| Saadia Zahidi
Managing Director, World Economic Forum
Last year’s Global Risks Report warned that a divergent economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic risked deepening divisions at a time when collaboration was urgently required to address looming global challenges. Yet despite hard-learned lessons around the interdependence of global risks, few would have anticipated the extent of instability that would soon unfold, this time driven by a new war in Europe.
The health and economic aftereffects of the pandemic have quickly spiraled into compounding crises. Carbon emissions have climbed, as the post-pandemic global economy fired back up. Food and energy have become weaponized by the war in Ukraine, sending inflation soaring to levels not seen in decades, globalizing a cost-of-living crisis and fueling social unrest. The resulting shift in monetary policy marks the end of an economic era defined by easy access to cheap debt and will have vast ramifications for governments, companies and individuals, widening inequality within and between countries.
As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine approaches one year, economies and societies will not easily rebound from continued shocks. In this year’s Global Risks Perception Survey, more than four in five respondents anticipated consistent volatility over the next two years. The persistence of these crises is already reshaping the world that we live in, ushering in economic and technological fragmentation. A continued push for national resilience in strategic sectors will come at a cost – one that only a few economies can bear. Geopolitical dynamics are also creating significant headwinds for global cooperation, which often acts as a guardrail to these global risks.
The 18th edition of the Global Risks Report considers this backdrop of simmering geopolitical tensions and confluence of socioeconomic risks. It identifies the most severe perceived risks to economies and societies over the next two years. The world’s collective focus is being channeled into the “survival” of today’s crises: cost of living, social and political polarization, food and energy supplies, tepid growth and geopolitical confrontation, among others.
Yet much-needed attention and resources are being diverted from newly emerging or rapidly accelerating risks to natural ecosystems, human health, security, digital rights and economic stability that could become crises and catastrophes in the next decade. A low-growth, low-investment and low-cooperation era further undermines resilience and the ability to manage future shocks. In recognition of growing complexity and uncertainty, the report also explores connections between these risks. The analysis focuses on a potential “polycrisis”, relating to shortages in natural resources such as food, water, and metals and minerals, illustrating the associated socioeconomic and environmental fall-out through a set of potential futures.
The report is underpinned by our annual Global Risks Perception Survey, which brings together leading insights from over 1,200 experts across the World Economic Forum’s diverse network. It draws on the collective intelligence of the world’s foremost risk experts, including the Global Risks Advisory Board and the Chief Risk Officers Community, as well as thematic experts from academia, business, government, the international community and civil society. The report has also benefited greatly from the expertise of the World Economic Forum’s platforms, which work daily to drive tangible, system-positive change for the long term. We are deeply grateful to our long-standing partners in the report’s development: Marsh McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group.
The 2023 edition of the Global Risks Report highlights the multiple areas where the world is at a critical inflection point. It is a call to action, to collectively prepare for the next crisis the world may face and, in doing so, shape a pathway to a more stable, resilient world.