A novel Alawite-Shi’a security network may be developing in the Assad statelet now defining western Syria. It consists of an archipelago layered with remnants of the Bashar al-Assad-era intelligence organizations along with Iraqi Shi’a and other pro-Assad militias.
They are supported by Iran and Russia who separately struggle to integrate them all under the figurehead of Bashar Assad. This security infrastructure is emerging in the grey zone of conflict but is beginning to consolidate the many armed elements in western Syria opposed to Salafi Jihadism but having only cursory loyalty to Assad.
Bashar Assad’s pre-war regime in Syria was understood less by formal governmental institutions and more by a constellation of favored Alawite and Assad-affiliated families linked by marriage before the 2011 rebellion. The whole of Syria had been organized into a system where certain preferred families could enrich themselves with impunity irrespective of formal Syrian legal norms. The patronage networks created by Hafez and Bashar Assad during this era established a nominal Ba’athist secular modernity to overlay an Alawite dominated kleptocratic and Mukhābarāt state. Historically the intelligence services of Hafez Assad’s regime were built on four core agencies; the Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi (Political Security Directorate) and Idarat al-Amn al-‘Amm (General Intelligence Directorate) that reported to the President through the Office of National Security of the Ba’ath Party. Additionally the Shu’bat al-Mukhābarāt al-‘Askariyya (General Military Intelligence) reported to the commander of land forces, and Idarat al-Mukhābarāt al-Jawiyya (Air Force Intelligence) reported to the head of the Air Force. These foundational intelligence agencies were ostensibly controlled by a National Security Council (or Bureau) and were supported by derivative agencies in a security network whose primary imperative was protection of the Assad (both Hafez and Bashar’s) dynasty.
These legacy intelligence services were largely unprepared when the winds of the Arab Spring blew into the souks and alleys of Damascus and Syria’s secondary cities. In those cities waited thousands and thousands of unemployed young men having migrated there to escape a devastating drought scorching the already economically marginal steppe lands (Badia) in eastern Syria. Now mobilized by aspirations for democracy and economic reform, the Syrian people began to rise as one. Assad sought to weather the reforming aspirations of his people that were unleashed by the Arab Spring, but as rhetoric turned to war Syria’s complex demography, long subsumed by the Ba’athist Mukhābarāt state, exploded in fratricide.
The Syrian rebellion became militarized by 2012 and the Sunni-dominated Syrian Arab Army (SAA) quickly disintegrated as long-buried sectarian divisions ignited an intercommunal firestorm beneath the political conflagration of Syria’s civil war. As the rebellion wore on Assad quickly lost control of events on the ground. Intervention by both Iran and Hezbollah proved inadequate to smother what by now was a legitimate revolution. Tehran, although willing to use whatever force necessary to preserve the Assad regime and its land bridge to Hezbollah, desired a light military footprint in Syria and resisted large scale deployments. Initially the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Lebanon Corps (then called Department 2000) was tasked by Tehran to restore what the Revolutionary Guard called alignment as the Syrian Rebellion escalated. While never reaching the levels later employed by Russia, Iran did deploy greater and greater numbers of specialized army units, Basiji and Saberin special operators, into the Syrian theater. Nonetheless by 2015 the Syrian Arab Army ceased to exist in any meaningful way, precipitating a grey zone conflict between army remnants, competing militias, and their various foreign sponsors. The eastern regions of Syria devolved into Salafi Jihadi badlands controlled by rival Salafi factions, many of whom were ultimately absorbed into the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) which itself is now fracturing under foreign military pressure. Only the massive Russian military incursion beginning in the fall of 2015 prevented the total collapse of what was by then a Russian allied pro-Iranian Statelet in western Syria. Supplementing direct troop deployments, Russian mercenaries fought for Assad directly along with hundreds of additional Russian fighters affiliating with various pro-Assad factions. Concurrently, the fratricide in western Syria became a more byzantine struggle between ethnic and religious groups complicated by massive internal population displacement. Western Syria’s Alawi population, however, remained geographically concentrated in the coastal Latakia Governorate abutting Jabal Nusayriyah. These Alawi generally aligned with the larger Syrian Shi’a and Ismaili communities and remained generally supportive of the regime even though the Latakian Governorate had to absorb thousands of refugees from other parts of the country.
