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The Year Ahead 2018

Agile Governance for a Fractured World

After 70 years of peace and prosperity, the far-reaching changes introduced by technological innovation and deeper economic integration have created a new politics of fragmentation. To meet the challenges of an increasingly complex, constantly evolving world, policymakers will have to learn to think – and then act – today’s disruptors.

GENEVA – As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to reshape the global political economy, many are grasping for ideas about how to effect positive systemic change. In a world where technology is both a disrupter and the driving force of progress, the best approach may be to apply lessons from technology to policymaking itself. Policymakers, like start-ups, must look for more ways to iterate what works and abandon what doesn’t.

To any observer of world affairs, it is clear that after a relatively long period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, and after two decades of increasing integration, openness, and inclusiveness, the pendulum is now swinging back toward fragmentation, nationalism, and conflict.

Indeed, the post-world order has already fractured in many ways. Ambitious multilateral trade agreements have fallen apart after key stakeholders walked away. Unprecedented global cooperation on climate change, embodied in the 2015 Paris climate accord, is being undermined. Separatist movements are becoming more vocal, as sub-national communities look for sources of identity that will reestablish a sense of control. And the president of the United States has indicated that he will pursue national self-interest above all else, and that other national leaders should do likewise.

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