Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

UN General Assembly

United Nations identifies five man-made 'megatrends' to impact global efforts

These include climate change, inequalities, urbanisation, rapid population changes and technological revolution

Commuters head to work in Tokyo, Japan. On average, people in Japan saved 44 per cent of their income in the five months through August this year. AP
Commuters head to work in Tokyo, Japan. On average, people in Japan saved 44 per cent of their income in the five months through August this year. AP

A UN-backed report has identified five man‑made “megatrends” that will dominate global efforts towards putting the world on a more sustainable and prosperous path.

These include climate change and nature degradation, inequalities, urbanisation, rapid population changes and technological revolution. It also warned that these trends could derail the development process if remedial "policy interventions" are not implemented now.

This is the moment for the world to come together

Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of UN Conference on Trade and Development

The report, titled Shaping the Trends of Our Time, said that five years into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, progress is already off-track and, in many instances, may have even been reversed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is the moment for the world to come together to confront the megatrends highlighted in this report through forward-looking policies that are fit for purpose,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

“A better and fairer society can emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic if global coordinated action is taken to address the fragilities within and among nations to ensure prosperity for all,” added Mr Kituyi.

Policy commitments have not translated into policy actions, the report said.

Sustainable practices happening but too slowly

Sustainable finance is increasing but neither fast enough nor at the necessary scale. The change in our behaviour and mindsets does not yet match our ambitions for sustainable development, it added.

Without an overhaul of the current disjointed policy-making, the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the 15-year global objectives to improve the lives of people everywhere, is highly unlikely.

“Decades in the making, these megatrends cannot be easily undone or changed in any significant way in the immediate term,” said Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs that led the report preparation.

“But they are the result of human activity, and therefore they can be shaped over time by consistent policies.”

For example, decades of targeted policies have contributed to one of the mankind’s biggest shifts in megatrends - the drastic changes in the world population.

From a peak of 2 per cent in the 1960s, average annual growth of the global population has slowed down to 1 per cent at present and is expected to cease entirely by the end of the century.

“Because each megatrend also affects the other megatrends, policy interventions in one area can generate positive and mutually reinforcing impacts in another,” said Mr Zhenmin.

For example, urbanisation brings together all the factors necessary for technological innovation and productivity gains. And although urban centres generate most global greenhouse gas emissions and close to half of all waste, proper planning and control can overcome the damages to the environment, the report added.

It also stressed that the UN has a crucial role in framing the responses to the global megatrends.

Updated: September 18, 2020 07:21 PM

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