Two loosely organized networks of armed groups were foundational in support for the regime in western Syria. The first and older of the two was the Shabiha, or Ghost Militia derived from the 1980s’ Latakia region mafia-style criminal gangs. The Latakian Shabiha criminal gangs were headed by Assad first cousins Fawaz Assad and Munzer Assad, providing unofficial support for the regime. They had been left to their own devices when the war broke out but were now adapting to the collapse of government authority and affiliating with apolitical gangs, local militias, and faux government entities to expand their presence in western Syria. More significant was the Jaysh al-Shab’bi (People’s Army), which emerged somewhat spontaneously from the Lijan al-Sha’bia (Popular Committees) of armed citizens originally intended for little more than defending local communities from outsiders. Assad later took advantage of these Committees and tried to combine them into the Quwat al-difa al-Watani (National Defense Forces or NDF), initially under the command of General Hawash Mohammed and sporadically affiliating with remnants of the SAA. However, by 2016 the NDF had disintegrated at the national level and their center of gravity in western Syria collapsed as most fighters shifted loyalty to local warlords capable of paying regular salaries.
By 2016 the Syrian civil war ground into a stalemate. Neither Russia nor Iran’s Revolutionary Guard operating through a façade Syrian sovereignty nor the eastern Syrian Salafi Jihadi factions had the strength to rule the whole of the country. Across this Hobbesian landscape, with hundreds of militias dividing, re-dividing, coalescing, and changing names, while controlling small and shifting parcels of territory, the only real focus was on local intelligence collection. Militia and other local actor notables cooperated to aggregate their knowledge of the local social hierarchy and kinship structures to develop intelligence that was essentially ad hoc but useful for local tactical purposes. However, over time, it may become possible for a faux Assad regime centered in the Latakia – Tartus rump statelet to begin to combine the intelligence generated by these local militias with an attendant infrastructure that can both consolidate power in the Alawite heartland and secure the fluid frontiers from Damascus to Aleppo. Consolidating local intelligence collection efforts into any embryonic security archipelago in the wider regions of western Syria presumes a nexus with the remnants of legacy Syrian governmental institutions, including Syrian Air Force Intelligence and the pre-civil war Military Intelligence Directorate along with fragments of the SAA and the NDF. Syrian Air Force Intelligence is the most significant legacy institution surviving into the current era having manifested the greatest organizational discipline. It is the most cohesive remnant of the regime intelligence agencies. Therefore, Air Force Intelligence will likely be the most significant legacy institution in any embryonic security archipelago.
To build a new Mukhābarāt state and such a security archipelago the regime must organize the numerous Shi’a affiliated militia fiefdoms and secular militias of different configurations dotting western Syria into a coherent security architecture stretching across the Damascus -Homs region and to the Lebanese frontier. In constructing such an architecture, a first objective for the Assad regime would be to get control of the streets in the towns and villages and to develop new informant systems on the ground to build a network that could exploit their collection activity. Over time, the regime will need to develop the necessary ability and authority to task such networks and logically aggregate information provided by such networks. Organizationally this must exploit residual NDF intelligence assets and interface with Hezbollah while successfully liaising with the Russian Sluzhba vneshney razvedki (SVR) and intelligence elements of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Directorate (Sazeman-e Ettelaat-e Sepah). Any new Mukhābarāt state will require the Assad regime to re-create national intelligence services. Russia may assist in this by resurrecting an analog of their 1970s KGB and GRU roles, but now training Syrian personnel in a wider spectrum of modern intelligence disciplines to include utilizing the strategic depth of virtual spaces for tradecraft models and information operations. Iran’s primary concerns in western Syria have a greater focus on maintaining a land bridge into Lebanon’s Shi’a territories. The role of Iranian intelligence organizations supporting a new Mukhābarāt state is likely a bit more limited. While a separate issue, Iranian and Russian political goals differ in Syria over the long haul and those differences may seed competition between them for influence in the Assad regime’s new security organizations. The challenge for the regime is to organize its intelligence infrastructure in a way that coherently encompasses the whole of the western Syrian space and provides a foundation for later expansion to incorporate the balance of territories defined by Syria’s pre-civil war borders.
