Global ethics

How can the changing status of women help improve the human condition?


Empowerment of women has been one of the strongest drivers of social evolution over the past century and is acknowledged as essential for addressing all the global challenges facing humanity. Women are increasingly equal partners in social, political and economic decision-making, contributing their views and demanding accountability. Gender equality is an irreversible trend; it has entered the global consciousness and is guaranteed by the constitution of 143 countries; old patriarchal structures and barbarian extremist practices are increasingly isolated and unanimously condemned by citizens and authorities around the world. Building on achievements so far and with the post-2015 agenda, achieving gender equality by 2030 might be possible.


Status of political and civil rights: Improvements in women’s civil and political rights have been an important catalyst for sustained progress over the past decades. Much progress has been made in the political rights:


Short Overview

  • Suffrage is virtually universal
  • Women in parliaments almost doubled over the past two decades. In 2015, women account for 22.1% of the membership of national legislative bodies worldwide, compared to 11.3% in 1995
  • In 43 countries, the rate of women legislators is over 30% and 24 women serve as heads of state and government (as of January 2015)
  • Important organizations such as UNESCO, WHO, and the IMF are headed by women
  • An increasing number of countries and parties have quotas to promote women’s political participation
  • However, 38 states have parliaments with less than 10% women, including six with no women at all, and eight countries with no women in the cabinet.

The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum found that:

  • Women made up some 40% of the global labor force
  • About 73% of the global job gaps was due to a shortfall of employment among women
  • Employment-to-population ratio was 72% for men, and only 47% for women.

Oxfam remarks that if women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, in 15 major developing economies, income per capita would rise by 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030. Closing the male-female employment gap could boost GDP in the U.S. by 9%, in the euro zone by 13%, and in Japan by 16%.

The Social Institutitons and Gender Index computed by OECD — which considers the root causes of gender inequality, discriminatory laws and social norms — shows that countries with better SIGI scores have close to 50% women participation in paid jobs, while in countries with high discrimination, female employment is just above 20%. The 2014 SIGI found that despite positive steps, discriminatory social structures continue to persist:

  • out of the 111 countries assessed over the past decade, 105 have been making progress in closing the gender gap
  • none of the 142 economies assessed in 2014 has closed the gender gap, with divides persisting across and within regions
  • the gaps for health and educational attainment were closed by 96% and 94% respectively, only 60% of economic participation gap, and 21% of the global political empowerment gap had been closed as of 2014
  • of the 121 countries assessed, 86 still have discriminatory inheritance laws or practices
  • women hold only 15% of land titles
  • 20% of women have no adequate access to family planning
  • violence against women persists.

The Gender Equity Index computed by Social Watch shows that none of the 154 countries assessed has narrowed the gender gap to an “acceptable” level.

Economic empowerment: Gender equity is strongly supported not only by moral rightness, but also by improved living standards. ILO notes that in 2014:

Women make up some 18% of the board of directors of Forbes Global 500 companies in the OECD countries, with ratio varying from 45% in Norway (the highest), to 0.7% in Korea (the lowest). However, this share tends to increase worldwide, as studies show that companies with more women on their boards have better results, given that women tend to have a more cooperative approach to decision-making. Fortune 500 companies with more gender-balanced boards could outperform the others by as much as 50%.


Although some 60% of the countries have equal pay laws and much progress has been accomplished in recent years, the gender income gap and the glass ceiling persist around the world:

  • ILO found that out of 65% of global employment assessed in 2014, 24% of women worked in part-time jobs, compared to only 12.4% of men
  • In the OECD countries, if unpaid work is factored in, then women earnings vary between 65% to 40% of male wages -- considering time on unpaid care activities between twice to five times more than men.

ILO estimates that of the 21 million victims of forced labor, 11.4 million are women and girls, and of the almost 19 million victims exploited by private individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation. Of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually over the borders, 82% are women and children. According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.

Almost 50% of the world's working women are in vulnerable employment, often lacking legal and economic protection. Women represent most of domestic workers and caregivers to their families:

Better policies and social structures are needed to help women harmonize the demands of their careers with their family responsibilities. Ensuring their basic employment rights, as well as services such as free (or employer-paid) preschools and child care should be integral parts of strategies to improve the status of women.

Since old structures persist and collective responsibility is generally not yet part of family customs, in most cases women's economic roles are added to her traditional housework. Despite some improvements over the past 50 years, daily and virtually all over the world women spend more time on unpaid work, while men have more leisure time. Studies show that mostly in developed countries, many mothers of young children work by necessity to achieve and maintain a middle-class living standard that demands two incomes. This adds an extra burden on women, not necessarily improving their status.

About 70% of people living in poverty are women, most of them in rural areas. In developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43% of the agricultural labor force. Nevertheless, less than 20% of the landholders are women and they have limited access to inputs, seeds, and agricultural extension services. FAO estimates that the yield gap between men and women farmers is about 20-30%, mainly due to access to resources. The vast majority of micro loans go to poor women whose businesses are often too small to significantly improve their living standards; they need the entrepreneurial talent and business skills to scale up the business to more significantly affect income.Of the 1.6 billion people still lacking access to basic energy services, 70% are women. Closing the rural gender gap could raise agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4%, improving food security and reducing the number of undernourished people by 100–150 million. Since 76% of the extreme poor live in rural areas, it would be one of the most efficient ways to reduce poverty and improve living standards of the many.

Women control about 70% of world consumer spending; and hence, can strongly influence market preferences and culture.


Education: The gender gap is almost closed in education, and even reversed in some countries, as girls tend to outperform boys and are more likely to be enrolled in secondary and tertiary education. Some countries, such as Japan and Saudi Arabia, where many women are earning PhDs but are culturally inhibited from becoming senior executives, are likely to experience a "feminine brain drain." However, despite important gains:

  • Oxfam warns that at current rate of progress, in the G20 countries it would take another 75 years to achieve equal pay for equal work.
  • In the OECD countries, although the gender wage gap decreased from 18.2% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2013 for similar full-time jobs, women are about 16% less likely to be in paid work and 40% of them have non-standard jobs (compared to 25% of men).
  • Across OECD, the wage gap for full-time jobs varies from 36.6% in Korea (the highest) to 5.6% in New Zealand (the lowest).
  • ·The Global Gender Gap Index indicates that the gender income gap is between 72% in high-income countries to 64% in lower-middle income ones, with most progress, 5% since 2006, made by the low income countries, that had a 67% gender income gap in 2014.
  • Action Aid has calculated that if employment and wage gaps were closed, women could increase their income globally by some 76%, estimated to a global value of $17 trillion, out of which over $9 trillion in developing countries.
  • Yet 79 countries have laws that restrict the types of jobs that women can do, and in 15 countries husbands can legally prevent their wives from working or accepting jobs.
  • 493 million adult women are illiterate (64% of totalof the 774 million adult illiterates)
  • 31 million girls of primary school age do not attend school
  • At this rate, it would take until 2084 to attain universal education, notes the UN
  • More than 800 million women lack the skills necessary for improving their economic opportunity.

The health gender gap is also closing, but recognizing women's reproductive rights and providing effective family planning are crucial to curb maternal deaths. Women-specific challenges persist:

  • Although worldwide, maternal mortality has been reduced by some 50% since 1990, the world is not meeting the MDG5 of reducing it by 75% by 2015 -- some 120 death per 100,000 live birth.
  • WHO reports that each day, some 800 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy or childbirth around the world.
  • Most incidents occur in developing countries, where maternal mortality ratio is about 230 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 16 per 100,000 live births in developed countries.
  • A woman's lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 160 in developing countries versus 1 in 3,700 in developed ones, with women living in rural areas at three times higher risk to die while giving birth than in urban centers.
  • An estimated 2 million women are affected by obstetric fistula, and some 50,000-100,000 new cases develop each year.
  • About 10 million women per year suffer from infections, disease, and other injuries during pregnancy.
  • The highest prevalence of childbirth-related incidents is in parts of Africa and Asia due to high fertility rates and weak health care systems.
  • UNICEF reports that global mortality rate for children under-five nearly halved since 1990, dropping from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. This still means that in 2013, 6.3 million children--about 17,000 daily--died before their 5th birthday; neonatal death accounts for 44% of them (an increase compared to 37% in 1990).
  • Some 50% of global under-five deaths are caused by undernutrition.
  • Unless accelerating improvements in reducing health risks to young children, the MDG4 of reducing by two-thirds under-five child mortality would not be reached until 2026.
  • WaterAid reports that 1 in 3 women and girls in urban slums do not have access to toilets, while unsafe or open toilets increase the risks of physical and sexual violence.

Female genital mutilation/cutting traumatizes about 3 million girls each year, in addition to the estimated 140 million women and girls already affected, mostly in Africa and the Middle East and some parts of Asia. The UN Population Fund projects that if current trends persist, a further 86 million young girls worldwide could be victims of the practice by 2030. Thanks to concerted efforts by UN and NGOs, over the last few years some 8,000 communities abandoned FGM/C and almost 3,000 religious leaders declared that the practice should end. A new UN resolution calls on States to take all measures – including legislation – for prohibiting female genital mutilation.


Violence against women is the largest war today, as measured by death and casualties per year. Although 125 countries have laws that penalize domestic violence:

  • up to 70% of women continue to be targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime
  • 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is still not a crime.
  • The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014 reports that in the 133 countries surveyed (representing 88% of world's population):
    • 25% of children have been physically abused
    • 20% of girls have been sexually abused
    • 33% of women have been a victim of physical violence at some point in her lifetime.
  • WHO reports that
    • 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime
    • 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.

These are the most under-reported crimes worldwide, continuing to be perpetrated with impunity. The UN initiative COMMIT aims to encourage countries to adopt new policies to protect victims.The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women has awarded $103 million to 393 initiatives in 136 countries and territories since its inception and is currently supporting 86 programmes in 71 countries with a value of $55.1 million.

Resolution 1325 protects women in wartime and their active participation in peace-building, as do the 15% of UN post-conflict budgets allocated to women. However, the UN warns about increased use of violence against women as a weapon, and lately, an increased use of women and children in suicide attacks. UNICEF reports that in Nigeria, at least 75% of the suicide attacks are thought to having been carried out by women and children, with their number rising -- 27 incidents reported by mid-May 2015, compared to a total 26 incidents in 2014. Additionally, the atrocities against women carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries, as well as by other Islamist extremists around the world (stoning, jailing, acid, and other attacks) and the application of the archaic sharia law continue with impunity. Sexualized violence is even more frequent in countries at war or in a post-conflict period, perpetrated by armed forces and rebel groups, militants, but also by intimate partners.One of the most effective ways for reducing violence and discrimination against women while also building lasting peace would be to have more women involved in peace-building negotiations and foreign aid administration.


Potential instruments:

  • A panoply of international treaties and dedicated UN organizations are vigorously advancing women’s rights, but more needs to be done for enforcement.
  • Infringements on women's rights should be subject to prosecution and international sanctions, while aid programs should be conditioned by respect of gender equity.
  • School systems should consider teaching martial arts and other forms of self-defense in physical education classes for girls, not only for self-defense but also as a deterrence policy.
  • Mothers should use their educational role in the family to assertively nurture gender equality.
  • Traditional media should refrain from gender stereotyping, and women should be better represented in journalism top management positions.
  • Use of mobile-phone-internet-based sites that are increasingly raising global awareness on violence against women should be encouraged and paid more attention to by law-makers and law enforcement organizations. Apps are being created to report violence, create alerts, plot rape maps, and handle calls for help (e.g., Safety, Women Under Siege Project, and Harrass Map). A global survey shows that mobile phones make 93% of women feel safer and 85% more independent, while for 41% they increased economic opportunities.

A recent Millennium Project study on changing stereotypes concluded that slow but massive shifts in gender stereotypes will occur over the next few decades. (See "Changing Gender Stereotypes" in 'Research' section.)


Measure progress: Challenge 11 will be addressed seriously when gender-discriminatory laws are gone, when discrimination and violence against women are prosecuted, when the goal of at least 30% women's representation in national legislatures is achieved in all countries, and when development strategies include gender equity throughout all sectors.


Regional Considerations


Asia and Oceania: High incomes and education levels in countries like Japan start to challenge old family structures. Japan set the goal to increase the share of women in senior leadership positions from the current 9% to 30% by 2020, considering that its GDP could grow by 16% if women would participate in the economy equally to men. Together with the Republic of Korea (where women hold 10% of leadership positions), they launched the Gender Parity Task Force to improve women's career opportunities. As per the Global Gender Gap, Japan ranks 104th and the Republic of Korea 117th. The region's best performers are Philippines--ranked 9th, followed by New Zealand (13) and Australia (24), while the worst performers are Iran (137) and Pakistan (141). The East Asia and Pacific region has nearly closed enrollment gaps between girls and boys in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, with girls even outperforming boys in some countries. However, in South Asia, only Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have reached gender parity in primary school education, reports  UNESCO.

