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Our Common Agenda

Our Common Agenda is the most future-oriented document about about Un reform ever issued by the Secretary-General of the UN: Summit on the Future, Trusteeship Council as a multi-stakeholder foresight body, UN Futures Lab, Strategic Foresight and Global Risk Report every two to five years, Special Envoy for Future Generations, and the High-level Advisory Board led by former Heads of State and/or Government. Source

 

Green house gasses and climate change

UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that greenhouse gas emissions should peak before 2025, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the threshold for climate change impacts irreversibility. That would need investments in renewable energy to increase 300%-600% compared to current ones. Source

A new mapping project estimates how much irrecoverable carbon resides in peatlands, mangroves, forests and elsewhere around the globe — and which areas need protection. The new estimate puts the total amount of irrecoverable carbon at 139 gigatons — the equivalent to about 15 years of human CO2 emissions at current levels. And if all that carbon were released, it’s almost certainly enough to push the planet past 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial levels. Source

The Global Methane Pledge  aims to galvanize international policy and action to reduce methane emissions at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.  This would mean an annual equivalent of over 8 gigatons of carbon equivalent emissions and prevent global warming by more than 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Source

Extreme weather events

In Europe, extreme weather events — such as heatwaves and floods — cost almost 500 billion euros (almost 12 billion per year) of economic loss and some 85,000 -145,000 human lives over the past 40 years (1980-2020.)  Over 85% of the fatalities were due to heatwaves, reports the EEA.
In the USA, since 1980, there were 310 weather and climate disasters that caused overall damages with costs of $1 billion or more, for a total of over $2.155 trillion, reports NOAA.

Antarctica and the Arctic are simultaneously affected by extreme heat, which is very unusual. At mid-March 2022, areas at the two poles experienced temperatures more than 40°C  (70°F)  and 30°C (50°F) warmer than average, respectively. Source

Over the past 20 years, about 300 to 500 medium-to-large-scale disasters have occurred per year. The UN estimates that the number might increase to an average of 560 disasters per year by 2030; hence, roughly, 1.5 disasters per day. More over, “the scale and intensity of disasters are increasing, with more people killed or affected by disasters in the last five years than in the previous five,” notes the UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Source

Global instruments to address plastic pollution 

The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) held in March 2022, adopted a resolution to End Plastic Pollution and established the framework for completing a draft global treaty by the end of 2024.  The binding treaty will address the full lifecycle of plastic from production and design, to its disposal and waste in all environments.
Greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic are estimated to account for 15% of allowed emissions by 2050 (considering the 1.5°C limit global warming goal.) Estimates indicate that shifting to a circular economy could, by 2040, reduce the volume of plastics entering the oceans by over 80%, virgin plastic production by 55%, and greenhouse gas emissions by 25%. Source

 

Clean Water

Water Stress to Affect 52% of World’s Population by 2050

Some 52 percent of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050, MIT researchers say. The researchers used the MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System (IGSM-WRS) to evaluate water resources and needs worldwide. The modeling tool also allowed researchers to measure how climate change and socioeconomics affect water stress. Source

China’s water scarcity has geopolitical implications

Disappearing rivers and pollution are reducing China’s water resources to critical levels; desertification is expanding due to water shortages and unsustainable agriculture. By some estimates, over 50% of China’s groundwater and 25% of its river water is too polluted to be used even for agriculture or industry, and 80% to 90% of its groundwater is undrinkable. Annual losses due to water scarcity are estimated to over $100 billion. Neighbouring countries are increasingly affected by China’s quest for new water sources. Source

 

Global democracy deteriorating

Global democracy continues to deteriorate, in 2021 reaching its lowest score (5.28 out of 10) since 2006 when the Economist Intelligence Unit began computing it. More than a third of the world’s population (37%) lives in 59 countries with authoritarian regime (a large share being in China), while only 6.4% live in the 21 countries considered having full democracy; 39.3% live in 53 countries with flawed democracies, and 17.2% live in 34 countries with hybrid regimes. Source

