The world is in no position to face major, new shocks. The financial crisis has reduced global economic resilience, while increasing geopolitical tension and heightened social concerns suggest that both governments and societies are less able than ever to cope with global challenges. Yet, as this report shows, we face ever-greater concerns regarding global risks, the prospect of rapid contagion through increasingly connected systems and the threat of disastrous impacts...
Two risks are especially significant given their high degrees of impact and interconnectedness. Economic disparity and global governance failures both influence the evolution of many other global risks and inhibit our capacity to respond effectively to them.
In this way, the global risk context in 2011 is defined by a 21st century paradox: as the world grows together, it is also growing apart.
Globalization has generated sustained economic growth for a generation. It has shrunk and reshaped the world, making it far more interconnected and interdependent. But the benefits of globalization seem unevenly spread – a minority is seen to have harvested a disproportionate amount of the fruits. Although growth of the new champions is rebalancing economic power between countries, there is evidence that economic disparity within countries is growing.
Issues of economic disparity and equity at both the national and the international levels are becoming increasingly important. Politically, there are signs of resurgent nationalism and populism as well as social fragmentation. There is also a growing divergence of opinion between countries on how to promote sustainable, inclusive growth.
To meet these challenges, improved global governance is essential. But this is another 21st century paradox: the conditions that make improved global governanceso crucial – divergent interests, conficting incentives and differing norms and values – are also the ones that make its realization so difficult, complex and messy. As a result, we see failures such as the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the lack of international agreement at the Copenhagen Conference on climate change. The G20 is seen as the most hopeful development in global governance but its efficiency in this regard has not been proven.
When an institution such as the World Economic Forum--long the showcase of self-congratulatory global plutocrats and corporate elites--admits that a minority seemed to have "harvested a disproportionate amount of the fruits" of the economic growth of the past decade, you know things are bad.
Yes, I'll ask the question again... and those three of you who still read this blog know what's coming: In a world described as above, how do we reconfigure our lives in order to effectively follow Jesus, whatever that means? How do we love our neighbour when their reality may differ significantly from ours? And if that is the case, how do we "do unto others" in such a world?
There will be those of us who stubbornly refuse to admit this problem exists--every sinking ship has those who are willing to go down with it--and cling to the notion that economic growth has been and continues to be a blessing from God. However, as illogical as this position has always been, this mea culpa from the WEF now makes it virtually impossible to hold to this mass delusion.
Where is the church of Jesus Christ in this conversation? Surely this is the point where we must break from our role as the impotent conscience of (and perhaps cheerleader for) the status quo, and instead stand in opposition to a system that alienates and subordinates the majority of God's children. In short, friends, the western church at large has bet on the wrong horse. How to we even begin to rectify this?
UPDATE & Irony Alert:
"...there is evidence that economic disparity within countries is growing."
Immediately after posting the above, I turned to my email inbox. The first note I opened was a copy of the following:
Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail:
A 21-year difference in life expectancy for residents of low and high income neighbourhoods in Hamilton has been documented. So when the Globe and Margaret Wente ask “Does inequality matter?” (January 8, 2011), the answer from considering just life expectancy alone is emphatically yes.
As the Globe itself reported on January 3, citing research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “a third of all income growth in Canada in the past two decades went to the richest 1 per cent of Canadians.” This is not a “trickling up” but an outright gushing of wealth to the top. At what cost to our democracy? And, how shall unjust, injurious inequality be checked? Maximum income laws to bookend minimum wage ones? Rebuilding a progressive income tax system for greater redistribution to those whose economic rights are being violated? A First Ministers conference on inequality is warranted.
Executive Director / Directeur executif
CANADA WITHOUT POVERTY / CANADA SANS PAUVRETÉ