Strategy

Interstate Conflict Seen as Most Likely Threat to Stability

Geopolitical risk is expected to roar back in 2015, says a new report on global risks.
Matthew HellerJanuary 15, 2015
Interstate Conflict Seen as Most Likely Threat to Stability

The risk of interstate conflict with regional consequences is most likely to pose the biggest threat to global stability in the next 10 years, while water crises could have the greatest potential impact, according to a new survey.

World Economic ForumThe World Economic Forum said in its Global Risks 2015 report, compiled from a poll of 900 experts, that 2015 “stands out as a year when geopolitical risks, having been largely absent from the landscape of leading risks for the past half-decade, return to the fore.”

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The geopolitical risk category includes interstate conflict, state collapse or crisis, failure of national governance, terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction.

With geopolitics increasingly influencing the global economy, the report said, these risks account for three of the five most likely, and two of the most potentially impactful, risks in 2015. Interstate conflict, weapons of mass destruction and terrorist attacks stood out as having intensified the most since 2014 in terms of both likelihood and impact.

“Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world again faces the risk of major conflict between states,” Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, lead economist for the World Economic Forum, said in a news release. “However, today the means to wage such conflict, whether through cyberattack, competition for resources or sanctions and other economic tools, is broader than ever.”

She added, “Addressing all these possible triggers and seeking to return the world to a path of partnership, rather than competition, should be a priority for leaders as we enter 2015.”

In terms of likelihood, the risk of interstate conflict was followed by extreme weather events, failure of national governance systems, state collapse or crisis and high structural unemployment or underemployment.

On the impact side, water crises came in first followed by rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction, interstate conflict and failure of climate change adaptation.

The presence of more environmental risks among the top risks than economic ones, the report said, “comes as a result of a marked increase in experts’ negative assessment of existing preparations to cope with challenges such as extreme weather and climate change.”