Guest post: The World in 2013 and Beyond – selected predictions relevant for the well-being of children
Continuing the tradition from 2012 – this guest post is a fabulous overview of 2013 forecasts and predictions from the world of development and aid from former colleagues in UNICEF, who have kindly agreed to allow me to share it with all of you. Thanks to Björn Gillsater, Katell Legoulven and Yulia Oleinik who pulled together and synthesized this great reading list!
Dear friends and colleagues,
Inspired by your feedback on last January’s Suggested Readings issue on predictions for 2012, we are determined to keep the tradition going.
But before we jump into the predictions for 2013, how did we fare 2012? Well, for the most part, they withstood the reality test. With the global economy still faltering, concerns about national welfare and inequality have persisted; politics have been focused largely on domestic issues; and new hotspots did come up, though not necessarily where expected (Syria, Mali). Many of last year’s predictions remain relevant for the coming year.
And now over to 2013:
1. Uncertainty still rules supreme over the global economic outlook… The IMF forecasts a sluggish global growth of 3.6% for 2013, saying that the prospects have deteriorated further and risks increased. The Eurozone crisis persists. The US – steering away from the fiscal cliff – is expected to grow by a mere 2%. Emerging economies, while expected to do better than that, will chart a slower growth trajectory – China with 8.2%, India with 6% and Brazil with 4% growth rates for 2013. …yet, some observers are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and new frontiers are emerging.The latest World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects came out with a cautiously optimistic forecast that the worst appears to be over for the global economy. The Economist, among others, is betting on Indonesia, Philippines, and Mongolia as the bright economic growth stories of 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to continue growing strongly, averaging above 5.7%, according to the IMF. Mark Malloch-Brown, however, warns that the story disguises some of the challenges ahead: “At least a quarter of Africa’s growth will come directly from energy and minerals and a lot more still from their impact on other sectors. […] This resource boom could make, or unmake, the continent.” A related challenge is to overcome a jobless growth phenomenon, as African Economic Outlook highlighted earlier in 2012.
2. The fiscal worries continue weighing down on donor governments’ ability to live up to their aid commitments. Major donors’ aid to developing countries fell by nearly 3% in 2011, for the first time since 1997. While we are yet to see the global aid figures for 2012, the OECD forecasts that “[c]ontinuing tight budgets in OECD countries will put pressure on aid levels in coming years.” This brings a degree of uncertainty to the multibillion aid replenishments of World Bank’s IDA, the African Development Bank and Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, scheduled for this year. The G8, under the UK presidency in 2013, is expected to make strong push for transparency, hunger and food security, most likely without new financing commitments.
3. Global governance – be it in promoting trade, slowing climate change or regulating cyberspace – will remain challenging. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, reckons “Large-scale multilateralism, in which most of the world’s 193 United Nations-recognized countries meet to negotiate accords, has become too unwieldy. Instead, the most we can hope for are small accords among select governments or accords that tackle only a part of much larger problems.” From business experts’ perspective, Thomas W. Malnight and Tracey S. Keys predict “[t]he great global redistribution of economic and social power will continue over the next 12 months. Power will flow away from traditional institutions that have failed to deliver progress – especially governments and banks. It will flow towards communities and individuals, and also to businesses whose leaders understand and act on the big trends shaping our future.” Of particular relevance, the post-2015 agenda debates will put to the test the global governance of development in 2013. A special event on the MDGs in the margins of the General Assembly in September 2013 will be an important forum to watch.
4. Equity and inequalities continue to be prominent in political discourse both at the global and national level. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 Report (again) identified severe income inequalities as the top global risk most likely to manifest itself over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, experts and academics are building an ever stronger evidence base that reducing inequalities is good not only for societal cohesion, but also for economic growth and development. For examples, Ezequiel Molina, Jaime Saavedra and Ambar Narayan argue in their forthcoming paper that inequality of opportunity, measured by the Human Opportunity Index (HOI), affects development outcomes negatively. While most research on the link between inequality and growth focuses on inequality of outcomes, the authors stress what really matters is inequality of opportunity: “once we account for the effect of unequal opportunity, inequality of outcomes does not appear to play any role in hindering economic development”. They also show that increases in HOI are correlated with lower infant mortality rates and malnutrition as well as better institutional quality. We dare to predict (hope?) that 2013 will be the year when the equity argument moves from experts/academics to decision-makers and practitioners. The 2015-agenda is promising to become one such example, as there is a formidable consensus around equity as a priority issue to address.