Although all countries of South Asia have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, UNDP reports that gender inequality causes a 60.1% loss in human development in the region, while Action Aid estimates that closing the wage and employment gaps would mean a 73% income gain valued at some $4.3 trillion.  WHO notes that in the region occur about 30% of the world's maternal deaths, the second highest globally. Mainly due to the dual legal civil and religious systems in many parts of Asia early and forced marriage, violence, discrimination with respect to inheritance and land ownership, dowry issues and honor killings continue to be prevalent and unpunished. In Afghanistan, the criminal law prevents prosecutions for domestic violence, forced and child marriage, and there were calls to overturn the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women for being counter to Islam. The project “Engaging Young Men through Social Media for the Prevention of Violence against Women” aims to end gender-based violence in Asia and the Pacific by using social media.

Son bias continues to be of concern in many countries of the region; India's 2011 census found a child sex-ratios of only 914 females for 1,000 males. India is ranked 114 by the GGI, but with more than a million Indian women now members of panchayats (local village councils), unethical practices against women are expected to change. China's one-child policy worked to reduce fertility rate, but there are now discussions that it be changed to a nation-wide two-children policy.

Female representation in legislatures is 18.5% for Asia, and 15.7% for the Pacific. After adopting the political quota system, the share of women in the parliaments of Central Asian countries increased from none to over 20%, although they still have to struggle with the reminiscent patriarchal structures.


Middle East and North Africa:Women’s rights in the MENA region remains critical and even worsening in some countries with the rise of religious extremism and expanded enforcement of the Sharia law. All countries of the region (except for Israel) are ranked among the worst 20 by the Global Gender Gap Index 2014. Eleven countries have closed less than 50% of the economic participation and opportunity gap, while Action Aid estimates that closing the wage and employment gaps would mean an over 366% (the highest by far of any other regions) income gain to women, valued at some $1.1 trillion. ILO notes that the region's women are much more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment -- at a rate of 55% versus 32% in North North Africa and 42% versus 27% in the Middle East. Women representation in legislatures remains the lowest in the world, with 10 countries closing less than 10% of the political empowerment gender gap; Qatar and Yemen have no women parliamentarians at all, and Kuwait and Oman have only one each. Iran, ranked 137 by the GGGI, although with a good health and education attainment score, has a relatively low economic and poor political participation of women; only nine out of 290 parliamentarians are women, but there are efforts to introduce a 30% quota from 2016.Segregation in Saudi Arabia continues; it is ranked 134th by the GGGI.

Stoning to death is still used as a legal form of punishment for "adultery" in several Muslim countries, and thepurdah(female seclusion) and namus ("virtue") customs persist in many Arab regions. Sexual harassment, rape, and sexual violence by IS and other extremist groups and security forces across the region has reached intolerable levels. More than 125 million girls and women have been victims of genital mutilation/cutting in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. However, these are increasingly being challenged by empowered women, the outcry of the global society and women-rights icons such as Malala Yousafzai. In the Arab MENA region, philosophical, ethnic, and ethical assumptions have to change in order to make possible the structural transformations needed to improve the status of women. The international community could use sanctions and conditioned-aid, conditioned-partnership in international organizations and business partnerships to help accelerate the long-due change.

Israel (ranked 65) is the best performing country in the region and has closed over 70% of the gender gap.


Sub-Saharan Africa: Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa became the first woman Chairperson of the African Union Commission. In sub-Saharan Africa, female representation is 22.2% in legislatures, while Rwanda has a women-majority parliament. Three sub-Saharan African countries are ranked among the top 20 by the 2014 Global Gender Gap Index: Rwanda (7), Burundi (17), and South Africa (18) and 13 out of the 28 countries assessed have closed over 70% of the gander gap. This is mainly due to the increased participation of women in the workforce, although generally, these are in low-skilled and low-paying jobs.ILO notes that women have a nearly 85% likelihood to be in vulnerable employment versus 70% for male. Adult female labor force participation is expected to slightly increase from almost 72% in 2014 to 72.4% in 2018, yet lower than their male counterparts, which is estimated at 87.7% and almost 89% respectively. Action Aid shows that closing the wage and employment gender gap would mean an 121% income increase for women, valued at some $0.7 trillion.Although women represent 52% of the agricultural labor force, they have little or no land ownership and are further affected by increasing land-grabbing by foreign companies or countries. Low levels of education and qualification makes it very difficult for the region as a whole and for women specifically to escape the poverty vulnerability cycle.

Presently, the average fertility rate in the region is 5.1 and is not expected to drop below 3 by mid-century. With 55% of the about 800 maternal deaths per day occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, the region has the world’s highest maternal mortality, with some countries' rates as high as 1,000 death per 100,000 live births. In Kenya, at every two hours a woman dies in childbirth; that's 4,400 death per year, most of them preventable. According to Save the Children, Niger is the worst country in which to be a mother. UNICEF reports that 1 in 11 children born in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of 5.

Violence against women is wide-spread and in most cases unreported. In South Africa, there are an estimated 60,000 cases of sexual assault per year. Rape and sexual assaults are even more acute in the conflict-torn zones, mostly the DRC, Sudan, and Nigeria (with Boko Haran) and the neighboring areas, where sexual violence is used as a weapon and continues with impunity. In some Muslim communities, mostly in Egypt and Uganda,FGM/C is still practiced, despite increased international opposition. Improved education system and investments for payed-job opportunities (mainly for the youth); increased social spending (in some countries, only 4-6% of the GDP is allocated to social protection benefits); improved infrastructure systems--mainly water, sanitation, and electricity; and enforcement of gender-equity regulations are some basic changes needed to improve the status of women in Africa.


Europe: Gender parity is an important part of the structural changes in Europe. The highest gender gap is in politics, on average at 80%; women represent 35.2% of the members of the European Parliament, but only eight of the 28 commissioners are women.The Nordic countries--Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are the highest ranked by the 2014 Global Gender Gap, having closed their gender gap by between 80% to 86%.At the end of 2014, across the EU, women account for 28% of national parliaments.Although Poland has passed a law that requires at least 35% of local candidates in general elections to be female, the rate of women in the Parliament after the last election is 24%. The inter-institutional women´s caucus launched in December 2014 is supposed to address the gap by promoting gender equality in the EU institutions. Women's share of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU-28 is 20.2% (up from 11.9% in 2010); in four countries--France, Latvia, Finland, and Sweden -- they account for at least 25% of the broad members. A draft EU directive voted by the Parliament in 2013 requires publicly listed companies to have 40% of each sex on their board by 2020. In the UK, only 14% of SMEs are led by women, and the Aspire Fund was set up to support female business initiatives. A campaign has begun in Germany to get women in 30% of the management positions in journalism by 2017.

In the EU, women represent 60% of university graduates and in 2012, on average 83% of women reached upper secondary school, compared to 77.5% of men. However,  women earn on average 16% less per hour than men for the same work, or even 31% less per year, since 32.6% of women are part-time workers. This also impacts old age living standards, with 23% of women aged 65 and over being at risk of poverty, versus 17% of men. Nevertheless, Europe has the best social policies, including child care, maternity leave, and health care.

Violence against women remains a concern, with some 33% of women in the EU having experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, and some 10% of women complaining of sexual harassment or stalking through new technologies.

Turkey, that aspires to join the EU, has yet to address its gender gap; women representation in its parliament is only 14%, it ranks 125 by the GGGI, and it has a large gender income gap (estimated income for female being $10,501 versus $26,893 for male.) In Russia, a draft law proposes that at least 30% of parliamentary seats should be occupied by women (compared with present 13.6%), as well as providing advantages for men to play a greater role in family life.


Latin America: Women's participation in Latin American parliaments has improved due to the introduction of quotas in many countries. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile elected women heads of state. 21.6% of the Central American Parliamentarians are women. In Mexico, 38% of the Chamber of Deputies are women and the President's reform initiative includes that 50% of all political parties' candidates for popular positions should be women. The 2014 Global Gender Gap indicates that 14 of the 26 countries in the region have closed over 70% of the gender gap, with Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba being the region's highest ranked, while Guatemala, Belize, and Suriname are the region's lowest ranked.

More women than men attain tertiary education across the region, but wage discrepancies persist and female labor participation is just over 50%, compared to 80% of male; similarly, unemployment rates for women are over 8%, compared to around 5% for men. Action Aid shows that closing the wage and employment gender gap would mean almost 95% income increase for women, valued at some $1.7 trillion. Despite economic and political progress, women’s well-being continues to be hindered by the machismo structures. More than 1,678 women were murdered in fourteen Latin American countries and three Caribbean nations in 2014; ECLAC (CEPAL) did not have data from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, and several other countries; hence, the number of femicide is much larger. Women are victims of organized crime in various forms, but they also represent an increasingly important force fighting it. Rural and indigenous women work at least 16 hours a day, mostly not paid. As a result of restrictive legislation, one in three maternal deaths is due to abortion, and the lifetime risk of maternal death is 0.4%.Femicideis a regional problem; thousands of women are killed by their husbands and relatives in Latin America with impunity.


North America:In about 10% of dual-earning households in the U.S. and 33% in Canada, women earn more than their partners. Women lead a third of the Canadian SMEs. More women are graduating from universities than men and their number in senior manager positions is increasing. A survey of some 338 companies shows that in 2014, women CEOs in the U.S. had a median pay of $15.9 million, compared to their male counterparts who had a median salary of $10.4 million. On average, women earn 77% of what men earn for comparable work, a wage gap that increases to 64% for African-American women, and 56% for Latina women compared to white men. Based on the past half-century progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that in the U.S., the national wage gap will close around year 2058, although with significant differences among states--varying from the year 2038 in Florida, to 2159 in Wyoming.An analysis by the IWPR shows that if women were compensated at an equal level with men, the poverty rate among working women would fall from 8.1% to 3.9%, and the country's GDP could rise by about 3%. The Paycheck Fairness Act — a bill not yet approved — aims to counter gender-based pay discrimination.

Women’s representation in U.S. legislatures is only 19.4%; in Canada the rate is 25.2%, and three of its provincial Premiers are women. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments made critical cuts in domestic and international family planning programs for women. The U.S. is among the countries with the costliest childbirth, most expensive day care, the shortest parental leave (in 2012, only 11% of private sector workers had access to paid family leave), and no national regulation nor government-provided paid parental leave. These are even more critical as the share of one-parent families in the U.S. increased from 7.4% in 1950 to 32% by 2013 (almost 60% for African-Americans); over 50% of births to women younger than 30 occurs outside marriage, and an estimated 4 million women and children of low-income single mothers are jobless and without financial aid.

Canada provides a year of paid maternity leave, but has yet to adopt adequate family supports such as affordable child care and sick days. More than 40% of new parents surveyed said they could not afford maternity leave, and 81% of those who took the leave and returned to work, would have stayed longer if they could have afforded it. The share of employed mothers with children aged 6 and over increased from 46% in 1976 to almost 80% by 2012, while women with children earn, on average, 12% less than women without children.

In the U.S., violence against women was reduced by 55% since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.


Graphs expressing the global situation:


Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (% of members)


Source: IPU, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph from the 2015-16 State of the Future


Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births)



Source: World Bank indicators, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph from the 2015-16 State of the Future


How can everyone have sufficient clean water without conflict?


Over 2.3 billion more people have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990. The MDG (United Nations Millennium Development Goals) goal of halving the number of people without access to improved drinking water was achieved in 2010. This is an extraordinary achievement, but it still leaves 748 million without this access today, and many more lack a sustainable water supply. Because of falling water tables around the world, climate change, various forms of water pollution, and population growth, some of those with safe water today may not have it in the future unless significant changes are made. Some 1.8 billion people gained access to improved sanitation facilities since 1990, but 2.5 billion still lack access, missing the MDG goal by 1 billion people.

The World Economic Forum in 2015 highlighted the water crisis as the top global risk based on Impact to society and the eighth global risk based on likelihood. The faster the recommendations in this report are implemented, the less suffering, disease, and conflict will occur; however, progress is not yet on the scale necessary to meet the water needs of humanity and nature. Although groundwater reminds the primary source of drinking water worldwide, it is being depleted; its use is growing twice as fast as human population growth over the past century. Water tables are falling in many areas around the world; for example, it is falling 1 meter per year in several areas of India. Aquifers are becoming increasingly polluted, and the salinity in some coastal areas is increasing.

