Global Challenges Facing Humanity

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5. How can policymaking be made more sensitive to global long-term perspectives?

Humanity needs a global, multifaceted, general long-term view of the future with long-range goals to help it make better decisions today to build a brighter future. Attaining such long-range goals as landing on the moon or eradicating smallpox that were considered impossible inspired many people to go beyond selfish, short-term economic interests to great achievements. (An international assessment of such future goals is found in Chapter 4.2 on the CD.)

The options to create and update national, global, and corporate strategic foresight are so complex and changing so rapidly that it is almost impossible for decisionmakers to gather and understand the information required to make and implement coherent policy. At the same time, the consequences of incoherent policies are so serious that new systems are urgently needed. One approach is to create collective intelligence systems that create synergies among brains, software, and information (see the CD Chapter 6), securing agreement to make necessary changes. A CIS can be created for issues, countries, companies, universities, and the world. Such systems will be increasingly required to cope with accelerating knowledge explosions, complexities, and interdependencies while securing public agreement about necessary changes.
Related to CIS is the establishment of resilience systems—the capacities to anticipate, respond, and recover from disasters while identifying future technological and social innovations and opportunities. Better global, national, and local training and information systems are need to improve resilience from massive floods, blizzards, pandemics, nuclear disasters, droughts, Internet failures, and electricity outages. Implementing and integrating resilience and collective intelligence systems is one way to make policymaking more sensitive to global long-term perspectives.

Heads of government should have a foresight office connected by a CIS to related units in government agencies. The CIS could help provide continuity from one administration to the next. Advisory councils of futurists can augment the foresight office and be connected to resilience systems and CIS that scan for change around the world and 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 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 with policymakers. Alternative scenarios should be shared with parliamentarians and the public for feedback. They should show cause-and-effect 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 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. 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 26 item checklist of ways to better connect futures research to decisionmaking is available in Chapter 12 of the CD. A successful Global Future Collective Intelligence System should help policymaking become more sensitive to global long-term perspectives.

Increasing numbers of arts, media, and entertainment professionals are bringing global long-term perspectives to their audiences. Communications and advertising companies could create memes (e.g., from reaction to anticipation or think ahead) to help the public become sensitive to 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.

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 (as accounting is today), when the consequences of high-risk projects are routinely considered before they are initiated, and when 50 countries have national SOFIs and standing Committees for the Future in national legislatures.

Regional Considerations

Africa: Africa’s dependence on advanced country markets will lessen dramatically. China has become a force in African long-range planning; it will be the second largest export destination for Africa. The South African National Planning Commission presented the long-range National Development Plan to President Zuma November 2011, which is open for public feedback. makes research documents, projects, scenarios, people, and blogs available to support African futures research. 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: Long-term global perspectives will be needed to avoid future energy resource conflicts in the South China Seas. 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 long-term strategic planning unit. The Prime Minister's Office of Singapore has begun an international network of government future strategy units.

Europe: Factors making Europe take global long-term perspective increasingly into account include the Euro crisis, forecasts of Asian and African migrations, the emergence of China, and public finances for social and health services for an aging population. The EU2020 strategy for a sustainable social market economy builds on the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. The EU Committee of the Regions and the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion supports foresight studies. The European Parliamentary Technology Assessment is a network and database of 18 European parliaments integrating futures into decisionmaking. 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; 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. Poland 2050 encourages more qualitative than quantitative approaches for long-term analyses.

Latin America: The new President of Mexico is interested in futures research. The Chilean legislative bodies held a public televised forum on the future in December 2011. 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 dialogues. Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia have signed a free-trade agreement to create the Pacific Latin American Alliance for economic development cooperation. 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. Futures approaches are mostly ignored by the academia 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 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: A new report explains how to create a foresight capacity in the White House. Create a map of individuals and organizations with foresight and use it to create a virtual organization at the White House (USA) and Langevin Block (Canada) for regular input to the policy process. "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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