk professionals, who were asked to look at the next 18 months and rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact for the world and for business.
“A prolonged recession of the global economy” was rated the top concern for business, followed by a surge in bankruptcies and industry consolidation, and cyber attacks and data fraud.
A drawn-out recession was also ranked the top concern for the world, followed by high levels of structural unemployment, and another global outbreak of COVID-19 or a different infectious disease.
The report, produced in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, also identifies tighter restrictions on the cross-border movement of goods and people, and the collapse of a major emerging market, as two potential fallouts for the world.
Marsh CEO John Doyle said: “Even before the COVID-19 crisis, organisations were faced with a highly complex and interconnected global risk landscape.
“From cyber threats to supply chains, as well as the wellbeing of their colleagues, businesses will now rethink many of the structures they formerly relied on.”
Author: Chris Seekings
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