Hezbollah’s relations with any post-war Assad regime’s new security organs consolidating along its frontiers would be a bit more complex. Hezbollah’s massive engagement in the Syrian war foreshadows a generation-long commitment between Hezbollah and any emergent Syrian Mukhābarāt. Anticipating such commitments, Hezbollah’s Intelligence Apparatus is now reproducing itself by seeding, with Iranian assistance, intelligence entities within the Iraqi Shi’a militias deployed across western Syria using the Hezbollah model. The geographic interface between the Hezbollah territories and the Assad regime is through the Lebanese ‘Shi’astan’ frontier on the eastern edges of the Anti-Lebanon (Al-Jabal Ash-Sharqī ) mountains running from Zebdani to the Hermel region in the northeast Bekka into the Qalamoun Mountains and Qusayr linking the Orontes River Basin with Damascus, Homs and Tartus in Syria’s Alawite regions. The Qalamoun was already a logistics reserve prior to the war housing Syrian SCUD and M600 Tishrin missiles as well as housing Syrian army ammunition storage areas. While no doubt cooperating with the Assad regime resources, what Hezbollah has committed in this region suggests it may pursue its own interests and take advantage of the chaotic circumstances to utilize part of the Qalamoun as a “new” Bekka for locating Hezbollah logistical assets while interfacing with the emergent Alawite-Shi’a intelligence organs.
Ted Robert Gurr modeled the pattern of ‘frustration-anger-aggression’ many decades ago in Why Men Rebel. Yet that anger and aggression came to naught as the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring were found wanting in the face of Salafi Jihadism and the cold steel of Russian and Iranian geopolitical ambition. The Assad regime having lost half the country and teetered on the edge of extinction did not yield but now grows within it’s dead hulk a new Mukhābarāt to terrorize the remnants of a war-weary population.
What Role Should Criminology Play in Government Policymaking?
At this very moment in time, there is not much agreement over what the role of criminology should be in society. Therefore, in this academic article, an attempt will be made at portraying what the author considers to be a more appropriate picture of the role of criminological research in government policymaking based on multi-disciplinarity, multi-professionality and multi-institutionality.
For the purpose of this analysis, I will employ the notion of public criminology as the type of criminology which ‘takes as part of its defining mission a more vigorous, systematic and effective intervention in the world of social policy and social action’. The reason why public criminology seems to be the perfect fit for the conduction of a proper discussion on the relationship between criminological theory and government policy is that it attempts to give meaning and context to social facts, moving beyond ‘administrative criminology’ or ‘policy criminology’ which is considered to be practiced in an optimal fashion when it uses experimental evidence that leads to easily proven benefits.
The Influential Role of Theory in Politics
With the advent of all the changes occurring in the 21st century, there is a need for a stronger bond between criminological research and government policymaking. There have been scholars advocating for an insulation of crime and punishment institutions from the political arena, together with other leading criminologists which have concluded about the criminological industry that it is politically and socially irrelevant and does not have much to add to the big debates on crime and justice However, most criminologists recognize the benefits of getting involved one way or another in the process of governmental policymaking. As a case in point, Kitcher (2001) tried to answer the question of what collective good is criminology enquiry aiming to promote and came up with a long and, perhaps, inexhaustive list of added benefits, namely reduction in crime, improved efficacy of criminal justice institutions, heightened public security, the protection of the rule of law, individual liberty and human rights and responding to crime in a reasoned manner while dispelling myths.
Multi-disciplinary Criminological Research
Treatments of multi-disciplinarity in the development of criminology throughout history do not exist in the academia. Nor has any other branch of knowledge (i.e. psychiatry, psychology, law, sociology, forensics, medicine, anthropology) been able to claim criminology as its own. For this reason, it is important to bring to the forefront the problematiques of multi-disciplinarity regarding the production of criminological research and of multi-professionality concerning the government policymaking.
