The year 2019 started with Romania at the helm of the EU Council – a privileged position to influence the evolution of events in the years to come, both at European and global level. The width of the role commensurate to the width of the mission. The articulation of views and directions of action should take account of global challenges and risks.
Every year global challenges and risks are discussed with world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos. From this role, Romania should have been required to be part of these discussions through its representatives. The extensive portative of discussions on the biggest global challenges call for qualified interlocutors. But the spectrum of the topics does not seem to enter the attention corridor of local power.
That is why the topics discussed are all the more important as they are very little known and their impact comprises us. So the biggest global challenges are:
Major economic confrontations between the world’s major powers and the erosion of trade agreements and rules lead to increased macroeconomic fragility. The effects of these confrontations are reflected in the deceleration of the expected IMF growth in the coming years, from 2.4% in 2018 to 1.5% in 2022 for the European economy and from 6.6% in 2018 to 5.8% in 2022 Chinese economy. The high level of global debt of 225% of the GDP is another source of concern. Currently, 45% of low-income countries are at risk of excessive indebtedness. The growing gap between poor and rich countries presents the risk of increasing inequality between them.
The diplomatic tensions between the major powers have shaped the increasingly controversial messages and punitive economic measures. The risk of political confrontation is one of the concerns identified at the World Economic Forum. The instability of China-US relations demonstrates not only the questioning of the balance of world power but also the refutation of the hypothesis that the world will adhere to Western norms and values. The existence of frozen conflicts and the weakening of alliances are sources of concern over global stability. Although important steps have been taken to relieve the North Korean case, weapons of mass destruction remain a source of global risk from the impact point of view.
Political and social strains
The rise in geopolitical instability is correlated with local social and political tensions. The polarization of opinion streams leads to social polarization. The crisis has shaken values and beliefs about democracy, has fragmented Western societies and has complicated the governance process. The erosion of trust threatens social cohesion and increases the risk of the failure of governance. Low government confidence calls into question the political health of countries hit by the crisis and diminishes the capacity to prevent and respond of governments to social transformations. The low level of integration of some social categories leads to challenging the legitimacy and responsibility of the elites to lead. Migration and demographic trends may reinforce discourse in defending dominant national values.
Drastic warnings are being launched by climate assessment bodies. According to the Forth National Climate Assessment, in the US, without significant emission reductions, the temperature will increase by 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The failure of environmental policy by failing to adopt the Paris agreement raises concerns about the reduction of emissions. Climate change leads to a reduction in biodiversity and leads to the fragility of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, with a social and economic risk to communities dependent on them. It affects the health and development of societies by diminishing the source of food, productivity, and regional security.
Technology is the means by which it can generate a lot of good but also a lot of bad. Used irresponsibly in cyber attacks, it generates risks such as stealing money and information, disrupting the operation of large infrastructure systems. Identity theft, false news, the collection and misuse of personal data are other risks. Technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) increase the risk of harmful actions being generated by malicious people or groups.
We live a period marked by technological advancement and improved living conditions, but for too many people there is also a period of insecurity. Addressing insecurity can be done through diplomacy, capitalizing on new technologies, implementing solutions to respond to climate change, trade or migration. Romania can come up with solutions if it takes a foreign policy up to the agenda of the moment. Improving internal and international institutional architecture is the mission of the moment. It is a political generation bet, a sign of leadership and democratic maturity.