Freedom in the World 2022 notes that global freedom has been declining for 16 consecutive years. In 2021, a total of 60 countries suffered declines, while only 25 improved. This increased to 38% the world’s population living in “Not Free” countries (highest ratio since 1997), while decreasing to 20% those who live in “Free” countries. “The global order is nearing a tipping point, and if democracy’s defenders do not work together to help guarantee freedom for all people, the authoritarian model will prevail,” warns the report. Source

The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) also warns that the democratic gains of the past 30 years deteriorated to the point that the level of democracy in 2021 is that of 1989 levels. Not only dictatorships are on the rise –  harbouring some 70% of the world population (5.4 billion people) – but trends indicate that the nature of autocratization is also changing. Electoral autocracy are the most common regime type, harbouring 44% of the world’s population(3.4 billion people.) Over the past 10 years, freedom of expression got threatened in 35 countries, compared to only 5 nations in 2011. Source

Journalism freedom setback

Wars against democracies increase polarization and fuel tension across the globe, reveals the 2022 Press Freedom Index. A record number of 28 countries are in the “very bad” category. China (ranked 175th out of 180) is one of the world’s most repressive autocratic regimes, followed only by Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Iran, Eritrea, and North Korea. In the EU, Greece ranks the lowest (108th, even below Albania, which is 103rd). The top ranked countries as freedom of expression are Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Source

UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development found that over the past five years, approximately 85% of the world’s population experienced a decline in press freedom in their country. Online freedom of expression is also declining: some 57 laws have been adopted or amended across 44 countries since 2016 that contain language that threatens online freedom of expression and press freedom. Trust is also declining in all sources of information: 53% for traditional media, and 35% for social media.  Source 

Changes to liberal democracy

Liberal democracy is strongly being affected by the acceleration of information technology; use of AI and events such as the Cambridge Analytica to influence citizens’ choices; the possibility to manipulate human feelings (hacking humans?); and a crisis of democracy itself. “Either it will successfully reinvent itself in a radically new way, or humans will end up living in digital dictatorships,” argue some analysts. Source

Internet censorship threatens democracy and access to information

While social media platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are banning or deleting certain posts on social movements (e.g. related to the “Freedom Convoy” in North America), are allowing posts calling for violence, like those against Russians in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Such double standard policy applied with no official oversight sets dangerous precedent for democracy and freedom of expression. Source

Rising informality of democratic activism

Informal civil society activism is expanding, as a more flexible and less hierarchical form of civic participation than the formal NGOs or civil society organizations. This informality is reshaping political engagement and addresses some of the shortcomings of the present crises of democracy across the world. Informal activism tends to be faster and more focused on direct action. However, informal groups often lack the power to engage constructively with policymakers, and are vulnerable, given their lack of legal protection and insurance of the activists. Source

 

Rich-Poor Gap

Poverty and fragility: Where will the poor live in 2030?

The world is experiencing a tipping point in its fight against poverty. By 2022, more than half of the world’s people living in extreme poverty will be living in fragile states, according to projections by World Data Lab. There are currently 39 fragile states that the World Bank classifies as “countries with high levels of institutional and social fragility” and “affected by violent conflict.” They are home to almost 1 billion people, 335 million of which lived in extreme poverty in 2020. Projections by the World Data Lab’s World Poverty Clock suggest that by 2030, there will be 359 million people living in extreme poverty in today’s fragile states, representing 63 percent of the world’s poor. This means that while most stable countries can anticipate the end of extreme poverty, more than a third of the population in fragile states will live in extreme poverty. Source

Richest get richer, while the poor get poorer

The world’s 10 richest men more than doubled their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion —at a rate of $15,000 per second or $1.3 billion a day— during the first two years of a pandemic, while the incomes of 99% of humanity fall and over 160 million more people were forced into poverty. Source

Entrenched inflation further reducing people’s living standards

Inflation has reached the highest level in decades and could become more entrenched over the next months, reducing most people’s living standards. Already impacting the EU, North America, and many other countries, it could expand to other parts of the world as the Ukraine conflict critically affects the energy and food supplies. This is in addition to the already near-record growth of consumer prices due to the coronavirus pandemic and broken supply-chains. Source 