At one side of the spectrum, criminology has accustomed itself so far to operating in arenas, which have already been inhabited by other disciplines, while being delineated as constantly ‘raiding’ these disciplines. Nonetheless, not possessing enough ‘autonomy’ and being more outward looking has been looked at as a strength. Thus, it can be argued that it is crucial for the strength in relevance of criminological research in governmental policy for it to be multi-disciplinary, as opposed to morphing into a single discipline. In the unfortunate event of the latter, criminology would risk an increase in insularity from key debates in the political science and on the political scene. Since many scholars agree with the fact that criminology does not engage in the distribution of a shared conceptual language or a basic theoretical tradition, methodological and theoretical pluralism are not only preferred, but should be endorsed and promoted by criminologists in the governmental policy sphere. This can be achieved through the engagement of economists, sociologists, developmental psychologists and operations researchers, among others, in the creation of professional criminological knowledge.
Multi-professional Government Policymaking
On the one hand, the side of policymaking and the “circumstances of politics” are exceedingly relevant and need to display certain ‘multi-professional’ traits in order for criminological research to be easily put into practice. The issue of who is on the receiving end of all of this criminological research has been initially brought up together with Harold Laswell’s concept of the ‘science of democracy’ in which he draws attention to the necessity of establishing specific audiences for criminological research .Hoppe (2005) attempts to answer this dilemma by framing ‘the policy analyst’s operational task as focusing the attention of all those involved in policymaking so as to bring about their maximum rationality’ . In the category of ‘all those involved’, we should be able to include politicians, police, penal professionals, international political agencies, private security companies, pressure groups, non-governmental organisations, social research companies, consultancy firms, media organisations and the public opinion (i.e. crime victims) which should all both sponsors and recipients of criminological research. Therefore, academics should not be so hung up on engaging externally solely for the purpose of informing public policy, considering the possibilities offered by commissioned research from the part of NGOs and businesses or the prospects brought about by consultancy work. As a whole, these newly-forged networks should provide a great source of multi-professional engagement in the production, mediation and usage of criminological research. In terms of production and usage of criminological research, it might prove valuable to keep in mind that government policymaking should encompass a wide operation of ‘practical rationality’ in which all concerned voices are able to come to ‘reasonable decisions’ Moreover, their participation in the formulation of the criminological policy discourse could provide ‘reality checks’ which help prevent scholarly insulation found in other social sciences apart from criminology.
Since democracy is at the heart of governmental policymaking in the 21st century, the ‘professional’ knowledge needs to be supplemented by knowledge from a broad spectrum of sources such as science, the media, party preferences and opinion polls in order for a proportionate and representative policy response to be formulated. In this sense, one can argue that governmental policymaking is not as much of a science, as it is a craft, not as much of an ‘art of the optimum’ as it is an ‘art of the possible’. As discussed above, it is impossible to escape politics if criminologists want to be included in the crime policy discussion since ‘the only legitimate way for anybody’s views about principle or policy to be put into practice is through the dirty and messy business of politics’.
Multi-institutional Collective Decision-Making
This is best represented by Loader and Sparks’ concept of the ‘democratic under-labourer’. This idea contains an ‘institutional-critical dimension’ responsible for facilitating the interaction process between criminology, criminal justice institutions, the government, the media and the civil society organisations. This comes in the shape of an effort to try and ‘explain how criminological claims are likely to fare when translated into ‘communication formats’ of other social organisations and thereby shed light on the obstacles that stand in the way of a more informed politics of crime’
When translating criminological research into policy, decisions should be taken collectively, bearing in mind the prevalence of ‘self-interest, ignorance or prejudice’ of different stakeholders in the policymaking arena which might impede the process of reaching an agreement between policymaking parties. Conversely, these various know-hows different policymakers bring to the table also imply different lenses around crime controversies which, as opposed to gridlock, could set forth alternative manners of ‘thinking and responding to crime’. Using Wegner’s concept of ‘boundary’ as both the border between two ‘communities of practice’ and a way to ‘develop ways of maintaining connections with the rest of the world’ and applying this concept in relation to criminology as put into use by Jones (2012), specific practical ways of forming interlinks between disciplines, professions and institutions surface. Jones (2012) proposes that some of these could encompass ‘industry work placements, academic exchange, visiting scholar programmes[…]conferences, workshops, work programmes, seminar series, secondments, or consultancy work’ . Taking it a step further, he goes on to suggest that even social activities, communal newsletters, email distribution lists or office and site visits could potentially aid in the process of connecting various practices. Furthermore, by exploiting the notion of ‘boundary work’ as employed by Henry and Mackenzie (2011), it becomes clear how boundaries between criminologists and non-criminologists lead to a ‘failure of academics to make research comprehensible to external audiences’
