Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


Last September world leaders participated in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s annual high-level session after a year in which the world organisation has failed to respond decisively to a series of crises and wars from Myanmar to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The 2021 NATO Summit main's aim was to offer the Atlantic Alliance a solid conceptual basis on which to build the programme for the future of collective security and to respond effectively to the challenges of today and tomorrow.

In the 2021 report, the US intelligence community warned of a "diverse array" of global threats that could further destabilize a world shaken by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, technological change and international competition.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Risk Outlook for 2022 predicted the risk scenarios that could impact world growth and inflation in the coming year.

UN General Assembly

A clear set of issues arose, namely COVID-19, climate change, peace, security and the risks of instability. The General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid said “our true measure of success remains our willingness and ability to engage in dialogue and to put our faith in the multilateral system” adding that the UN must now address these concerns “in a manner that turns every challenge into an opportunity… an opportunity to strengthen multilateralism and deliver results on ground”.

He underscored that everyone shares the same concerns and unwavering commitment to overcome obstacles adding that “multilateralism is indeed alive and well. The world must continues to believe in dialogue and diplomacy,  and work with a sense of responsibility and determination”.

The NATO Summit

One of the topic at the center of the NATO 2021 Summit was the Atlantic Alliance's 2030 Agenda so as to provide a solid conceptual basis on which to build the programme for the future of collective security and to respond effectively to the challenges of today and tomorrow. A new Strategic Concept will clearly outline the priorities, critical issues and objectives for the coming years.

On a geopolitical level, NATO will be increasingly oriented towards a global posture, in order to counter the peer-to-peer threat posed by State actors such as Russia and China while acting as a forum for political dialogue between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean and as a platform for relaunching a world order based on shared rules among its Member States, and as a pivotal military instrument for the collective defense and security of the Euro-Atlantic area. The 2030 Agenda also includes, for the first time, a section dedicated to critical security issues linked to climate change, space and cyberspace.

The 2021 United States (US) Annual Threat Assessment

The 2021 US Annual Threat Assessment says "the potential for cascading events in an increasingly interconnected and mobile world would create new and unique challenges, as known adversaries continue to jockey for influence and climate change heightens instability”.

China, Russia and Iran will seek to challenge US interests in different arenas and on multiple levels, and transnational crime, cyber attacks and terrorist plots will pose continued threats.

The COVID-19 pandemic would "continue to strain governments and societies, fueling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition".

Beijing considers its competition with the United States as part of an "epochal geopolitical shift" while making advancements in space and satellite technologies and posing a "prolific and effective" cyber threats.

Russia will grow its "strategic cooperation" with China and present "one of the most serious intelligence threats to the United States” viewing US elections as an opportunity to undermine US global standing, sow discord inside the United States, influence US decision-making, and sway US voters.

Iran has resumed some activities in violation of the terms of the 2018 nuclear agreement and will continue to deploy conventional and unconventional tools to undermine the United States and remain a "significant threat" in the cyber domain.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Risk Outlook for 2022

The report predicts the biggest risk scenarios that could impact world growth and inflation in the coming year. EIU expects the post-pandemic recovery to continue in 2022, with global GDP expanding by 4.1%, after rebounding by an estimated 5.4% in 2021.

The economic fallout from the pandemic is likely to create or worsen instability in at least a few countries, as people grow more desperate in the face of interlocking pressures that include sustained economic downturns, job losses, and disrupted supply chains.

Tensions between countries and different political ideologies have hindered cross-border cooperation and generated geo-political risks that can escalate to worldwide conflicts: a detrimental outcome for businesses from a financial and operational perspective.  It is a top-priority to understand existing or potential threats and find resilient solutions that can keep businesses operating in even in the most extreme conditions.


World leaders have a lot of challenges to discuss. Besides climate change and COVID-19 there are security crises ranging from the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the conflict in Ethiopia to Myanmar’s coup, May’s upsurge of Israeli-Palestinian violence and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Real and serious divisions exist between Members of the UN Security Council and internal political divisions have unfortunately led the Council to fall short of its responsibilities in many instances.

In dealing with critical situations, the UN’s main conflict management tools – such as mediation and peacekeeping – have appeared largely irrelevant to the problems at hand.

The best the UN can hope to achieve is to keep lifesaving aid flowing to vulnerable populations, mitigating the effects of violence but doing little to address its causes.

But the UN is often the only organisation able to deal with dangerous and deteriorating situations. In cases such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia, where war threatens to create regional humanitarian crises, UN agencies such as the World Food Programme are essential for managing the fallout.

Elsewhere, as in Libya and Yemen, UN mediators remain the international actors best positioned to secure sustainable peace deals while protecting suffering people, promoting peacemaking and stopping bad circumstances from getting worse.

Security Council Members should anyway return to the fundamental basis of their mandate and work tirelessly to find common ground and build consensus whenever and wherever possible keeping in mind that they have a common interest in upholding global peace, security and stability.


It is likely that the current geopolitical tensions complicating UN action will persist, and even if the US, China and Russia can cooperate on some matters, the overall trajectory of their relations could remain negative.

Yet the UN still offers a vehicle to contain conflicts and mitigate the suffering they create: despite its apparent irrelevance in many crises, the UN system still plays a crucial part in managing an unstable international environment.

Comparing global problems involves lots of uncertainty and there should be serious attempts to make such big picture comparisons and help major existing institutions improve their capacities to make complex decisions, and therefore navigate global challenges.

A further effort is to build communities of people who want to do good effectively, with the hope that they can deal with future challenges as they come. And why not exploring areas so far neglected or less explored such as promoting civilizational resilience, mitigating great power conflict, or laying the foundations for the governance of outer space?

As for foresight, it does not replace the future: it informs the future. Without it, we risk stumbling ahead rather than following a strategic vision. When it is well done, it will guide our efforts, help us avoid mistakes and focus our aim. When it is even better done, it stimulates ideas and opens new avenues of thinking.

It’s therefore vital to understand the wide variety of factors with the potential to create instability and conflicts, disrupt governments, endanger human life, damage private sector profits, spread diseases, slow recovery from crises, or limit the availability of resources.

Last but not least we absolutely must avoid that the risk of “youth disillusionment” be still largely neglected by the global community or it will become a critical threat to the world in the short term. Hard-fought societal wins could be obliterated if the current generation lacks adequate pathways to future opportunities and loses faith in today’s political and economic institutions.

The world is becoming more complex and volatile. The only certainty about the future is its inherent uncertainty. The need is to encourage curiosity, inventiveness and creativity, be comfortable with ambiguity and be ready to react to any adversity.