In the OECD countries, consumer prices rose by 8.8% year-on-year in March 2022 — the highest rise since 1988. Food prices rose by 10%, while energy soared by 33.7%, over the same period. The inflation reached double-digits in about 20% of the OECD countries, the highest being in Turkey at 61.1%. Source

Low-skilled workforce decreasing

 A Statista study on labor shortages found that the share of global workforce working in low-skilled occupations will decrease from 44% in 2020 to 39% by 2030. However, important gaps will persist among countries: while in high-income countries the low-skilled workforce is expected to decrease from 19% today to 18% by 2030, in low-income countries it might still represent 69% of the workforce (slightly lower than the 72% today.) The most significant change is in upper-middle income countries, from 41% to 33%, and in lower-medium income countries, where the change is expected to be from 53% to 46%. Source

In the EU, 37% of the labour force, and in general, about 42 % of all citizens lack basic level of digital skills, notes the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), 80 % of youth (aged 16‑24) had at least basic digital skills in 2021, while only 33 % of those aged 55‑74, and 30 % of retired or inactive people have basic digital skills. Therefore, the EU increases efforts for upskilling and reskilling of the workers, to reduce the gap between social and age groups, as well as between regions or among Member States. Source

Youth (age 15-24) unemployment much higher than total unemployment

Worldwide, youth unemployment is considerably higher than total unemployment. The highest discrepancies are in South Asia (21.5 vs. 7%) and the MENA region (27% vs. 10.5). In the other regions, the differences are: Europe and Central Asia: 18.3 vs. 7.2; East Asia and the Pacific: 10.8 vs. 4.3; Latin America and the Caribbean: 20.8 vs. 10; Sub-Saharan Africa: 14.5 vs. 7.3; North America: 15.3 vs. 8.2. Source

China’s investments in Africa

China will invest $300 billion in Africa over the next three years, and give Africa more access to the Chinese market to help reduce the large trade gap. China is already Africa’s biggest trading partner, with over $170 billion annually in trade volume. However, often Africans are not part of the execution of the projects, which could create or widen the knowledge gap. Source

 

Big pharma revenues 

Cancer drug sales generate by far the largest revenue to big pharma than any other drug classes. Oncology drugs are expected to almost double over the next 5 years, growing from $176 billion in sales in 2021 to $320.6 billion by 2026 — representing some 22% of the health market in 2026. Source

Antimicrobial resistance

Bacterial AMR kills 1.3 million people and causes another 3.57 million  deaths associated with AMR per year (2019) worldwide (equivalent to HIV and malaria together). By 2050, AMR is expected to kill 10 million people annually, exceeding cancer. In addition to misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture, and the spread to the environment, AMR causes include insufficient investment in public health, rapid diagnostics, and R&D for new antimicrobials. Source

COVID-19 pandemic long-tern health consequences 

OECD study reveals some significant social and economic inequalities that emerged during the pandemic and how these are shaping and orienting people’s daily lives. In addition to the impact on jobs, work-life balance, safety and more, the report notes that people suffered from increased levels of fear, worry and depression, which have long-time health and social consequences. While negative mental health consequences affect all ages, young people in particular have been found to be at high risk of developing poor mental health. Source

 

Status of women deteriorating as democracy suffers setback

Democracy has been declining around the world over the past 15 years, and so has been the status of women. Gender equality has deteriorated in recent years across the full spectrum of political regimes  — from totalitarian dictatorships to many “democracies”. In China, Xi Jinping has excluded women from the Politburo’s powerful Standing Committee; in Russia, women’s participation in public life gets limited; in Egypt, a new bill is reasserting men’s right to polygamy; in Saudi Arabia and UAE women cannot marry without a male guardian’s approval; while in Afghanistan, the reinstatement of the Taliban completely annihilated gains for women’s access to education and participation in the political and economic life. Source

Women main providers of unpaid care work

In the EU, while women engagement in the labor market is closer to equity, gender differences regarding unpaid care work are striking. Whether employed or not, women are still responsible for most of the unpaid care work at home: 92 % of women are regular carers several days a week, versus only 68 % of men, while on a daily basis, 81 % of women versus only 48 % of men provide care. Source

Women disproportionately more affected by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions

