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20 facts on the biggest risks the world faces today

Last updated on: April 11, 2011 12:12 IST

20 facts on the biggest risks the world faces today

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As the world grows together, it is also growing apart, states the World Economic Forum's new Global Risks Report.

The global financial crisis has 'drained the world's capacity' to deal with any further shocks, according to the report.

Global Risks 2011 also provides insights on a number of emerging risks and outliers to this year's global risk landscape that could surprise us in the future.

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Image: Residents search for valuable items in sea water filled with debris after a fire razed houses along a coastal village, north of Manila.
Photographs: Erik de Castro/Reuters.
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Economic disparity and global governance failures are the biggest risks people across the world face.

While globalisation has generated sustained economic growth for a generation, the report says it has shrunk and reshaped the world, making it far more interconnected and interdependent.

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Image: Homeless people prepare food on a roadside in Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters.
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The benefits of globalisation seem unevenly spread a minority is seen to have harvested a disproportionate amount of the fruits.

Although growth of the new champions is rebalancing economic power between countries, there is evidence that economic disparity within countries is growing.

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Image: Children hold their bowls as they wait for free meals during a feeding program, Tondo, Manila.
Photographs: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters.
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The Global Risks Survey identified economic disparity as one of the most important risks in the coming decade.

Economic disparity is tightly interconnected with corruption, demographic challenges, fragile states, global imbalances and asset-price collapse.

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Image: Children rest in a wooden cart after their shanty was burnt in a fire at a slum in Quezon, Manila.
Photographs: Erik de Castro/Reuters.
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Respondents perceived economic disparity as influencing chronic diseases, infectious diseases, illicit trade, migration, food insecurity, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Economic disparity plays out between and within countries. Ease of communication has made inequalities between countries more visible.

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Image: A homeless man lies in front of the Louvre Hotel in Paris.
Photographs: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters.
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Despite robust growth in some emerging economies, many countries remain trapped in a cycle of poverty with tremendous implications ranging from lack of access to basic social infrastructure such as good education, healthcare and sanitation to political fragility of the state.

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Image: A jobless man pulls a trolley full of recyclable items in Orlando, Soweto in Aouth Africa.
Photographs: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters.
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Economic analysis by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and others suggests that real income growth of the top income quintiles of the populations in Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the United States of America was twice as large as that of the bottom quintiles between the mid-1980s to mid-2000s.

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Image: Aida Lemus, 70, cries as she is evicted from her foreclosed condominium in Anaheim, California.
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters.
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Income inequality as measured by the Gini Index over the past decade has also increased rapidly in emerging economies such as India, China, or Indonesia.

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Image: A homeless woman looks on as demonstrators march during a protest against globalisation.

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While risks are increasingly globalised and interconnected, global governance capacities are highly fragmented.

Global governance failures create and exacerbate systemic global risks, survey results showed strong interconnections between global governance failures and regulatory failures, corruption and economic disparity, with retrenchment from globalization and global governance failures being seen as mutually reinforcing, the study said.

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Image: Members of an Italian anti-poverty coalition wear masks of G8 country leaders.
Photographs: Chris Helgren/Reuters.
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Water, food and energy security are chronic impediments to economic growth and social stability.

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Image: Internally displaced Somali people receive relief food in Madina district, southern Mogadishu.
Photographs: Feisal Omar/Reuters.
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Economic growth and population growth are common drivers for all three risks, especially as improving living conditions in emerging economies results in more resource-intensive consumption patterns.

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Image: Devotees watch idols of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity and Lord Shiva during
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.
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Environmental pressures also drive resource insecurity -- from climate shifts to extreme weather events that alter rainfall and affect crop production.

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Image: A child carries a tray of bread on his head in Cairo.
Photographs: Nasser Nuri/Reuters.
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Governance failures in terms of managing shared resources - such as trans-boundary water and energy sources and food trade agreements - create tensions that can lead to conflict, as seen recently in Yemen.

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Image: Protesters carry an army soldier after he took part in clashes with supporters of Yemeni President.
Photographs: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters.
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Economic disparity also often exacerbates this nexus of risks as governments and consumers seek short-term, unsustainable solutions to economic hardship such as growing high-value, water-intensive export crops in water-deprived regions.

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Image: A child holds a bottle of emergency long shelf-life mineral water at a nursery school in Tokyo.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Over the next 10 years, the world population is expected to rise from the current 6.83 billion to approximately 7.7 billion, with most of the growth in emerging economies.

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Image: Children wait in a queue to collect water distributed by the army at the Jatrabari area in Dhaka.
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters.
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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects a 50 per cent increase in demand for food by 2030, and the International Food Policy Research Instituted (IFRI) expects a 30 per cent increase in demand for water, with other estimates rising to over 40 per cent.

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Image: Vendors work in roadside shops during a power cut in an old part of Dhaka.
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters.
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The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the world economy will demand at least 40 per cent more energy by 2030; producing this energy will draw heavily on freshwater resources.

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Image: A man and his son ride a bicycle on dry and cracked farmland in San Juan town, near Manila.
Photographs: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters.
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For such increased demand for water, food and energy to be realised, significant and perhaps radical changes in water use will be required as well as new sources for food and energy production exploited.

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Image: More demand for food.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Awareness is growing that the real world is vulnerable to security threats from the virtual world, but the complexity of "cyber security" issues is still not well understood and its risks could be underestimated.

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Image: US Dept of Homeland Security analysts work at the National Cybersecurity Communications Center.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Cyber security encompasses online data and information security and critical information infrastructure breakdown, and ranges from petty online theft by disenfranchised youths to government-led provocations with potentially catastrophic consequences.


Image: Malaysians participate in a computer attack and defence hacking competition.
Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters.
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