GGF 2035 Topics

Global Futures of Climate-Related Conflict

Climate change is not just a major environmental threat – it is also likely to have a seismic impact on human security, access to resources, and (violent) conflicts. It will create new challenges and dramatically exacerbate existing ones. These challenges include serious security threats, increased pressure on land use, less availability of drinking water, and damage to coastal areas. They will affect the distribution of resources and the way communities live together, within and across the confines of national borders. As such, climate change has the potential to become a major accelerator or cause of conflict. While there is little evidence that climate change has contributed to the outbreak of armed conflicts in the past, it may well have a ‘threat multiplier’ effect in the future. The effects of climate change on (human) security are expected to grow, making conflict more likely to occur across a host of different countries in both direct and indirect ways. This will have direct implications for both domestic and international stability. Where are the most likely flash points of future conflicts caused or accelerated by climate change? What are possible futures when climate change-related factors raise the risk of conflict in the coming decade? What should be done to manage and/or prevent conflicts fueled by resource distribution challenges caused by our changing climate?

Global Futures of Media and Information

The internet and the rise of social media have revolutionized how we access, consume and share information, but optimism that this would lead to greater transparency and democratic change everywhere has all but evaporated. It is clear now that deliberate information control, media manipulation and state censorship are as much a part of this fragmented new reality as seamless cross-border connections and citizen reporting. While established media organizations, especially in the West, have lost their role as gatekeepers to information, others like China’s CGTN or Russia’s RT have developed an international footprint. Content on platforms like Facebook and YouTube reaches billions of users every day. At the same time, autocratic governments are trying to seal off their domestic information landscapes and China has already managed to do so through parallel platforms like WeChat and Weibo. All the while, state and non-state actors are weaponizing information for political and economic gain, sowing mistrust and driving polarization within and between countries. What will the global media and information landscape look like in 2035? Who will control information flows and with what means? How will this impact the relationship between democratic and non-democratic systems going forward? Will the coming decade see new media and cross-border information flows drive confrontation and conflict? Or can they be put in the service of enhancing global cooperation on pressing issues?

Global Futures and Politics of Inequality

In recent decades, economic inequality (the unequal distribution of wealth, income, and access to goods and services) between nations has declined, while national economic inequality has increased. The 2008 global economic crisis, which originated in industrialized countries and spread to developing countries, was both an outcome and an amplifier of these trends. While banks and businesses in the United States and across Europe were bailed out and governments launched recovery programs, national inequality further increased and protest movements formed. Some political parties in the West answered calls for political change with populist, nationalist and protectionist recipes; at the same time, countries such as China and India point to their success in lifting millions of their citizens out of poverty and avoiding the severe economic fallout from the global economic crisis. Will national and global economic inequality lessen or worsen in the coming decade? What political ideas will gain traction if technological developments – digitization, internationalization and the automation of services – disrupt labor markets? How will the influence of multinational tech companies impact national and international inequality? Will inequality be instrumentalized by political actors to push extreme (left- or right-wing) political narratives?