A Eurobarometer survey reveals that 38% of women think that the pandemic negatively affected their income, 44% complain about the impact on their work-life balance, and 77% of women say that the pandemic has led to increased physical and emotional violence against women in their country (ranging from 93% in Greece to 47% in Hungary.) Source

 

10 Ways AI Will Change The World By 2050

By 2050, AI will reach remarkable advancements that will be beyond many people’s wildest dreams. Robots will not only be able to attain, but also generate, that task in a cost-effective, timely, and meticulous manner, hence increasing efficiency. Source

Warp bubble possibility

Researchers document for the first time the possibility of warp bubble. This might represent an important advancement towards warp-capable spacecraft — the ability to travel faster than light, which until now was considered science fiction. Source  and article

Living on the moon becomes possible

The European Space Agency plans to build an oxygen-producing plant on the moon in the 2030s. In addition to making humans breathe possible, it could also help make fuel for spacecraft. This is part of ESA’s goal to establish a long-term presence on the moon. The first astronauts are hoped to be landing on the lunar surface at the end of the 2030s. Source

 

World military spending continues to grow

In 2021, the world’s military spending reached $2.1 trillion, a 0.7% increase compared to 2020, and representing the 7th consecutive year of growth, notes SIPRI. USA, China, India, UK, and Russia, together account for 62% of the global defence expenditure. The USA continues to be the top spender, with $801bn, mainly focusing “on next-generation technologies”. China, the world’s second largest military spender, continued the increase of its military spending for the 27th consecutive year, reaching an estimated $293bn, a 4.7% increase compared to the previous year. Source

Civil unrest on the rise

In 2020, civil unrest rose globally by 10%, reveals the 2021 Global Peace Index computed by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). There were 14,871 violent demonstrations, protests and riots recorded globally. Against pandemic related measures were widespread globally, with over 5,000 events recorded globally. The economic impact of violence reached $14.96 trillion in 2020, the equivalent to 11.6% of the world’s GDP – or $1,942 per person – due to increased military spending, notes the report. Source

China is working on ‘brain-control weaponry’ that ‘paralyzes and controls opponents’

China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and 11 affiliated research institutes have been sanctioned by the USA “for using ‘biotechnology’ to support the armed forces including ‘purported brain-control weaponry’.” Reportedly, the weaponry is ‘paralyzing and controlling the opponent’ by ‘attacking the enemy’s will to resist’.” Source

China, France, Russia, UK, and USA agree that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”

China, Russia, Britain, the United States and France have agreed that a further spread of nuclear arms and a nuclear war should be avoided. The statement stipulates that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and nuclear weapons should be used for defence or war deterrence purpose only. The five nuclear states are permanent members on the UN Security Council and didn’t join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Source

 

Behind China’s Belt & Road projects

Some 140 countries are part of China’s Belt and Road project. While this has helped many developing countries, in some cases contracts come with difficult strings attached, which could give China control over countries’ critical infrastructure or even governance issues. Sri Lanka’s port has been taken over by a Chinese government company in 2016. Now several African countries — e.g. Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zambia — are discovering or questioning the implications of “fine print” clauses in the contracts with Chinese landing entities, which might imply sovereignty or democracy problems.  Source

China has become the world’s largest overseas loans provider; more than 150 countries have an over $1 trillion debt to China. Given its economic leverage, it has used coercion against more than a dozen countries over the last few years. China is also selling and operating advanced surveillance systems, supporting antidemocratic actions in over 80 countries already. The Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative, a joint project of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States intends to set standards for such technologies that could support digital authoritarianism. A 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that some “75 percent of people in the United States, Europe, and Asia held unfavorable views of China and had no confidence that President Xi Jinping would behave responsibly in world affairs or respect human rights.” Source

Increasing use of coercion for reaching strategic or geopolitical aims

As geopolitical tensions rise, coercion through economic tools such as trade or investment restrictions is increasingly used to reach strategic and geopolitical goals. While this is interference with countries’ sovereign choices, it is not covered by international law. In order to protect its Member States, the EU considers the adoption of an anti-coercion instrument to address the use of economic coercion at global scale. Source

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