One of the best mechanisms employed for the inclusion of more stakeholders in the translation of criminological knowledge into policymaking is interactive governance. This method helps facilitate ‘relational interaction’ between state and non-state contributors to the dissemination of criminological work through, for instance, ‘reflexive monitoring and dynamic social learning’ since in the dynamic age of globalisation people tend to trust in the ‘reflexive monitoring of action’ to guide us. The benefits of connecting with particular governmental, academic, civil society groups, and even corporate actors, can aid in the creation of alternative justice policy proposals (i.e. remaking of criminal justice institutions).To go a step even further, the creation of a ‘market in crime control’ populated with ‘consultants’ and ‘entrepreneurs’ selling their expertise to criminal justice and law enforcement agencies is something to strive for and not fear because of potential loss of academic integrity . While these proposals might not be implemented in the next couple of years, they will certainly create more space for an active presence of criminologists in contemporary controversies.Nevertheless, collective decision making should be exercised with caution considering the dangerous prospect of deadlock due to potential ‘burdens of judgement’ such as troubles deciding upon what can be deemed as relevant evidence or competing values of policymakers as a result of various life experiences
All things considered, criminology can truly play an influential role in informing public policy as long as it learns how to engage with other disciplines. However, nothing will bring great results if the government policymaking machine does not do its part in inviting multiple professions to the decision table. These two actors (i.e. criminology and government) should learn how to work in a multi-institutional fashion commissioning a variety of stakeholders for the policy consultation process. Bearing in mind the “catastrophic trajectory of contemporary policies”, this short essay served as a platform to envisage a multi-disciplinary criminology, a multi-professional government policymaking and a multi-institutional engagement in order to successfully respond to the trials of living in the era of globalisation. Thus, the main inference that we draw from this paper is that the relationship between criminological research and government policy should, in its turn, occupy a multi-disciplinary arena. It should fearlessly and unapologetically acknowledge that it contains a ‘subject matter but no unique methodological commitment or paradigmatic theoretical framework, fact which can only move the debate forward in order to design the ideal type of criminological engagement with government policymaking.
Iranian Intelligence response to the new security challenges in the West of Asia
During the years after the Islamic Revolution of Iran, national security considerations have undergone various changes. Changes have been conducted in the light of the pursuit and continuation of some of the great features of the Islamic Republic’s holy system. The country’s security considerations are divided into three axis-driven discourse-driven, center-driven and growth-driven divisions. In each discourse, four basic variables, namely, “national security goals and principles”, “national power”, “national security threats and vulnerabilities”, and finally “national security policies” have been considered. Islamic loyalty, how it originated and speed its growth was so sudden and shocking that most analysts and observers were shocked. How self-immolation by a simple street vendor in Tunisia has led to the emergence and growth of democratic democracies in the Middle East and the fall of the dominoes of North African countries, and how none of the world’s leading analysts and future scholars failed to make the slightest speculation about its emergence needs a debate Another is to review the methods of analysis and approach to dealing with political phenomena. On the other hand, the emergence of radical Islamist groups emerged in the wake of the lockup and stalemate of the liberationist movement in Syria, and the rapid growth of a group such as ISIL, which, until two years ago, was one of the names of extremists al-Qaeda, The whole area of the game changed completely from western Iraq and eastern Syria, turning it from a guerrilla group to overnight. Of course there is no doubt that this cannot happen without the coordination of security systems in the countries of the region and the world.
Thus, the challenges of the region changed from one to two years from soft to hard. In analyzing the causes of emergence, leading challenges and, consequently, determining the orientation of defense strategies, two basic approaches can be considered. In the first approach, the weight of analysis is given on the scene of global power, and the regional forces are the majority of the vertebrae playing on the enemy’s ground. Questions like this:
- Are these superpowers of the world seeking to change the fabric of political powers in the Middle East?