About 27% of the people in developing-country cities do not have piped water at home. Global water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years. Global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400% from 2000 to 2050. Energy production uses about 15% of the world’s water and is expected to increase by 20% through 2035. Water scarcity due to drought, land degradation, and desertification already affects 1.5 billion people in the world today and is closely associated with poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition. By 2030 global water demand could be 40% more than the current supply. According to OECD trend projections, half the world could be living in areas with severe water stress by 2030. Nature also needs sufficient water to support all life-forms. Hence, business as usual could lead to several billion people living in water-stressed areas by 2050. This could change with new agricultural practices, policy changes, intelligently applied new technologies, and changes in societal values and behavior. Although water-related conflicts are already taking place, water-sharing agreements have been reached even among people in conflict and have led to cooperation in other areas; however, these agreements seldom include how to improve the efficiency of water use. Nearly half the world (excluding Antarctica) gets its water from sources controlled by two or more countries; increasing water diplomacy will be need to prevent future conflicts.

Approximately 80% of diseases in the developing world are water-related; most are due to poor management of human excreta. At least 1.8 million children under five die every year due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and a lack of hygiene. The number of children dying from diarrheal diseases, which are strongly associated with poor water, inadequate sanitation, and hygiene, has steadily fallen over the two last decades from approximately 1.5 million deaths in 1990 to just above 600,000 in 2012. Some 502,000 diarrheal deaths can be attributed to unhealthy and insufficient drinking water. Of these deaths, 88% occur in Africa and Southeast Asia. As a result of efforts put into meeting the MDG sanitation target—to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation—there has been an increase in the coverage of improved sanitation from 49% of the population in 1990 to 64% in 2012, with almost 2 billion people gaining access to an improved sanitation facility during that period. Despite these improvements, 2.5 billion people (67% of whom live in Asia) still use unimproved sanitation facilities, and 1.1 billion people practice open defecation.

Aquaculture produces about half of human-consumed fish, which could be dramatically increased in many locations around the world, while being careful not to displace native fish and other aquatic biodiversity. Agriculture accounts for 70% of human usage of freshwater; the majority of which is used for livestock production. Such water demands will increase to feed growing populations with increasing incomes. Global demand for meat may increase by 50% by 2025 and double by 2050, further accelerating the demand for water per person (2,400 liters of water are used to produce one hamburger; 8,000 liters to produce one leather shoe). The UN estimates that $50–60 billion annually is needed between now and 2030 to avoid future water shortages. Some 30% of global cereal production could be lost in current production regions due to water scarcity, yet new areas in Russia and Canada could open due to climate change.

Exploitation of shale gas through fracking could contaminate groundwater, and some have reported it has even triggered earthquakes. Cooling systems for electric power plants require large amounts of water. One U.S. study showed that nuclear power plants withdrew nearly eight times more freshwater than natural gas plants do per unit of electricity generated. Energy demand may increase 40% in 20 years; coupled with increased food demands, dramatic changes in water management will be required. Power plants could reduce water use with once-through or recirculating water through on-site reservoirs, but electric utilities that switch to wind use no water, and photovoltaics use relatively little water for cleaning compared with thermal plants. Breakthroughs in desalination, such as pressurization of seawater to produce vapor jets, filtration via carbon nanotubes, and reverse osmosis, are needed along with less costly pollution treatment and better water catchments.

Future demand for fresh water could be reduced by:

  • Saltwater agriculture on coastlines
  • Hydroponics
  • Aquaponics
  • Vertical urban agriculture installations in buildings
  • Producing pure meat without growing animals
  • Increasing vegetarianism
  • Fixing leaking pipes
  • The reuse of treated water

Water should be central to development and climate change strategies. If climate change results in significant sea level rise, we may see 20% of the world’s coastal freshwater become saline. In a desperate attempt to cope, people might use massive amounts of diesel to produce desalinated water, contributing further to CO2 emissions. Though large-scale solar desalination is problematic, nanotechnology has the potential to make solar efficient enough to be a real solution.

Development planning should consider:

  • The lessons learned from producing more food with less water via drip irrigation and precision farming
  • Seawater greenhouse agriculture
  • Improved rainwater management
  • Irrigation watershed management
  • Selective introduction of water pricing without repeating previous failed privatization programs
  • Successful community-scale projects around the world
  • Conversion of degraded or abandoned farmlands to forest or grasslands
  • Household sanitation
  • Reforestation
  • Water storage and evaporation protection
  • Treatment of industrial effluents in multipurpose water schemes
  • Use of wastewater (gray water) from washing on-site for toilet flushing and watering gardens
  • Construction of eco-friendly dams, pipelines, and aqueducts to move water from areas of abundance to those of scarcity

And why not develop decentralized methods for final purification of water at the point of tap water for drinking, instead of total and expensive purification at the central water plant, since most water is not used for drinking? Just as it has become popular to calculate someone’s carbon footprint, people are beginning to calculate their “water footprint.”

In the past 15 years, more than 180 cities and communities in 35 countries, including Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Paris, Accra, Berlin, La Paz, Maputo, and Kuala Lumpur, have taken back their control of water services due to disappointing levels of investment and increases in water tariff. Out of $75 billion invested since 1990 in purchasing power parity (PPP) water and sewer projects, 27% have been cancelled or are troubled. Return on investment in water and sanitation services in developing regions is estimated at $5 to $28 per every dollar invested. Providing universal access would imply a potential economic gain of $220 billion per year. Achieving post-2015 goals on water and sanitation development, and on maintenance and replacement of infrastructure, will cost up $2.4 trillion per year.

The UN General Assembly declared access to clean water and sanitation to be a human right. The Marseilles Ministerial Declaration, adopted at the 6th World Water Forum, called for accelerating the recognition of safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right and implementation of obligations to ensure these rights.

The Challenge will have been addressed seriously when the number of people without clean water and those suffering from water-borne diseases diminishes by half from their peaks and when the percentage of water used in agriculture drops for five years in a row.


Regional Considerations


Sub-Saharan Africa: More than half of Africans have water-related diseases. Between 1% and 2.5% of GDP of African countries and $5.5 billion are lost annually due to inadequate sanitation. About 30% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa uses improved sanitation facilities. A global rush for farmland is actually a “great water grab,” with a number of African governments signing away water rights for decades—with major implications for local communities. There are huge amounts of groundwater available in Africa—100 times the amount found on the surface. Yet 40% of the people without access to improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa, and a study in Nigeria and Ethiopia found that only about 70% of the “improved” sources are safe to drink.

Foreign aid covers up to 90% of some sub-Saharan African countries’ water and sanitation expenditures. Despite progress, the actual number of people without access in sub-Saharan Africa was greater in 2008 than in 1990, mostly due to population growth. Without policy changes, this region will not meet the MDG target for water until 2040 and the one on sanitation until 2076. In Nairobi, 40% of the city's water supply is lost due to theft and leaks. Up to 90% of people in Lagos depend on private boreholes or on water vendors. Meanwhile, poor people without access to piped water pay up to 25 times more for their water. The number of Africans living in water-stressed areas is projected to be about 350-403 million by 2055 in the absence of climate change; with climate change, it could be 350–600 million people.

Since the majority of Africa depends on rain-fed agriculture, upgrading rain-fed systems and improving agricultural productivity will immediately improve millions of lives. Putting sanitation facilities in village schools is know to bring girls back to school.

The Strategic Framework for Water Security and Climate Resilient Development was launched to address the twin challenges of water security and climate change. The Gibe III Dam under construction will lower water levels at Lake Turkana, possibly affecting more than 500,000 people in Ethiopia. The agreement between Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt on sharing Nile River waters is a good step toward solving African challenges. The tripartite agreement signed in March 2015 is meant to pave way for negotiations relating to the usage of the dam under construction in Ethiopia, as well as the entire Nile waters. The Nile, the longest river in the world, serves 11 countries that constitute the Nile Basin Initiative born 16 years ago.

Middle East and North Africa: By 2050, an additional 1.5 billion m3 of water will be needed in the Middle East, of which about a third will be allocated to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. Due to advances in desalination, water recycling, and conservation, Israel now has a surplus in water; 50% of water used in Israel is artificially produced. Iran's water per person has fallen 50% since the late 1970s. Yemen may have the first capital city to run out of water. UAE's renewable water resources have decreased 42% in the past 15 years, and water salinity is increasing due to salt dumping by desalination plants. Increasing water prices could spark social unrest. Fear of a political and environmental crisis may lead to the collapse of the state and an influx of refugees, especially from Yemen. To prevent this, Saudi Arabia has donated fuel to Yemen and offered to fund water projects. The economic costs of poor-quality water in countries in the Middle East and North Africa range from 0.5% to 2.5% of GDP.

Asia and Oceania: Asia has 60% of the world’s population but only 28-30% of its freshwater. A study warns that an additional 1 billion people across Asia could become water-stressed by 2050. "Dry 11," or 11 water-scarce regions in China, accounts for nearly half of China’s GDP. China's water situation is expected to continue to get worse for the next five to eight years under the best-case scenario, partly due to geographical mismatches in natural resource distribution. The North only has 25% of China’s total renewable water resources but 63% of the farmland and 86% of the coal reserves. China's wetlands have shrunk nearly 9% since 2003, and glaciers in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau shrunk 15% over the last three decades. With only 6% of the world’s freshwater, China has to meet the needs of 22% of the world’s population. Driven by pollution fear, consumption of bottled water in China nearly doubled in the past five years. China plans to quadruple production of desalinated water by 2020, from the current 680,000 m3 (180 million gallons) a day to as many as 3 million m3 (800 million gallons). Beijing plans to pipe desalinated water from the port of Caofeidian in Hebei province through 270-km-long pipelines. The $2.9 billion project is expected to meet one-third of Beijing's water demand in 2019. Forced migration due to water shortages has begun in China, and India should be next.

India is the largest user of freshwater in the world even though it has only 4% of the world's water supply and has to feed 17% of the world’s population. In India, 626 million people do not have access to a toilet. In Delhi, 24 water ATMs have been installed that accept smart cards to give water – a vending machine for water; each ATM holds 500 liters of water and provides water to residents in areas without piped water supply.

The Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges, and Indus are among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. UN-Habitat has declared India's Yamuna River “dead”—without enough oxygen to support river life. Inadequate sanitation costs the economies of four Southeast Asian countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam) the equivalent of about 2% of their GDP.

The government of Victoria in Australia has opened private competition to bid for water supply contracts. China is buying increasing amounts of agricultural land in Australia to offset carbon and is increasingly looking to Australia to export "clean food."

Europe: Some 100 million people in Europe do not have a household connection to safe drinking water, and more than 66 million lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Russia plans to improve water efficiency by 2.5 times by 2030. Water utilities in Germany pay farmers to switch to organic operations because it costs less than removing farm chemicals from water supplies. Water losses due to bad infrastructure are less than 5% in Germany but can be as high as 50% in Bulgaria. The EU is conducting a Policy Review for water scarcity and droughts, and the Common Agricultural Policy is exploring how to achieve a more balanced management of water resources. Spain is the first country to use the water footprint analysis in policymaking. Malta, Cyprus, and Luxembourg lead in terms of EU bathing water quality. The EU has committed 35.2 billion naira to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene in Nigeria.

The world’s largest reserves of freshwater are in Russia, which could export water to China and Middle Asia.

Latin America: Latin America has 26% of the world’s freshwater and 6% of its population. The region’s water demand could increase 300% by 2050, but two-thirds of the region is arid or semiarid, including large areas of central and northern Mexico, northeastern Brazil, northwestern Argentina, northern Chile, and parts of Bolivia and Peru. About 25% of the population (over 100 million) live in water-stressed areas, mainly in Mexico, Argentina, and the countries along the west coast. Puerto Rico imposed strict water rationing; 160,000 resident of San Juan have access to water only every other day. About 125 million people in Latin America lack access to sanitation services. Over 70% of water used there returns to rivers without treatment. Meanwhile, countries in the region lose nearly $6 billion every year due to delinquencies, overemployment in the industry, and water loss caused by misused or broken pipes. Brazil wastes nearly 40% of its treated water, according to UNESCO.

Puerto Rico imposed strict water rationing; 160,000 residents of San Juan have access to water only every other day. Mexico performs 85% below the OECD average for water quality but has increased investments in water systems and the “2030 Water Agenda” for universal water access and wastewater treatment. Suffering from the worst drought in 70 years, Mexican farmers have lost 2.2 million acres of crops. Costa Rica needs to invest $2.4 billion to improve water and sanitation conditions by 2030. Chile plans to build five new municipal desalination plants at an estimated cost of $280 million. El Salvador will be hit hardest by water shortages in Central America.

Ice is melting in the Andes, negatively affecting hydroelectric dams, agriculture, and urban water supplies; 68% of the region’s electricity is from hydroelectric sources. Peru will be one of the Latin American countries that will suffer more water shortages, due to over 60% of its population (about 18 million people) living in its coastal desert region, which receives water from the glaciers of mountains that have already lost more than 40% of their volume. It is expected that in 2030 there will be glaciers only at altitudes above 5,000 meters above sea level.

