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World Economic Forum 2021 Global Risk Report

February 01, 2021
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The preface to this report states that in 2006 the Forum had warned of the threat of pandemics and other health related risks. The warning was repeated in subsequent reports, and in 2020 it came to pass.

The report paints a dark picture:

  • Widening inequality and social fragmentation.
  • Disproportion in health outcomes, technology and workforce opportunities.
  • Widening social divisions straining safety nets and economic structure.

If these gaps cannot be minimized it may stall action on climate change. The world's youth are particularly vulnerable. Businesses and governments must manage the economic and social risks and create new opportunities.

The likeliest risks (short, medium and long term) in the next ten years are extreme weather, environmental change, digital concentration and inequality, and cybersecurity failure. High impact risks are infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction, livelihood and debt crises, and breakdown of IT infrastructure. The possible collapse of nation states and multinational institutions are critical long term risks.

Crisis response should go beyond planning for the next pandemic. The report lists four governance opportunities to strengthen the resilience of countries, businesses and the international community:

  1. Formulate analytical frameworks for a holistic and system based view of risks.
  2. Invest in high profile "risk champions".
  3. Improve risk communication and combat misinformation.
  4. Explore new forms of public-private partnership.

The full report, including a Global Risk Perception Survey, and an executive summary are available at zurichna.com.Zurich Insurance is a sponsor of the Forum.