- Does the Trump government follow what its Republican self-government governments, father and wife Bush wanted to do?
- Are the Arab Gulf states, in the form of traditional and closed spaces, cannot be a good alliance for the West bloc and its head in the United States?
All of them will have a fairly positive answer. If we look at the cases with this hypothesis, conspiracy theory, color and smell become more pronounced, and its predecessor comes back decades ago, and it can even be traced back to World War I. Returns The emergence of Islamic extremist groups, the September 9th, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Iran-Iraq War, the Arab-Israeli wars, and even the rise of Israel, are all examples that can be analyzed in the context of conspiracy theory and can explain the Middle East’s current situation. Be In this approach, the tip of the Iranian intelligence movement will go to the world powers more than their puppets in the region.
However, without intending to abandon this approach, one can look at another window, and at least since 2000, on the other, as well as the fact that Western countries, and at their head, the United States more than the beginning and the end These currents have a role to play, in their benefit, in the framework of their own interests, have become stronger. If we deal with this approach, we can take responsibility for part of the political game in the region and see the impact on the political trends and trends in the region. Accordingly, our defensive strategy will also be regional. Based on the approach that the question in the above lines once again reminds us, why our tentacles have been so weak in getting weak signals? If we even admit that these probabilities have been investigated in the think tanks, then there should not have been any signs of public diplomacy.
Indeed, the rapid growth of a group of insurgents who does not consider itself to be bound by any international law, and which has been taking part in large parts of eastern Iraq and western Syria, over a period of several months, the total size of which is in the country’s size and size Britain, cannot be justified in the form of spontaneous and radical group movements. Accordingly, if we accept that countries in the region, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are somehow drawn from the curvature of the transfer of power, financial support and military equipment, should I accept that their policies as influential powers in the region Maintaining stability and balance of power has changed? Is Saudi seeking gendarme in the Gulf region? Is Turkey looking to revive the Ottoman Empire in the region? Does the Qatari government seek huge financial resources to become an influential pole in the region? Does this mean that the discourse of the twentieth century, in which Israel was the most pivotal enemy, has been altered, and the reorganization and redefinition of the regional map of the region with the triangle of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been on the agenda of these countries? Where is the position of Iran? What role is Iran to play? Should security policy focus on preserving domestic security, or the importance of regional unilateral security shrinking into Iran? If the maintenance of impartiality is not fulfilled, how much should participation in the process affect the events, in what way, should our strategy be set up?
The point here is that if ISIL, which is free from any kind of adherence to any international treaty and treaty, is the executive arm of this policy of emerging powers in the region, and then the situation will be a little more complicated and complicated. ISIS has, as it has shown, exerted its greatest energy in its area of influence and influence, in other words, ISIS’s policies are largely outspoken and the least attention has been paid to the satisfaction and welfare of the citizens of their occupied territories, which could be potential for Iran is very dangerous. Because of it provides not only the incentive for this group to violate the borders of Iran, but also the possibility of its actualization at all.
As evidence suggests, ISIS is not committed to any international treaties and norms in the war, and basically believes its war with the Western domination system in the world. So, given the attractiveness of this group among Muslims in different levels of power in Central Asia, and in particular Pakistan, and even Syria, the ISIS’s scenario of unusual and massacre weapons, such as nuclear, chemical and microbial weapons, is unlikely to happen. That realization can completely change the playing field.
Whether ISIS met with its supporters and sponsors can also be decisive in determining Iran’s security strategy. Is this alliance between these countries and ISIS a temporary and short-term solution or a long-term strategy? In the first assumption, with the provision of relative stability in the territory of this group, the challenges and conflicts will flood the Arabian countries of the Persian Gulf in the south and Turkey in the north. In the latter case, ISIS will play the role of a puppet or a puppet element of Iran’s regional rivals who can challenge the western borders of Iran by provoking religious motives.