Water crises might occur in megacities within a generation unless new water supplies are generated, lessons from both successful and unsuccessful approaches to privatization are applied, and legislation is updated for more reliable, transparent, and consistent integrated water resources management.

North America: California is in its fourth year of record drought, forcing farmers to voluntarily reduce water use by 25%. Competition for water among agriculture, cities, and power plants is heightened due to several years of continuous droughts in much of the Southwest. Fracking, agriculture, and other private interests are buying water rights, threatening water as a public trust. Additional water withdrawals in the dry Southwest of the U.S. are being accelerated by new oil and gas extractions. According to the Ceres investor network, nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells were drilled since 2011 in this region—three-quarters where water is scarce and 55% in the drought areas. The water demand for fracking in these dry areas is expected to double over the next year or two. Each kilowatt-hour of electricity in the U.S. requires with withdrawal of about 25 gallons of water for cooling, which makes power plants the second largest water consumer in the country (39% of all water withdrawals) after agriculture. U.S. thermoelectric power plants withdrew as much water as farms did, and more than four times as much as all U.S. residents. However, the withdrawals (water returns to local rivers, etc.) are far more than what is consumed (water that does not return to local rivers, etc.) Water consumption is mostly due to evaporation; 2 gallons of water are lost to evaporation for each kWh consumed.

The U.S. EPA issued a new "Clean Water Rule" to curb pollution in the streams and wetlands in the country; the new rule covers about 60% of U.S. water bodies and protects water sources for 117 million Americans. EPA also issued a proposed pre-treatment rule for hydraulic fracturing wastewaters.The US Geological Survey and EPA are preparing an induced-earthquake modeling report (by the end of 2015) and a rule for Managing hydraulic fracturing wastewaters that cold be of value for to all nations facing similar environmental hazards.

While the water infrastructure is aging (there are over 225,000 water-line-related breaks each year in the U.S.), federal funding for such improvements has fallen substantially. About 20% of drinking water is lost from plant to user. According to the EPA, $384 billion is needed for drinking water infrastructure between 2011 and 2030.

The U.S. may have passed its “peak water” level in the 1970s. More than 30 states are in litigation with their neighbors over water. About 30% of U.S. cities could be water-scarce by 2017. Some 13% of Native American households have no access to safe water and/or wastewater disposal, compared with 0.6% in non-native households. Mayors in the U.S. Great Lakes regions made "Sister Waters" Partnership with mayors of the Middle East to share information and technologies for managing water.

Canada has 20% of the world's freshwater, 7% of which is renewable. The 2013 Transboundary Waters Protection Act bans bulk water exports from transboundary basins, although it allows bottled water export of up to 50,000 liters per day. Tapping Western Canada’s tar sands consumes an estimated 20–45 cubic meters of water per megawatt-hour, nearly 10 times that for conventional oil extraction. Canada is mapping its underground water supplies to help policymakers prevent water shortages. Government agricultural water subsidies should be changed to encourage conservation.

North Americans use 2.5 times more water than Europeans per person.


Graphs expressing the global situation:


Renewable internal freshwater resources per capita (cubic meters)

Source: World Bank indicators, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph part of the 2015 State of the Future Index; details in the 2015-16 State of the Future report


Graph using Trend Impact Analysis; it is part of the 2012 State of the Future Index computation (See Chapter 2, SOFI 2012)


How can ethical considerations become more routinely incorporated into global decisions?


Short Overview


Although short-term economic me-first attitudes are prevalent throughout the world, love for humanity and global consciousness are also evident in the norms expressed in the many UN treaties, UN organizations, international philanthropy, the Olympic spirit, inter-religious dialogues, refugee relief, development programs for poorer nations, doctors without borders, and international journalism. Heads of State and governments meet more often than ever before to improve the human condition. Human rights, transparency, and rule of law as policy criteria are relatively new in diplomatic history. But all this progress has been too slow. The rising number of protests around the world shows a growing unwillingness to tolerate unethical decisionmaking by power elites. An increasingly educated and Internet-connected generation is increasingly rising up against the abuse of power and demanding accountability.


The proliferation of unethical decisions that led to the 2008 financial crisis clearly demonstrated the interdependence of economic results and ethics. Quick fixes avoided a global financial collapse and pulled the world out of recession, but the underlying ethical questions have not been addressed sufficiently to prevent future crises. The moral will to act in collaboration across national, institutional, religious, and ideological boundaries that is necessary to address today’s global challenges requires global ethics. Public morality based on religious metaphysics is challenged daily by growing secularism, leaving many unsure about the moral basis for decisionmaking. Many turn back to old traditions for guidance, giving rise to fundamentalist movements in many religions today. Unfortunately, religions and ideologies that claim moral superiority give rise to “we-they” splits that are being played out in conflicts around the world.


The acceleration of scientific and technological change seems to grow beyond conventional means of ethical evaluation. Is it ethical to clone ourselves or bring dinosaurs back to life or to invent thousands of new life forms through synthetic biology? Is it ethical to implement new S&T developments without proper safety testing, or develop new forms of weapons without human control over their use and safe disposal? Should basic scientific research be pursued without direct regard for social issues and the society that funds it? Yet, social considerations might impair progress toward truthful understanding of reality. Since journalists have to "hype" to be read in such an information-noisy world, truth can be distorted, resulting in a cynical public.


Since there is little time to assess daily S&T advances, is it time to invent anticipatory ethical systems? Just as law has a body of previous judgments to draw on for guidance, will we also need bodies of ethical judgments about possible future events? Despite the extraordinary achievements in S&T, future risks from the continued acceleration and globalization remain (See GFIS Future S&T Management and Policy Issues) and give rise to future ethical issues (see GFIS Future Ethical Issues, also under Research in GFIS). For example, it is possible that one day a single individual could make and deploy a bioweapon of mass destruction. Society will naturally want to prevent this, requiring early detection and probably invasion of privacy and abridgment of other civil rights. To reduce the number of such potentially massively destructive people in the future, healthy psychological development of all children should be the concern of everyone. Such observations are not new, but the consequences of failure to nurture mentally healthy, moral people may be much more serious in the future than they were in the past. If individuals can be identified who are very likely to commit or who are preparing acts of mass terrorism, is it ethical to arrest them before the act? The Snowden-NSA revelations give rise to a global discussion of individual and sovereign rights versus collective security. The ethical grounds of using advanced surveillance technologies on the public and political protesters are also questioned.


At the same time, new technologies also make it easier for more people to do more good at a faster pace than ever before. Single individuals initiate groups on the Internet, organizing actions worldwide around specific ethical issues. News media, blogs, mobile phone cameras, ethics commissions, and NGOs are increasingly exposing unethical decisions and corrupt practices.


It is quite likely that the vast majority of decisions every day around the world are perfectly honorable. Collective responsibility for global ethics in decisionmaking is embryonic but growing.


Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have recruited 128 billionaires to give the majority of their money to philanthropic causes. Elon Musk is freely sharing patents to accelerate development of greener technologies. Richard Branson has created Plan B for businesses to make decisions for people, planet, and profit, but not just for profit. Corporate social responsibility programs, ethical marketing, and social investing are increasing.


The UN Global Compact was created to reinforce ethics in business decisionmaking. As of April 2015 it had more than 12,000 participants with 145 countries, 8322 businesses, and over 4608 civil society organizations, while some 5628 businesses have been expelled for failing to report progress on meeting the Compact's goals. It has improved business-NGO collaboration, raised the profile of corporate responsibility programs, increased businesses’ non-financial reporting mandates in many countries, and created a 2014–16 strategy to further businesses' ethical roles in peace and development.


Global ethics also are emerging around the world through the evolution of ISO standards and international treaties that are defining the norms of civilization. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights continues to shape discussions about global ethics and decisions across religious and ideological divides.


Despite the progress made, corruption remains prevalent throughout the world, and a serious impediment to development. Nearly 20% of 130,000 firms surveyed by the World Bank in 135 countries were requested to pay a bribe at least once per year. Bribery estimates range from $1 trillion to 1.6 trillion worldwide. Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index results found that 68% of the 175 countries and territories assessed scored below 50 (on a scale from 0=highly corrupt to 100=very clean). The percent of countries in each region scored under 50 were: Americas (68); Asia Pacific (64), Eastern and Central Europe (95); EU and Western Europe (16); Middle East and North Africa (84), Sub-Saharan Africa (92); and the world average was 43%. Their 2015 Defense Companies Anti-Corruption Index found 33% of the companies studied had improved their ethics and anti-corruption programs since 2012.


There are approximately 10.5 million children ages 5–14 working in hazardous and oftentimes slavery-like conditions, with 71% of those being young girls. Between 12 million and 29.8 million people are slaves today, more than at the height of the nineteenth-century slave trade; organized crime takes in over $3 trillion annually; and rich countries send some 50 million tons of waste to developing countries each year. Concentration of personal wealth is increasing (the richest 10% own 86% of global wealth) as is technological unemployment, which brings into question the ethics of the current political-economic systems.


The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, backed by the World Bank, was launched in 2002 to obligate companies and countries to make public the terms of oil, gas, and mineral deals with developing countries; it now has 31 compliant countries and 38 members have publish revenues. The UN Convention Against Corruption has been ratified by 175 countries and the European Union. This established definitions and rules of behavior and is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. The International Criminal Court is successfully trying political leaders, and the proceedings are Web-cast. The UN’s on-line Universal Human Rights Index compiles recommendations and country reports for public comparisons. UNESCO's study of world religions to find a "Common Framework for the Ethics of the 21st Century" should be used as a basis to engage inter-religious dialog leaders, other thought leaders, and the international media to increase global ethical considerations in decisionmaing.


Corrupt official’s travel visa should be banned, Transparency’s “Unmask the Corrupt” campaign should be supported, and owners of all companies should be publically registered. We need to create better incentives for ethics in global decisions, promote parental guidance to establish a sense of values, teach ethics and solidarity principles in schools, encourage respect for legitimate authority while demanding accountability, support the identification and success of the influence of role models, implement cost-effective strategies for global education for a more enlightened world, and make behavior match the values people say they believe in. Too often business is a way to make money by cheating people instead of solving problems. Entertainment media could promote memes like “make decisions that are good for me, you, and the world.” Ethical and spiritual education should grow in balance with the new powers given to humanity by technological progress.


This Challenge will be addressed seriously when:

  • corruption decreases by 50% from the World Bank estimates of 2006,
  • ethical business standards are internationally practiced and regularly audited,
  • essentially all students receive education in ethics and responsible citizenship
  • global ethics is a generally acknowledged as transcending religion and nationality.



Regional Considerations


Sub-Saharan Africa: About 5% of African youth go to universities today and are likely to be the next generation of African leaders. How much they care about their ethical development could predict the future ethics of the continent. South Africa has launched the Five Plus Project to get richer South Africans to give at least 5% of their income to help reduce poverty. Since African citizens do not always share in the benefits of their natural resources, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is working to let the public know how their national natural resources are being used—and by whom and at what price. Special attention will have to be given to millions of AIDS orphans in Africa who have had little choice about growing up in unethical environments. The proportion of children engaged in child labor in sub-Saharan Africa is currently around 25%. Corruption in the region is estimated at $150 billion (more than the entire amount of ODA); this remains a serious impediment to democracy and economic development in many African countries. However, bribery varies across Africa; 63% of those surveyed in Sierra Leone reported paying bribes (down from 84% several years ago) while only 4% in Botswana reported this. The Business Ethics Network of Africa continues to grow (10 Sub-Sharan and 6 North African countries patriciate), with conferences, research, and publications. Transparency International has 16 National Chapters, 5 National Chapters in Formation and 6 National Contacts in Sub-Saharan Africa helping to build capacity to counter corruption.


Middle East and North Africa: What are the global ethics of intervention? Scholars should draw lessons about the ethical implications of intervention and decisionmaking on all sides of the Syrian disasters. Much of the original Arab Spring/Awaking protests were calls for ethics in decisionmaking. With youth unemployment at 25% of the region’s population, increasing crime and another forms of unethical activity it is likely. According to surveys corporate social responsibility is growing in the Middle East and North Africa. This may build on Zakat (charitable giving), one of the five requirements in Islam.


Asia and Oceania: UNESCO organized the first Asia-Pacific conference on "Ethics Education for All: Searching for a New Paradigm of Learning to Live Together," which focused on global justice, curriculum and future trends in ethics education. Altering the genome of embryos by Chinese scientists raises the ethics of one generation changing the genetics for all future generations. The millions of dollars that flooded the Philippines to help it recover from Typhoon Haiyan led to corruption, reminding us to include financial accountability and transparency in natural disaster resilience planning. As China’s global decisionmaking role increases, it will face traditional versus Western value conflicts. It has initiated a major anticorruption campaign and if successful could influence others in the region. Some believe the rate of urbanization and economic growth is so fast in Asia that it is difficult to consider global ethics, while some Asians do not believe there are common global ethics and maintain that the pursuit to create them is a Western notion.


