COVID-19 has threatened to impede the global cooperation needed to tackle a vast array of heightened risks over the next decade, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned today.
Its Global Risks Report 2021, which brings together views from 650 decision makers and experts, highlights the greatest threats facing the world over the next 10 years, and how the pandemic has exacerbated these risks.
Infectious diseases, employment crises, digital inequality and youth disillusionment are among the challenges presenting a “critical threat to the world” over the next two years.
Knock-on risks, such as asset bubble bursts, IT infrastructure breakdown, price instability and debt crises, are among the most pressing threats over the next three to five years, while weapons of mass destruction, state collapse, biodiversity loss and adverse technological advances dominate long-term concerns.
The report explains how COVID-19 has widened long-standing health, economic and technological disparities, and how financial, digital and reputational pressures also threaten to leave behind many companies and their workforces in the future.
It also highlights how the WEF has been warning about the dangers of pandemics for the last 15 years, and how coronavirus has revealed the “catastrophic effects” of ignoring long-term risks.
“We know how difficult it is for governments, business and other stakeholders to address such long-term risks, but the lesson here is for all of us to recognise that ignoring them doesn’t make them less likely to happen,” said WEF managing director, Saadia Zahidi.
“As governments, businesses and societies begin to emerge from the pandemic, they must now urgently shape new economic and social systems that improve our collective resilience and capacity to respond to shocks while reducing inequality, improving health and protecting the planet.”
In terms of likelihood, environmental concerns dominate the most pressing risks facing the world over the next decade, including extreme weather, climate action failure and human environmental damage.
The report also reflects on responses to COVID-19, drawing lessons designed to bolster global resilience, such as building trust through clear and consistent communication, and creating new forms of partnership.
It comes as the WEF prepares to convene world leaders for The Davos Agenda next week, an event that will help shape global economic and political strategies.
“Economic and societal fallout from COVID-19 will profoundly impact the way organisations interact with clients and colleagues long after any vaccine rollout,” said Carolina Klint, risk management leader for continental Europe at insurance firm Marsh, which helped develop the report.
“Every business will need to strengthen and constantly review their risk mitigation strategies if they are to improve their resilience to future shocks.”
Image credit: iStock
Author: Chris Seekings