What is important that the possibility of occurred these challenges is all, simultaneously and in the near future. And this also greatly adds to the complexity of the issue. On this basis, it is well worth the point that Iran’s security strategy is very smart, flexible and operational. In addition, Iran’s national security considerations have been subject to various developments, which can be summarized as follows from the transformation of the “extravagance to the introspection” from the “ideological approach and pure devotion to more realism”, from the “Ummah-axis to Iran-centered” From “simplicity to complexity”, and from the “Threat to Threat – Opportunity in the International System”. In these developments, we are paying more attention to the need for a balance between the implications and limitations of national security considerations.
World Enters Critical Period of Intensified Risks in 2018
The prospect of strong economic growth in 2018 presents leaders with a golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in many of the complex systems that underpin our world, such as societies, economies, international relations and the environment. That is the message of The Global Risks Report 2018, published by the World Economic Forum today.
The report – which every January shares the perspectives of global experts and decision-makers on the most significant risks that face the world – cautions that we are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change. It highlights numerous areas where we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars.
Our annual Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) suggests that experts are preparing for another year of heightened risk. When we asked nearly 1,000 respondents for their views about the trajectory of risks in 2018, 59% of their answers pointed to an intensification of risks, compared with 7% pointing to declining risks.
A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93% of respondents saying they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen and nearly 80% expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers.
However, as in 2017, the environment was by far the greatest concern raised by experts. Among the 30 global risks the experts were asked to prioritize in terms of likelihood and impact, all five environmental risks – extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation – were ranked highly on both dimensions. Extreme weather events were seen as the single most prominent risk.
“A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world’s institutions, societies and environment. We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown. Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this. Above all, the challenge is to find the will and momentum to work together for a shared future,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
According to the GRPS, cyber threats are growing in prominence, with large-scale cyberattacks now ranked third in terms of likelihood, while rising cyber-dependency is ranked as the second most significant driver shaping the global risks landscape over the next 10 years.
John Drzik, President of Global Risk and Digital, Marsh said: “Geopolitical friction is contributing to a surge in the scale and sophistication of cyberattacks. At the same time cyber exposure is growing as firms are becoming more dependent on technology. While cyber risk management is improving, business and government need to invest far more in resilience efforts if we are to prevent the same bulging ‘protection’ gap between economic and insured losses that we see for natural catastrophes.”
Economic risks, on the other hand, feature less prominently this year, leading some experts to worry that the improvement in global GDP growth rates may lead to complacency about persistent structural risks in the global economic and financial systems. Even so, inequality is ranked third among the underlying risk drivers, and the most frequently cited interconnection of risks is that between adverse consequences of technological advances and high structural unemployment or under-employment.
The growing complexity and interconnectedness of our global systems can lead to feedback loops, threshold effects and cascading disruptions. Sudden and dramatic breakdowns – future shocks – become more likely. In this year’s Global Risks Report we present 10 short “what-if” scenarios, not as predictions but as food for thought to encourage world leaders to assess the potential future shocks that might rapidly and radically disrupt their worlds:
- Grim reaping: Simultaneous breadbasket failures threaten sufficiency of global food supply
- A tangled web: Artificial intelligence “weeds” proliferate, choking performance of the internet
- The death of trade: Trade wars cascade and multilateral institutions are too weak to respond
- Democracy buckles: New waves of populism threaten social order in one or more mature democracies
- Precision extinction: AI-piloted drone ships take illegal fishing to new – and even more unsustainable – levels
- Into the abyss: Another financial crisis overwhelms policy responses and triggers period of chaos
- Inequality ingested: Bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs entrench gulf between haves and have-nots
- War without rules: State-on-state conflict escalates unpredictably in the absence of agreed cyberwarfare rules
- Identity geopolitics: Amid geopolitical flux, national identity becomes a growing source of tension around contested borders
- Walled off: Cyberattacks, protectionism and regulatory divergence leads to balkanization of the internet
Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group commented: “Extreme weather events were ranked again as a top global risk by likelihood and impact. Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons. Unfortunately we currently observe a “too-little-too-late” response by governments and organisations to key trends such as climate change. It’s not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse.”
The Global Risks Report 2018 has been developed with the invaluable support throughout the past year of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Advisory Board. It also benefits from ongoing collaboration with its Strategic Partners Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group and its academic advisers at the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford), the National University of Singapore and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center (University of Pennsylvania).
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