Europe: The growing immigrant population in Europe will increase discussions of ethics and identity for Europe. Most euro-zone countries are ranked among the world’s least corrupt by Transparency International; however, it ranks Eastern Europe and Central Asia among the most corrupt in the world. The EU Anti-Corruption Report, to be published every two years, has been set to assess and help member states’ efforts to address corruption. The first report, published in 2014, shows that 76% of the Europeans participating in the Eurobarometer survey think that corruption is widespread in their own country, with ratings ranging from 20% in Denmark to 99% in Greece and 97% in Italy. The financial crisis involving Greece and other Southern European countries raises moral issues about the interdependent ethical responsibilities among citizens, the state, and members of the eurozone. The European Ethics Network is linking efforts to improve ethical decisionmaking, while Ethics Enterprise is working to mobilize an international network of ethicists and to organize innovative actions to attract attention for ethics in business. Spain and France have the greatest number of businesses in the UN Global Compact, and Spain is also the leading country in ISO 50001 energy management compliance.


Latin America: Economic benefits of rapid exploitation of naturalresources are at odds with environmental ethics across the region. Chile’s President vowed to counter corruption as a top priority for her new government. Mexico has passed legislation to create a national anti-corruption system and enacted an Anti-corruption Federal Law on public procurement to punish individuals and companies for unethical behavior. Problems such as lack of personal security, limited access to education and health services, lack of faith in politics, badly damaged institutions that do not fulfill their role (such as the justice system and police), and the accelerated environmental degradation in some countries are aspects of a serious lack of ethical values. Regardless of legal frameworks, large sections of the population remain excluded from the promised protections. It also manifests as a serious lack of ethical standards in the mass media.


North America: With 5% of the world's population, the US has 25% of those in jail, and 50% of the world's miliary budgets. US Defense research has created cyborg insects that can be remotely controlled raising new questions for the future of inter-species cyborg ethics. Because technologies of national security intelligence and their applications could evolve faster than public understanding and political oversight, the US and others have begun to fundamentally rethink security and privacy requirements. What are the ethical ways to identify and stop individuals who are planning to make and deploy weapons of mass destruction? How far can business go to counter cyber espionage? Will a continually advancing “Internet of Things” with sensor networks and drones make privacy an illusion and hence replace covert methods? Although the U.S. has provided some leadership in bringing ethical considerations into many international organizations and forums, its ethical leadership is compromised by lobbying interests; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that new systems can allow anyone (including organized crime and foreign political sources) to donate any amount of money anonymously to special funds that could influence political media campaigns. There is still no generally accepted way to get corrupting money out of politics and elections or to stop “cozy relationships” between regulators and those they regulate. There is public dissatisfaction with the status and speed of prosecutions of individuals’ and companies’ unethical financial practices that lead to the 2008 financial crisis. The U.S. plans to adopt legislation to make it compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Although ranked among the top best countries by the Corruption Perceptions Index, Canada has been shaken by several incidents of corruption and abuse of public office, which undermines citizens’ trust in government officials.


CPIA transparency, accountability, and corruption in the public sector rating (1=low; 6=high)



Source: World Bank indicators, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph part of the 2015 State of the Future Index; details in the 2015-16 State of the Future report



How can sustainable development be achieved for all while addressing global climate change?


Short Overview

US-China November 2014 joint announcement pledged GHG emissions caps, collaboration on clearer energy research, carbon capture and reuse, eco-smart city designs, and phasing down of their use of Hydroflurocarbons. The global average surface temperature in 2016 is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the milestone of 1C° above the pre-industrial era. The years 2012-2016 have been the warmest five-year period on record. Monthly CO2 ppm as measured at Mauna Loa monitoring station reached 406.7 in May 2016 (it was 403.7 in May 2015, 401.88 ppm in May 2014, and 399.9 ppm in May 2013). The IPCC reports that each decade of the past three were consecutively warmer, that the past 30 years was likely the warmest period in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 1,400 years, and that even if all CO2 emissions are stopped, "Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries;" hence, the world has to take adaptation far more seriously. IPCC says the sea level rose 19 cm from 1901 to 2010, and could rise an additional 26 to 98 cm by the end of this century and the earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. Warming soil now found to release CO2 not included in previous forecasts.

The total GHG emission is about 54 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year. In business-as-usual scenario, the emissions are estimated to reach 59 Gt of CO2 equivalent in 2020 and 68 Gt of CO2 equivalent in 2030. The IPCC estimates that no more than 1000Gt of CO2 equivalent shall be emitted between 2012 and 2100 if we want to have 66% chance of limiting the warming below 2°C.

Nature's capacity to absorb human-induced emissions is diminishing. Oceans will continue absorbing human-generated CO2 for decades if not centuries, which increases acidity, affecting coral reefs and other sea life. Over the long term, increased CO2 in the atmosphere leads to a Proliferation of microbes that emit hydrogen sulfide—a very poisonous gas that could lead to mass extinctions. Surface ocean pH has already fallen by about 0.11 pH units from preindustrial times to today, and if the current trend continues, it is likely to drop by 0.3-0.4 units by the end of this century with devastating impacts on the marine ecosystem.

If all Kyoto Protocol Annex 1 country pledges were fully implemented, their emissions would reach a level by 2020 that is 12–18% below the level of 1990; however, if only their unconditional pledges were implemented, the decrease would be only 5% below the 1990 level. There is also a growing fear that the target of not exceeding 450 ppm of atmospheric CO2 is inadequate and should be lowered to 350 ppm, or else the momentum of climate change could grow beyond humanity’s ability to reverse it. Emissions from increased production of internationally traded products have more than offset the emissions reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, adaptation costs are likely to reach $300 billion per year by 2050, even with strong emissions cuts. A study estimates that a ton of CO2 emitted causes $220 worth of economic damage.


Global ecosystem services that provide life support and economic foundations are valued from $16 to 64 trillion. WWF estimates that the oceans are worth at least $24 trillion. Much of our food is dependent on bee pollination, yet few seem to realize that half of the bee colonies of the US and Europe have collapsed over the past couple of decades. Irrigated fields produce 36% of the world’s food, but a fifth of the worlds’ irrigated soils is affected by salt, which can cut crop yields as much as 70%. About $27.3 billion is lost each year in agricultural value due increasing salt. As ocean levels rise, seawater in will enter fresh water agricultural lands; hence, it will be wise to develop and convert to salt tolerant plants.

The size of the “global middle class” (defined as all those living in households with daily per capita incomes of between $10 and $100 in PPP terms) will increase from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030, drawing even more on these ecosystem services. The world spends 1-2% of global GDP on subsidies that often lead to unsustainable resource use. Global waste has increased 10-fold in the last century, and it could doube by 2025 from where it is today. Halving global food waste could save as much as $300 billion a year by 2030. More than 41 million tonnes of e-waste were discarded in 2014. The discarded materials including gold and silver were worth some $52 billion, but less than 20% is estimated to have been properly recycled.

In 2014, - Earth Overshoot Day - the approximate date human resource consumption exceed nature's budget - fell on August 19, one day earlier than in 2013, although since 2001, it has moved ahead on average 3 days per year. Humanity has been in annual ecological overshoot since the 1970s; it now takes one year and six months to regenerate our one year consumption. Five countries make up nearly half of the world's ecological footprint: China, US, India, Brazil and Russia. Unless we improve our economic, environmental, and social behaviors, the next 50 years are likely to be for many disastrous. If present trends of climate change continue, one in six species on Earth could become extinct.

Poorer countries that contribute the least to GHGs are the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts because they depend on agriculture and fisheries, and they lack financial and technological resources to cope. G8 committed to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition aimed at achieving sustained and inclusive agricultural growth to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years. Annual global climate finance flows in 2013 reached $331 billion, $28 billion lower than the previous year, further increasing the gap between finance needed and finance delivered. According to UNEP’s Towards a Green Economy report, investing 2% of global GDP ($1.3 trillion per year) into 10 key sectors can kick-start a transition toward a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy that would increase income per capita and reduce ecological footprint by nearly 50% by 2050 compared with business as usual. As of September 2014, more than 65 countries have green economy policies and 48 of them are taking steps to develop national green economy plans.


Climate change could be accelerated by dangerous feedbacks:

  • melting ice/snow on tundras reflect less light and absorb more heat, releasing more methane, which in turn increases global warming and melts more tundra;
  • warming ocean water releases methane hydrates from the seabed to the air, warming the atmosphere and melting more ice, which further warms the water to release more methane hydrates;
  • the use of methane hydrates or otherwise disturbing deeper seabeds releases more methane to the atmosphere and accelerates global warming;
  • melting ice in polar regions reflect less light, absorbs more heat, which further increases melting.

Glaciers are melting, disease patterns are changing, and coral reefs are dying at an accelerating rate. The Gulf Stream system has weakened to its lowest level in 1,100 years, possibly due to an influx of freshwater from Greenland's melting ice sheet. A third (FAO) to a half (WFF) the world's topsoil is destroyed and could run out in 60 years. Some 30% of fish stocks have already collapsed, and 21% of mammal species and 70% of plants are under threat. Oceans absorb 30 million tons of CO2 each day, increasing their acidity. The number of dead zones in the oceans—areas with too little oxygen to support life—caused by agricultural runoffs, has doubled every decade since the 1960s.


Because the U.S. and China are the largest GHG polluters and have the largest economies, they have the moral responsibility to lead the world in adapting to and turning around climate change. The U.S. and China are working together, but have not yet declaired a joint bold Apollo-like goal - such as reducing atsmopheric CO2 to 350 ppm - with a NASA-like R&D strategy that could rally global collaboration. Such a U.S.–China lead strategy might focus on new technologies like electric cars, saltwater agriculture, carbon capture and reuse, solar power satellites, maglev trains, urban systems ecology, pure meat without growing animals (produced from either stem cells or vegetable inputs), and a global climate change collective intelligence system to support better decisions and keep track of it all. It is estimated that growing pure meat without growing animals would generate 96% lower GHG emissions, use 45% less energy, reduce land use by 99%, and cut water use by 96% compared with growing animals for meat. These technologies have to be supplemented by policies that support carbon taxes, cap and trade schemes, reduced deforestation, industrial efficiencies, co-generation, conservation, recycling, and switch of government subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy. (Pakistan and Venezuela are spending twice as much on fossil fuel subsidies as they are on public health.) Successful technological and policy implementation in many lesser developed countries will need assistance.


Seriously addressing global warming will require better conservation, higher efficiencies, changes in food and energy production, methods to reduce the GHGs that are already in the atmosphere, and adapting to climate changes already in motion for many years to come.

Scientists are studying how to build towers to suck CO2 from the air, sequester CO2 underground, spread iron powder in oceans to increase phytoplankton to sequester CO2, genetically alter coral to better absorb CO2, reduce solar input with large scale geoengineering project like sunshades in orbit, and reuse carbon at power plants to produce cement and grow algae for biofuels. Large-scale geoengineering, such as spraying sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect some sunlight, may have problems with stratospheric ozone depletion, reaching international agreements to do it, and make the daytime sky significantly brighter and whiter. Other suggestions include retrofitting coal plants to burn leaner and to capture and reuse carbon emissions, raising fuel efficiency standards, and increasing vegetarianism (FAO reports that the livestock sector emits more GHGs than transportation does). Others have suggested new taxes, such as on carbon, international financial transactions, urban congestion, international travel, and environmental footprints. Such taxes could support international public/private funding mechanisms for high-impact technologies. Massive public educational efforts by professional networks (from scholarly associations to Rotary Clubs) should use social media, popular film, television, music, games, and contests to stress what we can do to better pressure political and other leaders.

Without a global strategy to address climate change, the environmental movement may turn on the fossil fuel and livestock industries. The legal foundations are being laid to sue for damages caused by GHGs. Climate change adaptation and mitigation policies should be integrated into an overall sustainable development strategy. Without sustainable growth, billions more people will be condemned to poverty, and much of civilization could collapse, which is unnecessary since we know enough already to tackle climate change while increasing economic growth. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient acceptance of universal ethical principles for successful implementation.


This Challenge will be addressed seriously when green GDP increases while poverty and global GHG emissions decrease for five years in a row.


