Global Risks Report 2007

World Economic Forum

“At the core of this year’s overview of risks to the global community over the next decade is a fundamental disconnect between risk and mitigation. Expert opinion suggests that levels of risk are rising in almost all of the 23 risks on which the Global Risk Network has been focused over the last year – but mechanisms in place to manage and mitigate risk at the level of businesses, governments and global governance are inadequate. The global economy has been expanding faster than at any time in history – but it remains vulnerable.

Some tactical gains have been made in specific areas of risk mitigation: despite the raised threat of terrorism, cooperation on dealing with the threat continues to improve; fears of a major pandemic outbreak have driven a major effort to upgrade our global preparedness to identify and isolate new diseases; there is a growing recognition of the need to improve access to mechanisms of risk transfer in emerging markets, to allow risks to be priced in a way that allows the potential economic growth of this century to be fully unlocked.

There has also been major improvement in the understanding of the interdependencies between global risks, the importance of taking an integrated risk management approach to major global challenges and the necessity of attempting to deal with root causes of global risks rather than reacting to the consequences.

Climate change is now seen as one of the defining challenges of the 21st century – and as a global risk with impacts far beyond the environment. Effective mitigation of climate change may ultimately have the consequence of improving resilience to oil price shocks in developed countries by moving them from hydrocarbons to alternative energy sources; ineffective mitigation of climate change will almost certainly be a factor in major interstate and civil wars within the next 50 years. The way in which climate change is dealt with at the global level will be a leading indicator of the world’s capacity to manage globalization in an equitable and sustainable way.

But the tactical gains may be illusory and are certainly temporary. The manifestation of any number of global risks in the way described in the plausible scenarios in this report could quickly put those gains into reverse.

Global Risks 2007 suggests two possible institutional innovations that may help mobilize businesses and governments to approach the global risks of the next 10 years. One is the idea of a Country Risk Officer – an analogy to Chief Risk Officers in the corporate world – intended as a focal point for managing a portfolio of risk across disparate interests, setting national prioritization of risk and allowing governments to engage in the forward action needed to begin managing global risks rather than coping with them. The second is to create an avant-garde of relevant governments and companies around different global risks – “coalitions of the willing” – allowing risk mitigation to be a process of gradually-expanding alliances rather than a proposition requiring permanent consensus.

Above all, Global Risks 2007 makes the case for the active engagement of all sections of the international community in dealing with global risks. No one group has the ability to effectively mitigate most global risks. Interdependency implies not just common vulnerability, but a shared responsibility to act.

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