5. Climate change, resource scarcity, energy and sustainability are expected to dominate the development debate in 2013. The WEF’s Global Risks 2013 Report predicts that leaders will continue neglecting the increasing stress of the Earth’s environmental system, as global economic woes absorb their attention for the foreseeable future. At the same time, Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, insists that the latest predictions on climate change should shock us into action: “A world four degrees warmer could be too hot to handle, but the exciting prospect of low-carbon living could stop it happening.” Simon Zadek of the Centre for International Governance Innovation calls 2013 a year to fight for scale in advancing sustainability and offers practical considerations on how to achieve it. Furthermore, Alison Evans of ODIsuggests that, while many risks and uncertainties remain the same, 2013 will test our capacity to adapt and innovate our way around uncertainty.
6. Old conflicts endure, while new tensions simmer. The International Crisis Group’s list of 10 conflicts to watch 2013 is heavily focused on Africa, Middle East and Asia, highlighting Sudan, Kenya, DRC, Sahel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. At the same time,there is a palpable optimism about Colombia, Philippines and Myanmar where recent developments suggest that the coming year could bring peace. For more on these and other hot spots, we suggest the Council of Foreign Relations’ What to Worry About in 2013 podcast discussion with experts.
7. UNICEF’s own innovation gurus Chris Fabian and Erica Kochi predict that 2013 will be another big year for innovation and technology for development: Big data and real-time data will increasingly be seen and used as drivers of programme and policy decision-making. The development sector will introduce metrics to measure innovation. Open-source technology will increasingly become a driver of south-south collaboration with technologies created in one region, adapted and scaled in others (including south to north transfer). Open platforms and challenges for generating and surfacing solutions will increasingly be used for addressing development challenges. Moreover, 2013 be the year of scaled commitment from governments and donors to go beyond pilots to invest in real-time information systems in logistics and mobile health. The private sector – particularly mobile and internet service providers – will engage in the area of identity and registration, which will create immense opportunity for accelerating birth registration globally. Last, but not least, 2013 will see scaled, open education innovations provide solutions for even the most difficult to reach children.
8. The private sector is becoming an invested development partner, more than ever. As consumer preferences shift, so do business models – the private sector is increasingly getting involved in tackling social and economic challenges and placing sustainability at the core of business practices. From social-impact bonds (which encourage for-profit investment in schemes that promise to save the government money in the long run but tend to involve too much risk for cautious politicians to embrace) to the CEO of Unilever on the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda – it is an exciting trend to watch and take advantage for the benefit of children.
9. Infectiously ambitious optimism of the new generation of philanthropists is redefining the future of philanthropy. The co-author of Philanthrocapitalism, Matthew Bishop observes: “The next ten years or so will be particularly important in shaping the future of philanthropy. Just as Rockefeller pursued what he called ‘scientific philanthropy’, gathering together experts to find answers to big problems, today the Gateses and others expect their giving to overcome some of the world’s most formidable challenges. If this is seen to work, many more successful businesspeople will give do-gooding a try, thinking they can make a difference, too. […] Completing the eradication of polio in the three countries where it remains and continuing the recent dramatic decline in deaths from malaria will be closely watched litmus tests.” Bishop also foresees that “giving will also grow increasingly global, as more countries become wealthy and produce more super-rich people. These countries may not copy exactly the sort of philanthropy practised in America, but will instead find ways that fit their own culture.”
10. Finally and of more immediate relevance to children, a prominent philanthropist and child well-being advocate, Melinda Gates, makes a bold prediction (bordering with a call for action) that in 2013 child-mortality will fall again and serious progress will be made on saving neonatal lives. It is encouraging to see such a prediction, particularly as UNICEF colleagues around the world and partners are working hard to make that happen, including through A Promise Renewed.
If 2013 feels a bit too short of a horizon, consider the latest Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. While prepared from the US perspective (by the National Intelligence Council), it offers a thorough analysis of global trends and a number of thought-provoking scenarios. A similar report was produced by the European Agency for Strategic Studies Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World, which you may find of interest as well.
What are your predictions for 2013? We certainly look forward to staying in touch and collaborating with you in the coming year!
Yulia (the holder of the pen this time), Katell and Björn