Global Challenges Facing Humanity
5. How can policymaking be made more sensitive to global long-term perspectives?
The earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear disasters in Japan exposed the need for global, national, and local systems for resilience—the capacity to anticipate, respond, and recover from disasters while identifying future technological and social innovations and opportunities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark notes that for every $1 invested in resilience and prevention, $4–7 are saved in response. Related to resilience is the concept of collective intelligence— emergent properties from synergies among brains, software, and information (see the CD Chapter 6), which will be increasingly required to cope with accelerating knowledge explosions, complexities, and interdependencies. Implementing and integrating resilience and collective intelligence systems is one way to make policymaking more sensitive to global long-term perspectives.
Heads of government could benefit from establishing an Office of the Future connected to related units in government agencies whose functions would continue from one administration to the next. These can be augmented by advisory councils of futurists and be connected to resilience and collective intelligence systems that scan for change around the world and can identify and assess expert judgments in real-time (the Real-Time Delphi is an example). The staff for such systems should synthesize futures research from others, calculate State of the Future Indexes for relevant subjects or countries (see Chapter 2), and produce annual state of the future reports. Existent government future strategy units (see the CD Chapter 4.1) are being networked by Singapore's Future Strategy Unit to share best practices, just as the UN Strategic Planning Network connects 12 UN agency strategy units. These two networks could also be connected with the Office of the UN Secretary-General to help coordinate strategies and goals. Leaders should make these new systems as transparent and participatory as possible to include and increase the public's intelligence and resilience. As a result, more future-oriented and global-minded voters might elect leaders who are sensitive to global long-term perspectives.
National legislatures could establish standing "Committees for the Future," as Finland has done. National foresight studies should be continually updated, improved, and conducted interactively with issue networks of policymakers and futurists and with other national long-range efforts. Futurists should create more useful communications to policymakers. Alternative scenarios should be shared with parliamentarians and the public for feedback. They should show cause-andeffect relations and expose decision points leading to different consequences from different strategies and policies. Decisionmakers and their advisors should be trained in futures research for optimal use of these systems (see www.millennium-project.org/ millennium/FRM-V3.html). Government budgets should consider 5–10 year allocations attached to rolling 5–10 year SOFIs, scenarios, and strategies. Governments with short-term election cycles should consider longer, more-stable terms and funds for the staff of parliamentarians. A checklist of ways to better connect futures research to decisionmaking is available in Chapter 12 of the CD.
It could be that humanity needs and is ready to create a global, multifaceted, general long-range view to help it make better long-range decisions to the benefit of the species. Communications and advertising companies could create memes to help the public become sensitive to global long-term perspectives so that more future-oriented educated publics could support more future-oriented, global-minded politicians. Prizes could be given to recognize the best examples of global long-term decisionmaking. Participatory policymaking processes augmented by e-government services can be created that are informed by futures research. Universities should fund the convergence of disciplines, teach futures research and synthesis as well as analysis, and produce generalists in addition to specialists. Efforts to increase the number and quality of courses on futures concepts and methods should be supported, as well as augmenting standard curricula with futures methodologies converted to teaching techniques that help future-orient instruction.
Although there is increasing recognition that accelerating change requires global longer-term perspectives, decisionmakers feel little pressure to consider them. Nevertheless, attaining long-range goals like landing on the moon or eradicating smallpox that were considered impossible inspired many people to go beyond selfish, short-term interests to great achievements. (An international assessment of such future goals is found in Chapter 4.2 on the CD.) To some degree, the G20 was initiated to improve global long-range policymaking, and one day the G2 (U.S. and China) may lead global climate change and other long-range policies. Governments could add foresight as a performance evaluation criterion, add foresight to their training institutions, and require a "future considerations" section be added to policy reporting requirements. Promote the meme: from reaction to anticipation.
Each of the 15 Global Challenges in this chapter and the eight UN Millennium Development Goals could be the basis for transinstitutional coalitions composed of self-selected governments, corporations, NGOs, universities, and international organizations that are willing to commit the resources and talent to address a specific challenge or goal. Challenge 5 will be addressed seriously when foresight functions are a routine part of most organizations and governments, when national SOFIs are used in at least 50 countries, when the consequences of high-risk projects are routinely considered before they are initiated, and when standing Committees for the Future exist in at least 50 national legislatures.
Africa: Foresightfordevelopment.org makes research documents, projects, scenarios, people, and blogs available to support African futures research. South Africa produces the regional Risk and Vulnerability Atlas to aid long-range planning. China has become a force in African long-range planning. Daily management of many African countries makes future global perspectives difficult; hence, more-regional bodies like the African Union and the African Development Bank are more likely to further futures work in Africa and should build on 10 years of work of UNDP/African Futures. Civil society is also becoming a bigger stakeholder and lobby in foresight.
Asia and Oceania: China's Five Year Plan promotes long-term thinking, and since it tends to make decisions in a longer time frame than others, its increasing power and eventually that of India should lead to more global, long-term decisionmaking as these nations interact with the rest of the world. Japan includes private-sector companies in its longterm strategic planning unit. The Prime Minister's Office of Singapore has begun an international network of government future strategy units.
Europe: EPTA, the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment, is a network and database of 18 European parliaments to integrate futures into decisionmaking. Forecasts of migrations from Asia and Africa are forcing Europe to reassess its future, as are the EU2020 strategy, Lisbon Strategy, sovereign debt crisis, emergence of China, and forecasts of public finances for social and health services for an aging population. The 7th Framework Programme of the EU expands foresight support; the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies provides futures studies for EU decisionmaking; the European Foresight Platform connects futurists; an annual European Futurists Conference is held in Switzerland; iKnow Project scans for weak signals and wild cards, and the European Regional Foresight College improves futures instruction. The Netherlands constitution requires a 50-year horizon for land use planning. Russian Ministries use Delphi and scenarios for foresight, while corporations tend to use technology roadmaps.
Latin America: Research from ECLAC and UNIDO's technological foresight training could be improved to stimulate long-range decisionmaking; participation in such international organizations will improve the region's long-range global dialogs. Mexico initiated and signed an agreement to create the Pacific Latinamerican Alliance with the governments of Peru, Chile, and Colombia to promote free trade in a larger zone than Mercosur. Alternative long-term development strategies are being created by the Bolivian Alliance for the Americas, the Union of South American Nations, and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States. The shift toward more socialist politics in some countries is motivating alternative futures thinking. Yet futures approaches are ignored by the academic and mass media, which focus on urgent and confrontational issues over ideologies, unmet basic needs, inequality, and large economic groups that monopolize services. Venezuela has the Sembrar el Futuro prize for students' futures thinking, and Mexico initiated the Global Millennium Prize for students' ideas for addressing global long-range challenges. Since the average age in Latin America is only 24, it is fundamental to incorporate the visions of the next generation via social networks and apps.
North America: Create a map of individuals and organizations with foresight and use it to create a virtual organization at the White House for regular input to the policy process; the same for Langevin Block in Canada. "Future considerations" should be added to standard reporting requirements. Examples of successful global long-range activates should be promoted (see CD Chapter 12) along with cases where the lack of futures thinking proved costly. Global perspectives in decisionmaking are emerging due to perpetual collaboration among different institutions and nations that has become the norm to address the increasing complexity and speed of global change. Global long-term perspectives continue to be evident in the climate change policies of many local governments.
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