Regional Considerations


Africa: Among ten countries estimated to become the most affected by climate change are in Africa: Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea. Since Africa contributes little to GHGs, its focus should be more on adaptation to climate change than on mitigation. It is getting about $1-2 billion per year now for adaptation, but needs $7-15 billion per year for adaptation by 2020, and $50 billion per year by 2050. Financial flows for adaptation, however, only amounts to $1-2 billion a year today. Introduction of drought resistant seeds, more eco-friendly farming, closed environmental agriculture, seawater farming along the coasts, reforestation, reduction of slash and burn agricultural practices, will be needed to avoid the IPCC forecast that climate change could reduce rain-feed Sub-Saharan agriculture by 50% by 2020. Price and weather-indexed insurance schemes will help Africa stabilize prices in domestic markets and help farmers adapt to climate change. If agricultural practices don't change and global warming exceeds 3°C, virtually all of the present maize, millet, and sorghum cropping areas across Africa could become unviable.

Solar energy in the Sahara is strategic for African sustainable growth. Africa needs about $675 billion by 2030 to achieve low-carbon sustainable growth; the current carbon market for mitigation is not sufficient to address this. The Clean Development Mechanism, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, and the voluntary offset program are not fully utilized. Africa’s total ecological footprint is set to double by 2040. Ethiopia is implementing it's climate-resilient green economy plan to become carbon neutral by 2030. Mayors in Mali are now required to have couples plant trees as part of their marriage registration process. Ten African nations have pledged to include the economic value of natural resources in their national accounts. Meanwhile, West Africa is losing $1.3 billion a year due to illegal and unregulated fishing, and criminal groups take up to 1.3 billion worth of natural resources such as gold, timber and ivory from DRC every year. Militia and terrorist groups in and around Africa may earn up to $289 million annually from illegal or unregulated charcoal trade.


Asia and Oceania: China is the largest GHG polluter in the world, plans to begin to reverse the amount of its GHG emissions by 2030, and have 20% of its energy from zero emissions sources by that year.The region has half of the world’s megacities and the majority of the world’s poverty, many of which live in densely populated slums vulnerable to climate change. Rapid applications of urban systems ecology will be vital for sustainable development of the region. India loses $80 billion per year, or nearly 6% of its GDP due to environmental degradation, and more than half the damage is attributable to air pollution. Particulate matter pollution reduces life expectancy by 3.2 years for 660 million Indians in polluted urban cities. Meanwhile, lung cancer has doubled in Beijing over the last decade and pollution increasingly becomes a cause of protests and lawsuits. Chinese government banned the anti-air pollution documentary "Under the Dome" after it attracted 200 million viewers within a week. China's solid waste will grow from about 573,000 tons a day in 2005 to 1.5 million tons in 2025. It has pilot emissions trading systems (ETS) in seven provinces and cities and will launch national ETS in 2016. US$320 billion worth of investment will be needed annually to meet China's environmental targets.

The effects of deforestation in south and south east Asian climate needs to be better understood. Due to the affects of global warming the 103,000 citizens of Kiribati are expected to become refugees; and hence, the government has bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji for a reported $9.6 million to resettle this population. Bangladesh will need new agriculture to save farming from ocean level increases of salt water incursions and housing adaptations. Australia repealed the Carbon Tax which was introduced in 2012, but WWF says it could achieve net zero emission by 2050 at a cost of 0.2% of GDP.


Europe: EU is on track to achieve its 2020 climate/energy objectives (GHG emissions 20% lower than 1990; 20% of energy from renewables; 20% increase in energy efficiency). EC adopted a low-carbon roadmap that would cut emissions by 80-95% by 2050. The EU-28 committed in 2014 to the 2030 Framework policy to reduce GHG emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and increase both energy efficiency and share of renewable energy by 27% from 1990 levels. Member States will have flexibility to set national objectives and policies. The sectors covered by EU ETS have reduced their emissions by 13 % from 2005 to 2013, but incentives for low-carbon investments are too low today due to excess of allowance and sluggish economy. The EU carbon price is around €7 euros per tonne in mid-2015, down from its peak of over €30. Reforms to strengthen the EU ETS will be introduced in 2018, which could push carbon prices up to €20 per tonne by 2020. In 2013, fiscal revenues from auctioning allowances in the EU ETS amounted to EUR €3.6 billion (of which, around € 3 billion will be used for climate and energy related purposes).


France introduced a carbon tax for supporting the transition towards renewables and promoting energy efficiency. Spain´s total greenhouse gas emissions fell by 20% to 344 million tonnes in 2012 from 432 million tonnes in 2007; however, subsidy cuts for renewable energy could change this picture. Russia aims to reduce GHG emissions by 22–25% by 2020 compared to 1990 (which is still an increase in absolute terms, since Russia’s emissions plunged sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union). Nitrogen pollution from farms, vehicles, industry, and waste treatment costs the EU up to €320 billion per year. The EC is preparing a circular economy strategy to increase resource-efficiency by 30% by 2030 which is expected to boost GDP by nearly 1% and create 2 million additional jobs. Air pollution in Europe cost $1.6 trillion, or nearly one-tenth of the EU’s GDP, in premature deaths and diseases. At the end of EU's 'Year of Air', the EU proposed a new strategy toward 2030, which would avoid 58,000 premature deaths and save as much as €140 billion per year. The UK plans to have its own “GDP-plus” national accounts by 2020. Russia has the world's second largest total biocapacity reserve and is the only major economy not facing a growing dependence on other nations' ecosystems. Between 1992-2009 its reserve has further improved from 0.9 to 2.6 gha (global hector area a measure of biocapacity) per capita. Norwegians generated the greatest volume of e-waste in per-capita basis (28kg), followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and UK.


Latin America: The region faces a $100 billion annual loss by 2050 if the global temperature rises 2°C over pre-industrial levels. Mexico and Colombia are implementing sector-wide crediting mechanisms that reward low emission activities. Chile approved a carbon tax to start in 2018. South America has 40% of the planet’s biodiversity and about half of the world's carbon stored in tropical forests. Brazil has the world's largest total biocapacity reserve (about 9.6 gha per capita), but unless more environmentally-friendly policies are successful, it could cross into deficit within the next 50 years. Deforestation rate in Brazil went down for several years, but the annual deforestation rates increased 28% for the period August 2012-July 2013. The demand for hydropower and biofuels may reduce Latin America’s forests as a carbon sink. The dieback of the southern part of the Amazon rainforest is expected to be greater than expected because the forest is drying faster than the IPCC models assumed. 40% of Brazilian businesses reported emission reduction targets in 2012. Recycling in Brazil generates $2 billion a year while avoiding 10 million tons of GHG emissions. According to IICA, Latin America holds 43% of the world’s potential for agricultural growth. It is rapidly expanding this potential while trying not to damage vital ecosystem services. Mexico’s new climate change law sets legally binding emission reduction goals: 30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020, and by 50% below 2000 levels by 2050. In Peru, more than 50% of forest cover on the coast was already lost, and more than 150,000 hectares of forest are lost annually by agriculture and mining.


North America: US pledged to cut GHS emissions by 26-28% by 2025 from from 2005 levels. Methane production in the US could be 50% or more than previous EPA estimates due to fossil fuel production and livestock industries, not previously considered. Although President Obama created the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, municipalities and states initiate and implement more policies for sustainable development and reducing GHGs than the federal government. California and Québec linked their carbon markets in 2014; with the inclusion of the transport sector in January 2015, their linked ETS is the world’s third largest.U.S. oil companies are beginning to plan for carbon taxes. Bank of America announced its 10-year, $50-billion green investment program.

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel called for better government coordination to implement an abrupt [years to decades faster than expected] climate change early warning system, while the U.S. Congress refused to end oil subsidies. Honey bee keepers have reported that bee population has been falling about 30% per year since 2006. Air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals cost U.S. children $76.6 billion in health expenses. The U.S. will invest $880 million to clean up Florida Everglades.  Permafrost temperature in northern Alaska increased about 4–7°C during the last century, almost half of it during the last 20 years. Boy Scouts of America created Sustainability Merit Badge.


Canada's tar sends exploitation continue to raise environmental concerns. The Alberta government introduced legislation to create a new environmental monitoring agency focused on the oilsands. The new Alberta government promises new climate change strategy. Canada's intended nationally determined contribution is committing Canada to reduce GHG emissions by 30% below the 2005 levels by 2030. Ontario committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 37% below 1990 levels by 2030, while British Columbia's carbon tax system is considered one of the most significant in the Western Hemisphere.


Graphs expressing the global situation:


Biocapacity per capita (gha)



Source: Global Footprint Network, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph part of the 2015 State of the Future index; details in the 2015-16 State of the Future report


Graph using Trend Impact Analysis (TIA); it is part of the 2012 State of the Future Index computation (See 2012 State of the Future Index)


How can shared values and new security strategies reduce ethnic conflicts, terrorism, and the use of weapons of mass destruction?


Short Overview

The vast majority of the world is living in peace and trans-border wars are increasingly rare. Yet half the world has the potential to become violently unstable due to a combination of growing inequality, increasing unemployment, rising prices of food, falling water tables, abuses of elite power, outdated institutional structures, organized crime, terrorist groups, limited access to natural and social resources, and inadequate legal and governance systems. Globalization, migration, geopolitical shifts, changing nature of power, and increasing access of individuals to natural, technological and social resources, have raised the world’s vulnerabilities to new levels and are changing the security paradigm. The diplomatic, foreign policy, military, and legal systems to address the new asymmetrical threats have yet to be established. The UN, NATO, and other security structures are based on the nation-state as the primary decisionmaking entity, which has become increasingly inadequate.

State of peacefulness: According to the 2016 Global Peace Index, the world has become less peaceful over the past decade. In 2015, although the trend toward peace has improved in 81 countries and deteriorated in 79, the global average declined, since the size of deterioration was larger than the improvements--mainly due to the developments in the MENA region. The total economic impact of violence on world economy was estimated at $13.6 trillion (PPP) for 2015, equivalent to 13.3% of world GDP. Meantime, UN peace-keeping expenditures totaled $8.27 billion, representing only 1.1% of the estimated $742 billion of economic losses from armed conflict.

Terrorist activity is also on the rise, according to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index. Although in 2016, the scores of 66 countries improved, while 53 countries deteriorated, the overall GTI score deteriorated by 6% compared to 2015, due to increased terrorism in many countries. However, 72% of all deaths from terrorism occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria. Terrorism has been dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and Al-Qaeda. The lone actor phenomenon adds a new dimension to the global security landscape, not only from a safety point of view, but most of all, ethical and legal perspectives. As a "glocalized" phenomenon, it needs a global framework with local action. The 123 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 who are illiterate represent a growing unemployment problem. The vast majority of them are in South and West Asia (62 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (48 million). The 2016 Fragile States Index, compiled by the Fund for Peace, shows that out of the 177 countries rated based on their susceptibility to destabilization, 125 are in some "alert" or "warning" category, eight of which are in the "Very High Alert" category (double compered to the previous year.)

Civilians constitute the majority of fatalities in the international struggle against violent extremism, and the changing nature of transnational terrorism makes it difficult for governments to ensure homeland security. However, lone wolves and small group attacks are one of the symptoms of our social and international systems’ failures to keep pace with a better informed, highly connected, technology-savvy, more demanding, and interrelated world. The combination of thought and feelings with the capability of new technologies and data availability became the most powerful weapon, available to almost anyone interested. Recent studies reveal a higher prevalence and success rate of lone wolf attacks than other types of terrorism. Mail-order DNA and future desktop molecular and pharmaceutical manufacturing, plus access (possibly via organized crime) to nuclear materials, could one day give single individuals the ability to make and use weapons of mass destruction (SIMAD: Single Individuals Massively Destructive)—from biological weapons that could kill millions in an epidemic to low-level nuclear “dirty” bombs. To prevent this, three areas should be developed: 1) mesh networks of nanotech sensors and other advanced technology to detect such threats; 2) mental health and education systems to detect and treat individuals who might otherwise grow up to use such weapons; and 3) roles and responsibilities for the public to detect potential SIMADs. These approaches have complex legal and constitutional issues that are not yet resolved. Improving capabilities to deal with risks of terrorism, piracy, regional instability, and missile and cyber attacks, as well as widening cooperation with partners are the highest priorities of NATO, in order to build stability and avoid the necessity of fighting instability.

The 2014 National Intelligence Strategy of the USA, warning that the “risk of conflict and mass atrocities may increase,” underlines the importance of identifying and monitoring the effects of threat multipliers such as demographic changes, poverty, environmental degradation, and scarcity of basic resources, since they could cause further political instability and social tensions—“conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

IDMC reports show a continued rise in internally displaced people worldwide, the highest since the 1990s, from 33.3 million in 2013 to 38 Million in 2014. In mid-2014, there were 18.1 million refugees of concern according to UNHCR, 2.1 million more than the 2013 figure, and 5.1 million of them were refugees in about 60 UNRWA camps (about 300,000 more than the previous year). At the beginning of 2015, there were 16 UN Peacekeeping missions, along with political missions in Libya, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan, with a total of 125,396 security and support personnel from 120 countries.

