Geo-Economics and Politics

Davos 2020: Here's what you need to know about geopolitics 

The United Nations building is pictured in New York, New York, U.S., September 24, 2018.

The geopolitical landscape is increasingly fragmented and ever more vulnerable to disruption. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Christopher Alessi
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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Beyond Geopolitics

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The geopolitical landscape is unsettled, while the traditional Western-led order is being challenged by new centres of power.
  • Risks to the international order abound, from the re-emergence of nationalism to climate change to the growing risk of military confrontation.
  • Amid the upheaval, there is an opportunity for actors to forge a more co-operative world order.

Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the geopolitical landscape is increasingly unsettled. The US-led Western world order – which emerged in the post-War period and then prevailed following the collapse of the Soviet Union – is being challenged by new centres of power and new sets of issues.

Challenges to the international order abound: the re-emergence of nationalism, the undermining of democratic institutions, unprecedented migration, cyber attacks, terrorism, climate change, trade disputes and the growing risk of military confrontation.

The "rules-based international system proved successful beyond even the expectations of its architects. Over the past seven decades, the world has become much more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic than at any time in history," the Atlantic Council's Ash Jain and Matthew Kroenig wrote in a recent essay presented on the World Economic Forum's Geostrategy platform.

But they added: "The global distribution of power is shifting. Revisionist, autocratic states seek to disrupt or displace the existing system. Authoritarian state capitalism is challenging the Western model of free markets and politics as the best way to order society."


Despite the geopolitical upheaval, there is still an opportunity for actors to forge a more collaborative world order.

“As the world becomes even more interconnected in terms of flows of information, capital and people, states will be more reliant on one another to realize positive outcomes for themselves and the global community," World Economic Forum President Børge Brende writes in the opening of the Forum's upcoming geopolitical report: Shaping a Multiconceptual World.

He argues that "at a time when power dynamics are in flux, there is an opportunity for stakeholders to make the decision to shape geopolitics in a co-operative, rather than competitive, manner.”


At the Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos from 21-24 January, stakeholders will explore the current geopolitical environment, identifying opportunities for coordination and partnership.

Here are three key sessions to look out for:

  • Geopolitical Outlook: The Middle East and North Africa , Wednesday 22 January 09:00 - 09:45

And here are some of the key participants for our geopolitics agenda at Davos:

  • Donald Trump, President, United States
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
  • Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Pakistan
  • Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission
  • Jane Harman, Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Robin Niblett, Director, Chatham House
  • Gideon Rose, Editor, Foreign Affairs
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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