martinaThe Global Agenda Outlook 2013 is the flagship publication of the GAC Network, a global braintrust with more than 1500 members worldwide. 

With so much uncertainty in the world today, how can world leaders effectively plan and implement long-term policies? Five years after a global financial crisis, uncertainty reigns on how we achieve sustainable global growth. In geopolitics, the dynamic between traditional superpowers and emerging economies, while fascinating, is far from being fully understood. Our virtual personas tread muddy waters, contending with ambiguities over digital rights security. And globalization – the very system that links these spheres together – is equally threatened. Its capitalist underpinnings have been questioned, while the plethora of institutional governance systems it has spawned suggests that we are a long way from true global trusteeship.

Some of these challenges are explored in the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Outlook 2013. This report takes the input of more than 1,500 experts who address the world’s most pressing issues every day. It looks in detail at some uncertainties which lie ahead, with the unspoken argument is that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, one side-effect of uncertainty is hope – and there are plenty of optimistic messages in the Global Agenda Outlook 2013 for world leaders this year.

There is hope in economics: the report identifies three sources of economic prosperity in 2013. There is hope in regions which have seen increased volatility in the past two years; our report touches on the promise the Arab Spring holds for democracy. There is great hope in hyperconnectivity, too; by its very nature, it is bringing us together. Our experts single out the innovative use of data and technology for immense public benefit in, for example, cancer research. There is hope in globalization, still, which continues to be a vehicle for poverty reduction and the spreading of wealth.

Finally, the Outlook reminds us that we have succeeded in overcoming major obstacles before, and will continue to do so. We are on the cusp of eliminating diseases which were previously thought deadly. This is a benchmark of society’s progress.

For me, the Outlook is more than a summary of the uncertainties we face today. It highlights the compelling debates throughout the Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils and critically examines the existing claims and discussions, with the intention of deepening our understanding of how 2013 will shape up. We are launching the report a week before the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, which always falls in January, precisely because the world leaders in attendance are looking for new ideas for the year ahead.

Our intention is for the report to act as a briefing document for decision-makers. At the same time, we feel that a dose of optimism is much needed medicine for the world’s ills.

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Author: Martina Gmür is Senior Director and Head of the Global Agenda Councils Team of the World Economic Forum.

Image: A girl looks at a board displaying the global stock indeces. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang