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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

Global financial requirements for meeting the climate and development objectives are about $6.9 trillion per year over the next 30 years, estimates the OECD.  Since  transport, building and water infrastructure make up more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, investment in the infrastructure system has to be prioritized in both developed and developing economies. 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 WaterWater-related disasters on the rise

Over the next 30 years, the number of people at risk from water-related disasters is projected to increase from 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion, representing around 20% of the world population, warns OECD. Water-related disasters – floods, droughts, storms – account for the majority of disasters taking lives, and are estimated to cost more than US$500 billion in damages annually. Source

Water stress to affect some 50% of world’s population by 2050

The OECD estimates that by 2050, global water demand will rise by 55%, and 40% of the world’s population will likely be living in severely water-stressed river basins. An MIT model shows that some 52% of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050. The MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System (IGSM-WRS), which evaluates water resources and needs worldwide, also allows 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


World’s population continues to grow

World’s population continues to grow by about just under 1% annually, which means an addition of nearly 65 million people per year. It is projected to grow from 8 billion in 2022 to 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and by 2100 to stay at the peak of around 10.4 billion people reached during the 2080s. Global fertility rate is expected to drop from 2.3 births per woman over a lifetime in 2021 to 2.1 births per woman by 2050. However, meantime, global life expectancy at birth is expected to grow from 72.8 years in 2019, to around 77.2 years in 2050. China and India, with more than 1.4 billion each, are the most populous countries. Population growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to continue through 2100 and to contribute more than 50% of the global population increase anticipated through 2050. Source

Food insecurity growing worldwide

An estimated 828 million people are affected by hunger worldwide. The number of those facing acute food insecurity grew from 135 million in 2019 to 345 million in 2022, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, and climate change. Unless increased humanitarian and development assistance, hunger might grow further around the world, warns the World Food Programme (WFP). Source


Global democracy deteriorating

Global democracy is deteriorating. In 2021, it reached 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. Varieties of Democracy (V–Dem) Institute notes that in 2021, 33 countries moved towards authoritarianism while only 5 experienced improvement of democratic practices. An estimated 70% of the world’s population lives in non-democratic states, while authoritarian practices and forms of control get further reinforced. Electoral autocracy is 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

Anxiety about electoral democracies increases around the world, reflected by skepticism about the political system, increasing voter abstention, and increasing distrust in governance and the media. Urgency for addressing planetary threats (such as climate change) could argue for some kind of epistocracy, further increasing the risks of autocracy. Open democracy could re-empower citizens — rather than elected elites — with legislative power, democratizing the governing system and improving the efficiency of capacity-building in specific domains. 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

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 

AI impacts 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

Advanced AI could threaten the current balance of power between citizens and states, help information manipulation and censorship, thus undermining democracy. AI would enable governments to further restrain individual liberties (such as freedom of expression), and introduce harsher universal digital surveillance on the grounds of protecting national security. Source

Double-standard threatens democracy

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

Richest get richer, while the poor gets 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

Generally, people are pessimistic about the next generation’s financial future. A median of 70% of adults from 19 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center say that their children will be worse off financially than their parents. Of the surveyed countries, only people from Singapore and Israel believe that the next generation will be better off financially. Source

Lack of regulations for cryptocurrencies a risk

Currently, there are over 19,000 cryptocurrencies and dozens of blockchain platforms, but no international regulations for their operations. Experts expect many cryptocurrencies to crash, while authorities such as  President Christine Lagarde consider that cryptocurrencies are “worth nothing.” 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

Inflation and increased cost of living might push an additional 71 million people into poverty, out of whom, 51 million into extreme poverty (income under $1.90 a day). The most vulnerable are those in the Caspian Basin, the Balkans, and Sub-Saharan Africa (particularly in the Sahel), reveals a UNDP analysis of 159 developing countries. 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

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

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

The global gender gap has closed by 68.1%, shows the Global Gender Gap Index 2022. This means that it might take another 132 years to reach gender parity. As the pandemic and the related economic slowdown affected disproportionately more women, the gender parity in the labour force reached 62.9% in 2022, the lowest level over the 16 years that the index is being computed. Although educational attainment reached 94.4% parity, economic participation and opportunity is only 60.3%, with political empowerment trailing at 22%. Female representation in leadership positions is 19% in manufacturing, and only 8.8% among the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. However, in sectors like non-governmental organizations and education, women hold over 40% of leadership roles. Source

In the EU, women to represent at least 40% of non-executive board members 

In the EU, women will have to represent either 40% of non-executive directors, or 33% for all board members by 2027, stipulates a directive yet to be adopted. The proposal was first presented 10 years ago. Presently, only 30.6% of board members and 8.5% of board chairs in the EU are women, according to estimates by the European Institute for Gender Equality. 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


Rising “clean” energy needs impact ecosystems 

The immediate need for growing “green” energy production is conflicting with the long-time ecological consequences of mining for critical minerals. The International Energy Agency estimates that mineral demand from EVs and battery storage will grow between 10 to 30 times by 2040, depending on the scenario. In the Sustainable Development Scenario for example, demand for lithium is increasing by over 40 times by 2040 compared to 2020. Mining of critical minerals necessary for the “green” technology already damages ecosystems across the globe, from Indonesia, to Chile, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source


Global R&D spending grows faster than the economy

R&D spending is forecast to grow by 5.43% in 2022, reaching $2.476 trillion, estimates R&D World. USA and China are by far the largest R&D investors, accounting for about 50% of global R&D spending, while Israel has the largest R&D share of GDP, 4.8%. Asia experiences the highest growth, 6.42%, and is the largest regional investor, with a GERD of $1.034 trillion, followed by North America with 721 billion, and Europe with $533 billion. 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 and initiate tasks in a cost-effective, timely, and meticulous manner, hence increasing efficiency. Source

Metaverse implications

As advancements towards metaverse are accelerating, so are the debates addressing its safe and equitable implementation. The concerns range from merger and antitrust issues to way business is conducted in the metaverse — using mainly cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens, hence raising issues of ownership, misuse, interoperability and portability. Other critical concerns include: cybersecurity (from big data collection, use and ownership, to identity and privacy issues); increasing illegal and harmful practices; unethical advertising; potential impacts on people’s health; as well as assuring equitable access to the opportunities offered by the metaverse. 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


Peacefulness decreasing

Over the past 14 years, global peacefulness has deteriorated and the gap between the least and the most peaceful countries continues to grow, reveals the 2022 Global Peace Index computed by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). Of the 163 countries (comprising 99.7% of the world’s population) assessed, the GPI score improved for 77 countries, while for 84 it deteriorated, and for two it showed no change. Since 2008, only 8 of the 23 GPI indicators improved, while 15 deteriorated. Political instability reached its worst level —  with 51 countries deteriorating, and only 26 improving. Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Austria are the top most peaceful countries, while Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Russia, and South Sudan are the least peaceful countries. On the positive side, the impact of terrorism decreased to its lowest level, as revealed by the GPI. Source

World military spending growing

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 for the 27th consecutive year, reaching an estimated $293bn, a 4.7% increase compared to the previous year. Source

In 2021, only 29 countries reduced their military expenditure, while 132 countries increased it compared to the previous year, notes the 2022 Global Peace Index. The economic impact was $7.7 trillion (a 18.8% increase compared to the previous year). Growing military spending also drove an increase of the global economic impact of violence, which reached $16.5 trillion (11% of the world’s GDP) in 2021. Source

Civil unrest on the rise

Violent demonstrations recorded the largest deterioration of the 23 GPI indicators — almost 50% decrease since 2008 — with scores worsening in 126 countries of the 163 assessed. The sharpest deteriorations were recorded in full democracies. Political unrest has been experienced even in countries where worries about other types of risk are low, reveals the Safety Perceptions Index 2022. The number of forcibly displaced people around the world increased from 31 million in 2008, to over 88 million in 2022. 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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