As Trump heads to Davos, survey points to rising risk of war

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The World Economic Forum's annual Global Risks Report, which includes responses from almost 1,000 experts and decision-makers in government, academia, business and beyond, found an increasing expectation that geopolitical tensions would worsen in the coming year.

Overall, 59 per cent of the respondents pointed to increased level of risks this year, the WEF said while hoping that a positive economic outlook would give leaders the opportunity to tackle systemic fragility affecting societies, economies, global relations and the environment.

Nearly all respondents, 93%, predict that "political or economic confrontations/frictions between major powers" will increase in 2018, and 80% expect "state-on-state military conflict or incursion" and "regional conflicts drawing in major power (s)" to heighten this year.

In the past, these reports have been dominated by economic risks such market collapses, but environmental threats are now considered the biggest challenges facing humanity.

"We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown". For example, civil unrest means there is a real possibility of new wars, and the loss of biodiversity in some regions is a serious problem.

As in 2017, the environment was by far the greatest concern raised by experts. Extreme weather events and climate change are raising the risks of natural disasters.

Unlike previous editions of the Global Risks Report, economic stresses feature less, as the world recovers from the 2008 crash and GDP growth rates slowly improve. "The aggregate cost of cyberattacks is now estimated at more than US$1tn per year versus roughly US$300bn experienced in 2017 from losses to natural catastrophes, and that was a record year".

However, the expected economic recovery is seen as an opportunity for governments and firms to shore up societies and business against these risks; "a widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we can not afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world's institutions, societies and environment".

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"This initiative could become more significant if additional partners - such as Australia, the U.S., or even European states - were to take part".

"This generation enjoys unprecedented technological, scientific and financial resources", but is "the first generation to take the world to the brink of a systems breakdown", Schwab wrote.

The report further said that amid geopolitical flux, national identity becomes a growing source of tension around contested borders, while clashes related to identity and community continue to drive political dislocations in many countries and are increasingly fuelling cross-border tensions.

Aside from suffering disruptions, organisations have also suffered huge losses as a result of persistent cyber attacks.

The Global Risks Report highlighted the top ten risks in terms of their potential impact, with weapons of mass destruction heading the list. However, she believes we're now seeing a "too little, too late" response by governments and business to solving problems such as climate change. "It's not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid a potential system collapse".

The report was released ahead of the WEF foundation's meeting in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, where more than 2,000 political leaders, economists and celebrity entertainers will gather next week for four days of speeches and panel discussion.

"With the added context of the cost of suffering cyber-attacks set to rise, it was surprising to see in our recent survey of United Kingdom business leaders that only 38% said improving cyber security is a priority for their IT investment".

Drzik warned that even as the danger has become more visible, firms are still under-resourced when it comes to efforts to mitigate the risk.

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