What are the top 10 trends facing the world in 2014? And what should we do about them?

The world is changing faster than ever. We’re connected to each other in ways that would have been thought impossible just a generation ago, enabling enormous potential but also exposing our institutions to great strain. If we are to effectively address the challenges we face as a planet, decision-makers need to keep pace and anticipate what lies ahead.

As the year draws to a close, many organizations unveil their predictions for the year ahead. The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 does something a little different.

We drew on the insights of our Network of Global Agenda Councils to understand what the next 12 months will bring. In the Outlook, we examine the 10 biggest trends for the year to come; we evaluate how they will play out globally and in different regions; and we examine the new developments and technological advances that will change our world.

Using a selective survey tool which gathered over 1,500 responses, we arrived at the following top 10 global trends for 2014:

  1. Rising social tensions in the Middle East and North Africa
  2. Widening wealth gaps
  3. Persistent unemployment
  4. Intensifying cyber threats
  5. Inaction on climate change
  6. Loss of confidence in economic policies
  7. A lack of values in leadership
  8. Asia’s expanding middle class
  9. The growing importance of megacities
  10. The rapid spread of misinformation online

The outlook for 2014 is complex. Our experts overwhelmingly agreed that rising social tensions in the Middle East and North Africa will be the defining trend for next year, alongside increasing inequality and unemployment. Respondents also showed their dissatisfaction with the state of global cooperation on major challenges such as climate change, youth unemployment and poverty.

Knowing what trends to watch is a first step. How do we begin to prepare for their impact? Harnessing the interconnected structure of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, we turned back to the Councils and asked them to tell us what should be done to address the multifaceted impact the trends will have on our world.

We hope you will find our research thought-provoking and invite you to tell us what you think on Twitter @WEFGAC or on Facebook at facebook.com/WEFGAC.

Read the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014

Author: Martina Gmür is Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Image: Riot policemen stand guard outside a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh