Horizon 2020-2030: Will Emerging Risks Unravel our Global Systems?


Various scholars and institutions have pencilled global social instability as the primary risk facing our world in the coming years. The catalyst here would be a severe economic recession or an outright Second Great Depression which, in turn, will have profound implications for global security and national integrity. Traditional security alliances may undergo tectonic shifts, leading to major geopolitical realignments. NATO itself may be greatly impacted.  The COVID-19 pandemic is treated as an accelerant to the inevitable breakdown of global systems.

This paper, written from a broad systems perspective, illustrates how emerging risks are getting more complex and intertwined; thereby blurring boundaries within the economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological taxonomy used by the World Economic Forum for its annual global risk forecasts. Tight couplings in our global systems enable risks accrued in one area to morph as a full-blown crisis elsewhere. As a result, once-inexorable forces of globalization are now rupturing as global systems can no longer be sustained at their substrate or foundational levels. The widening income chasm worldwide is an example of substrate-level unsustainability. In the end, the paper concludes that rising nationalism and militarization, rather than globalization, will mark the decade ahead as our current global order unravels.

Keywords: COVID-19; Systems Thinking; Global Risks; Social Instability; De-globalization; Wealth Inequality; Complexity Theory

Publication: Salus Journal, Issue 1, 2021


Salus Journal is an Australian journal for law enforcement, national security and emergency management. It is published once a year by the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security at Charles Sturt University, Sydney.

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