Environmental security: As growing populations and economies increase the drain on natural resources and cause environmental degradation, social tensions are expected to increase, triggering complex interactions of old ethnic and religious conflicts, civil unrest, indigenous protests, terrorism, and crime. In local areas where political, environmental, and economic conditions worsen, increasing migrations can be expected, which in turn can create new conflicts. Future effects of climate change could create up to 400 million migrants by 2050, which could further increase conditions for conflict. The UN estimates that 40% of the internal conflicts over the past 60 years were natural resource related. Although the degree of climate change’s impacts is uncertain, it would be prudent to prepare to adapt to increasing floods in wet areas, increasing droughts in dry areas, falling river flows fed by mountain ice, and seawater incursions into freshwater areas. Conflicts related to natural resources and/or environmental degradation are twice as likely to return to violence or become “re-wars” within five years; hence, peace agreements should address these environmental conditions while dismantling the structures of violence and establishing structures of peace. Since conflict and environmental degradation exacerbate each other, their spectrum and severity could expand unless they are addressed together, as a system. As a result, environmental security is increasingly dominating national and international agendas, shifting defense and geopolitical paradigms. Increased attention is being given to environmental security and other non-traditional security strategies for addressing the root causes of unrest and protecting individuals as well as sovereign states. Militaries will have to focus on social and environmental conditions as well as battlefields and soldiers, forcing new financial prioritization. The UN Security Council’s focus on the environment-security-development nexus is increasing, as several countries are urging that climate change be addressed as a global security threat, with issues ranging from loss of livelihoods and illegal exploitation of minerals to the impacts of climate change on national sovereignty. However, the UN's International Law Commission has stated that they do not intend to impose stricter restrictions on belligerents to protect the environment.

Military expenditure: SIPRI estimates that global military expenditures stand at about $1.75 trillion annually, since 2009 (1.76 trillion in 2015). Military expenditures in North America, Western Europe, and Central Europe are decreasing, while they are increasing in all other regions. Transfers of major weapons in 2012-16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of the cold war, mainly driven by demand in the Middle East and Asia. In 2012, China joined the group of five biggest weapons exporters; together, they accounted for 74% of the total volume of arms exports: the United States (33%), Russia (23%), China (6.2%), France (6%), and Germany (5.6%). Asia and Oceania's share of global arms imports increased to 43% in 2012-2016.  NATO guidelines suggest that countries spend 2% of their GDP on defense, with at least 20% of it for defense-related R&D and major equipment acquisitions. Only the US (NATO's biggest defense spender), Greece, and Estonia met the 2% guideline in 2016. If all NATO European countries were to meet the 2% of GDP target, their defence spending would have needed to rise by over 40%. However, initiatives such as  Smart Defense are increasing the efficiency of both operations and funds by generating new defense capabilities through growing cooperation among allies. According to the 2015 Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index, compiled by Transparency International, 66% of defense companies have poor to non-existent ethics and anti-corruption programs. Nevertheless, since 2012, 60% of the companies surveyed have seen marginal improvements, while 33% have taken greater steps toward mitigating corruption.

Nuclear threats: The IAEA database records a total of 2556 incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials between 1993 and the middle of 2014 (up from 2407 last year). The IAEA received reports of 149 nuclear trafficking incidents during 2014 (compared with 155 the previous year and 163 during 2012), ranging from illegal possession and attempted sale and smuggling to unauthorized disposal of materials and discoveries of lost radiological sources. The Project on Managing the Atom noted that the series of nuclear security summits since 2010 have led to 13 countries getting rid of their residual HEU and extracted plutonium, increased security for nuclear material rich sites, better rules and regulations for safekeeping of nuclear material, and a more robust IAEA. At the same time, they called for further consolidation of the global effort to secure radiological material.

The number of nuclear weapons is falling in the US, Russia, the UK, and France, staying relatively constant in Israel and China, and is increasing in India, Pakistan, and North Korea, according to a comparison of the 2008 and 2015 estimates by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). The New START Treaty (signed in 2010) is still binding on the US and Russia, but tensions over Ukraine, disagreements over the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the politics of missile defense complicate the future of both the treaty and nuclear disarmament in general. As of April 28, 2015, the US had 1,900 deployed strategic warheads and Russia had 1,780. Assuming that the conditions of the New START Treaty are upheld, the FAS projects that the number of warheads in the US and Russia will drop to around 1,550 and 1,330, respectively, by 2022. The total number of the world's nuclear weapons (deployed, in reserve, and waiting for dismantlement) was around 15,700 in 2015, down from 20,373 in March of 2008 and from more than 65,000 in 1985.

Changing nature of conflicts: Although interstate wars may be disappearing, which reduces the need for deterrence policies, long-range multi-state tensions over (energy and food) resources and boundary claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are intensifying. In the South China Sea (SCS), China is attempting to solidify its nine-dash line through island reclamation and basing while many ASEAN states have competing claims. The tensions have increased in recent months as China is increasingly strengthening its efforts in the SCS. Within only weeks small attols have been remarkable expanded into impressive military bases with airstrips and harbors. Additionally, sea level rise associated with climate change will inundate low lying islands and force re-evaluations of maritime boundary claims under UNCLOS. One response has been militarization. China and India are investing heavily in their military forces, particularly naval procurement, as are many of the states in Asia and Oceania. China’s language on U.S. involvement in the South China Sea is increasingly bellicose. The warming of the Arctic will give access to new shipping lanes and sources of oil and natural gas, which adds a potential conflict zone for nation-states with overlapping jurisdictions. Russia is reopening the Arctic to their military, and created a new command in the region while the Military exercises of the other Arctic states and NATO are growing in size and importance. The opportunities for peaceful solutions to these maritime boundary issues will lie in adherence to international law and arbitration (under UNCLOS) and the value of intergovernmental and multi-lateral institutions, such as the Arctic Council and ASEAN.

The cyber dimension: After land, sea, air, and space, cyberspace is now the “fifth battlespace” or domain on the agenda of security experts. Governments and businesses are under cyber-attacks (espionage or sabotage) daily from other governments, competitors, hackers, and criminal organizations. The sources of these assaults are tough to identify, and this makes retribution problematic. Even when the source is verified, it is difficult to formulate an appropriate response. Countries, especially highly connected ones, have to consider the threat of a "cyber-Pearl-Harbor"; hence, much effort has been devoted to cyber-defense and potential countermeasures. Because society’s vital systems increasingly depend on the Internet, cyber-weapons that could bring them down can be thought of as weapons of mass destruction; hence, deterrence and protection are critical, yet policy is not clear and international cyber-arms agreements are non-existent. Unlike nuclear protection and deterrence, cyberwar defense has to more fully include corporations and individuals, forcing a fundamental re-conceptualization of protection, deterrence, and defense itself. Increasingly, conflict includes advanced foot soldiers as nodes in vast networks of war machines, with combatants thousands of miles away controlling drones overhead. Cyber-weapons, special operations, and unmanned sensors and vehicles are becoming the key military elements of the future. All of this makes satellites prime wartime targets.

New security paradigm: Military power has yet to prove effective in asymmetrical warfare without genuine cultural engagement. The new security paradigm is actually about fighting a philosophy. But when fighting a philosophy, there has to be another acceptable one to replace it, respecting complex cultural, religious, ideological and ethical aspects. Right now, we fight the philosophy that guides the terrorists and lone actors—be it based on religious extremism or social discontent—but do little to offer an alternative, except the rhetoric about a freedom that does not resonate with them. Thus, this new security paradigm requires innovative strategies by both security organizations and society to help address the conditions that favor the spread of threatening ideas. Offering all those young people opportunities, instead of weapons or responding with violence would have a higher probability of leading to peace and stability worldwide. Peace strategies without love, compassion, or spiritual outlooks are less likely to work because intellectual or rational approaches alone are not likely to overcome the emotional divisions that prevent peace. Conflict prevention and solution efforts should include NGOs, and work with all the related factions, including personal and Internet conversations with hardline groups and their potential recruits, taking into consideration their emotional and spiritual sensibilities. Individuals' strong emotional devotion to their ethnic groups rather than to the nation (and eventually humanity) makes progress toward stable democracy difficult in many areas. Massive public education programs are needed to promote respect for diversity and the oneness that underlies that diversity.

It is less expensive and more effective to attack the root causes of unrest than to stop explosions of violence. In fragile and conflict-states, more ODA should be oriented towards peacebuilding and statebuilding. In 2012, 46% of ODA went to non-peace and statebuilding efforts, with only 4% of the money allocated for political reform, 3% for justice, and just about 1% for security.The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has shown that the level of law enforcement and judiciary corruption is significantly related to the level of peace within countries, but a change in the level of peace does not affect corruption. While worldwide corruption has increased over the past 7 years, global peace has declined by an average of 5%. The IEP has also identified a “tipping point”, where up to that juncture increased corruption does not seriously impact peace but after which violence (including political varieties, internal conflict, crime involving force, and murder) sharply increases along with rising corruption. Of the 64 nations at the “tipping point”, all are either “flawed democracies” (Philippines, Greece, Mexico), “authoritarian regimes” (Myanmar, China, Iran), or “hybrid regimes” (Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Venezuela).The Institute for Economics and Peace has identified eight pillars of peace: A well-functioning government; A sound business environment; An equitable distribution of resources; An acceptance of the rights of others; Good relations with neighbors; Free flow of information; A high level of human capital; and Low levels of corruption.Proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”, might help address the corruption-peace nexus.

The probability of a more peaceful world is increasing due to the growth of democracy, international trade, global news media, the Internet, increasing prosperity and decreasing extreme poverty, NGOs' efforts, satellite surveillance, better access to resources, and the evolution of the UN and regional organizations. Cross-cultural dialogues are flourishing, and intra-state conflicts are increasingly being settled by international interventions. Some believe that the collective mind of humanity can contribute to peace or conflict, and hence we can think ourselves into a more peaceful future.

Transitional justice is one of the major factors for success in post-conflict peace-building. It is still necessary to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and to support the International Criminal Court.The Geneva Convention should be updated to cover intrastate conflicts and specifics of the new asymmetrical warfare.The UN Security Council Resolution 11580 Condemning Violent Extremism and to Prevent Travel, Support for Foreign Terrorist Fighters, adopted in September 2014, is the first comprehensive international legal instrument that is specifically calling upon all Member States to respect their obligations under international law to prevent the spread of radicalization and terrorism, and addresses the lone wolf phenomenon. However, wider implementation is difficult due to the absence of a comprehensive agreement on what individuals or groups are definitively terrorists. Classification remains highly political, with a great deal of variation among member states’ lists of terrorist organizations.


In 2015, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that 90% of the world’s known chemical weapons stockpile had been destroyed.The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force in August 2010 and by May 2015 had 91 States Parties. The Arms Trade Treaty, adopted by the UN in April 2013, entered into force in December 2014. It aims to prevent the flow of arms to conflict regions, human rights abusers, violators of the laws of war; and warlords, pirates, and gangs. However, it only regulates international trade in conventional arms, and combat aircraft and warships. Both treaties have yet to be ratified by some major producers and traders such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.  Resolution 2220 adopted in 2015, aims toincrease cooperation among nations to curb “illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse” of small arms and light weapons, mainly to terrorists and criminal networks, and calls upon all States to ratify the ATT and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols. The UN remarks that over the past decade, small arms and light weapons were a common factor in over 250 conflicts and 50,000 deaths around the world.Although more than 70 countries have or are developing drones and other devices for remote-control warfare, there are currently no international laws that specifically regulate their use.

New technologies are offering unprecedented possibilities for peace and conflict. Advances in detection, cleanup, monitoring, and surveillance will increase concurrently with accuracy and lethality. Intelligent battlefield robots will have elements of the rules of engagement and the Geneva Convention built into their programming. Self-adjusting bullets will be less likely to miss their targets (for good or ill). Lowcost, highly networked drones will form "swarms" that can operate in combat or peaceful reconnaissance roles. A NASA project tested the concept of “spiderbots” that can be placed into a hazardous environment to communicate among themselves and with the outside world, including satellites, to monitor dangerous situations. Ultra-sensitive, portable chemical and biological devices offer increasing accuracy in detection, monitoring, and cleanup, with rapid response time.

Governments should establish an international audit system for each weapon type, destroy existing stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, create tracking systems for potential bioweapons, develop SIMAD prevention strategies, and support networks of CDC-like centers to counter impacts of bioterrorism, and agreement should be reached on enforcement mechanisms for the Biological Weapons Convention. Work should continue to make irregular warfare more humane, and increase the use of non-lethal weapons and the precision of drone attacks to reduce civilian death and potential future revenge cycles.

Early warning systems of governments and UN agencies could better connect with NGOs and the media to help generate the political will to prevent or reduce conflicts. User-initiated collaborations on the Web should be increasingly used for peace promotion, rumor control, fact-finding, and reconciliation. Back-casted peace scenarios should be created through participatory processes to show plausible alternatives to conflict stories (see ''Middle East Peace Scenarios'' in 'Scenarios', under Research in GFIS).

Assessing progress: This Challenge will be addressed seriously when intrastate wars, arms sales, and violent crimes decrease by 50% from one year to another.


Regional Considerations

Sub-Saharan Africa: has slowly decreased conflicts over the past 10 years, and one of the worst offenders, the M23 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has eschewed violence. The African Union has set up a Rapid Reaction Force to deal with outbreaks of violence on the continent. The cost of conflicts fueled by imported weapons in Africa is estimated at $11 billion. South Sudan has achieved independence, but disputes with the North and internal conflicts are continuing. It is estimated that there are more than 11.3 Million IDPs in sub-Saharan Africa, out of which some 4.5 million were newly displaced in 2014. Central Africa has the highest number of IDPs, 7.9 million, out of which 3 million were newly displaced in 2014. The countries with the largest number of IDPs--South Sudan, Somalia, CAR, DRC, and Sudan--are also rated as the world’s "Very High Alert" countries. Boko Haram’s extreme violence to impose Islamic law in north-eastern Nigeria displaced at least 975,300 people in 2014. French and UN forces are still battling the insurgency in northern Mali, and Somalia is a failing patchwork of regions run locally or from Kenya or Ethiopia. The unrest between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria has intensified and threatens to ignite wider sectarian conflict in the region. General unrest is endemic in much of West Africa and is compounded by poor and corrupt governance. Youth unemployment, illiteracy of about 50% among young people, and 11.6 million AIDS orphans may fuel a new generation of violence and crime.

North Africa and the Middle East:The Arab Spring/Awakening, overturning a number of long-lived authoritarian regimes, opened the wider Arab world to the prospect of embracing democratic governance. However, due to various reasons, this state of affairs has not been achieved yet. The spread of political instability throughout North Africa and the Middle East has inhibited the sort of national unity that is necessary for democratization. Middle East accounted for 29% of global arms imports. Saudi Arabia was the world's second largest arms importer (after India) with an increase of 212%; Qatar's imports grew 245% and the majority of the other states in the region also increased arms imports in 2012-16 compared to 2007-11. Some Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, are buying their weapons from different suppliers to diversify their dependence on other countries, especially the United States. Iraq is buying $4.2-$5 billion in arms from Russia while ISIL, largely  as a result of Iraq's ineffective government and sectarian divisions, attempts to establish a caliphate throughout the rest of Iraq as it continues its insurgency in Syria.

Violent Al-Qaeda activities have increased in the Islamic Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula, especially in Mali, Somalia, and Yemen, and this reflects the organization's post-bin Laden shift from a centralized organization to a franchise operation. Lone wolf extremists supplement such Al-Qaeda activity throughout the world. The ongoing civil war in Yemen, which is exacerbated by the Saudi-led airstrikes, has devastated the country, and since not properly addressed, the war has dangerously increased instability in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen's agriculture and infrastructure systems have been destroyed as its water crisis persists, and WFP aid cannot reach more than 10% of the country's 24 million starving population. If instead of violence and weapons, the response would be with desalination units and economic opportunities for the million unemployed Yemenis, the chances to end violence in the region might greatly increase. The IDMC notes the number of IDPs in the region increased for a third consecutive year, reaching 11.9 million, with some 10,500 people newly displaced daily. By the end of 2014, some 7.6 million IDPs were in Syria, while for many of them return is not an option, given that 30% of the country’s housing is estimated to be damaged or destroyed.

Egypt's difficulty in establishing a stable government is emblematic of the struggle throughout the Islamic world between secular and religious forces. Ethiopia's policy of damming the Nile's vital waters is causing a serious conflict with Egypt, but it is hoped that a recent agreement will ease tension. In the wake of the Arab revolutions, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran fear the aspirations for an independent Kurdistan among the Kurdish minorities in their countries, and such independence already exists de facto in Syria and Iraq. The OPCW-UN mission in Syria was completed in June 2014, although the UN must continue to monitor chlorine gas attacks. Worsening conditions in the Syrian Civil War could lead to the involvement of Turkey (a NATO member), Israel and Lebanon.

The election of a more moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, and renewed negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China) have raised the hope that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. However, Saudi Arabia fears that such a deal could increase Iran`s hegemony in the region without even preventing it from acquiring an atomic bomb.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have not resumed, for Israel's conservative Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, refuses to meet any of the PA's three preconditions: settlement freeze, commitment to negotiating along the 1967 lines, and release of Palestinian prisoners. Meantime, the Palestinians continue acts of terrorism, threats, and violence.

Asia and Oceania: Long-term global perspectives and possibly international intervention will be needed to solve energy resource conflicts in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines are contending over islets and economic zones. Alliances within the Association of South East Asian Nations, including with the United States or India, can broaden the scope of the tensions. China’s internal problems over water, energy, demographics, urbanization, income gaps, and development projects displacing villagers will have to be well-managed to prevent future conflicts. The severe Muslim Uighur unrest in the northwest is continuing unabated, but there are some signs of progress in Tibet. China is moving into Central Asia, becoming the major economic partner in four of the five republics, but is fostering hostility toward Japan in its population. China's official military budget accounted for more than 33% of Asia's total spend in 2016. It is attempting to become a significant world naval power and its military capability -- particularly in the air domain -- is increasingly challenging western military technological superiority. China is also increasing its sales of more advanced military systems to Africa and Latin America.

An internationally acceptable solution to North Korea’s nuclear program is still lacking. Japan is about to adopt a set of security bills that would greatly expand Japan's defense role in overseas military operations. Mindanao has finally achieved a degree of autonomy in the Philippines after its long and violent struggle. Pakistan’s internal instability, and the complex strategic relationships among Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, hinder the peacemaking and counter-extremist efforts in all three countries. The $7.5 billion in civilian aid given to Pakistan over the past five years has mostly been ineffective, and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is very shaky. Persecution of non-Muslims persists there. India is facing spreading Maoist violence.

As the international combat mission in Afghanistan is scaling down, the threat of the Taliban--with a core of some 60,000 fighters--is increasing and expanding in the neighboring countries, mainly Pakistan. Although difficult to establish, it is estimated that since 2001, some 20-30 thousand Taliban  and 21 thousand Afghan civilians have been killed, while recently, since the fighting intensified, an average of 12 Taliban fighters are killed every day by Afghan police and army units. UNHCR estimates that some 3.7 million Afghans have been displaced or are a population of concern. Contention for control of the country's rich minerals and agricultural resources can be expected among the government, the warlords, and the insurgents, challenging the country's newly refurbished security sector. Reportedly, many of the regional officials/warlords also are proprietors of thriving narcotics networks, aided by their units of the Afghan Local Police, and are committing terrible human rights violations – torture and murder. China could become a key intermediary in future stabilization efforts. The agreement on cooperation in counter-terrorism between the Pakistani (ISI) and Afghan (NDS) intelligence services will also heavily affect Afghanistan’s future security environment, presenting a united front to the Taliban, increasing cross-border security, and creating an opportunity for improved relations between the two neighbors. Serious humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are being neglected in favor of reconstruction, an effort suffering from rampant corruption.

Europe: Western Europe is the most peaceful region in the world, with no domestic or external conflicts. The Basque ETA rebels have forsworn violence. However, the large numbers of migrant laborers, refugees, and asylum seekers entering the EU requires new approaches to better integrate them into society if increased unrest and violence are to be prevented. This is aggravated by the new surge of immigrants from North Africa that Italy, Greece, and Spain have taken in but other countries have been less willing to accept. UNHCR estimates that the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving to Europe by sea increased to over 218,000 in 2014, compared to 80,000 in 2013, and some 3,500 lives were lost. Italy estimates that another 200,000 people in Libya are waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  Reportedly, the IS is using the migrants exodus to smuggle fighters into Europe, promote the IS and Sharia ideology, and to fund terrorism. The new EU anti-smuggling operation, EU Nafor Med, is hoped to help curb the illegal migration by sea.

Only U.K., Greece, and Estonia are set to meet the NATO guideline of 2% of GDP investment to defense; if Germany were to meet the target, its defense budget should almost double, from €37 billion (~$42 billion) to over €74 billion (~$84 billion).

The situation of the Roma population (an estimated 10 million throughout Europe) continues to be a challenge across the continent. Continued youth unemployment and fiscal austerity in parts of the Eurozone have resulted in violent social protests. Stronger and more stable institutions and further political integration are needed to keep the EU together. The revelation of covert U.S., and then German, electronic intelligence directed against EU countries increased suspicion among the alliance members.

The re-emergence of ethnic tensions and confrontations between the Albanian and Slavic populations in the Western Balkans raises concerns over the fragile stability of the region. Croatia joined the EU in 2013; membership talks began with Serbia and those with Turkey have resumed. In view of the Ukraine crises, three Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania —are asking for permanent NATO presence as a deterrent against increased Russian activity in several European regions. NATO is embarking on the largest expansion of its collective capabilities since the end of the Cold War, with the NATO Response Force increasing twofold. Tensions and violence between Russians and minority citizens from the Caucasus and Central Asia are increasing, while in Ukraine it exploded into civil war. The war in Ukraine has led to a deterioration of its economic situation, which may bring further destabilization in the region. Russia is reforming and modernizing its military and increased its 2015 defense budget to 4.2% of GDP (3.3. trillion rubles), the highest of the post-Soviet period.

Latin America: Drug wars in Mexico caused more deaths than occurred in Afghanistan. Although national wars are rare in the region, internal violence from organized crime, paramilitaries, and amalgams of the two groups continues to be fueled in some areas by corrupt government officials, military, police, and national and international corporations. Criminal violence and threats have displaced more than 7 million people in the region -- over 436,500 in 2014 -- a 12% increase compared to 2013. Columbia has the highest number of IDPs, over 6 million, followed by El Salvador, Mexico, and Guatemala, which together account for some 820,000 people. To eliminate criminal gangs, Latin America should address inequality and develop educational systems that meet the requirements of the knowledge economy. Recent political changes have begun to improve opportunities for indigenous peoples in some parts of the region, while political polarization over policies to address poverty and development persist.

The Failed States Index shows that since 2008, stability improved in most countries of the region. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States adopted a Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace and is increasing regional integration and solidarity for defense of national sovereignty. The International Court in the Hague has become the most widely used mechanism by Latin American countries to peacefully resolve conflicts; e.g.; Nicaragua and Colombia; Peru and Chile; Bolivia and Chile. Brazil proceeds on its path toward world power status. Argentina is resuming a more aggressive stance toward the Falklands question. Violence is impeding development in Central America, a region with one of the highest crime and homicide rates in the world.

North America: Although the U.S. is reducing its activity in Afghanistan, preparing to completely withdraw, it has re-entered the Iraqi arena with airstrikes against ISIL. Its spending on national defense is being reduced from 4.7% of GDP in 2010 to 3.5% in 2014 and under the Budget Enforcement Act is supposed to be cut further to 2.6% by 2020. Hence, its military expenditure--still the world's highest--has been reduced from $711 billion in 2011 to $610 billion in 2014. Its national defense budget for 2015 is $636.6 billion and the proposed one for 2016 is $612 billion. Home-grown terrorism and lone wolf add a new dimension to U.S. security challenges. Since 2006, 98% of all deaths from terrorism were caused by attacks carried out by lone actors.

Over the past five years, Canada´s military expenditure has been around CAD$20 billion but is projected to increase considerably, as its engagements and role in the international arena are growing. The U.S. has signed the Arms Trade Treaty but did not ratify it, while Canada neither signed, nor ratified it. As Arctic ice continues to melt, vast quantities of natural gas and oil will be accessible where national boundaries are disputed. This could be a source of U.S.-Canadian tension, along with Russia, Norway, and Denmark.

Cooperation on environmental security could become a focus to build U.S.-China strategic trust. Such trust-building efforts should be given more attention that might reduce nation-state cyber warfare.

The number of cyber attacks on the U.S. continues to grow, shifting increasing attention to the protection of national infrastructure, such as the electric grid and the evolving Internet of Things.


Graphs expressing the global situation:


Terrorism incidents

Source: Start Project, University of Maryland, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph from the 2015-16 State of the Future


Source: Center for Systematic Peace




Graph part of the 2012 SOFI computation, with “best” and “worst” values assessed by an international panel through the RTD exercise (See Chapter 2, SOFI 2012)


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