The Congress Centre, the venue of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, where the world's business elite will gather. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News
The Congress Centre, the venue of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, where the world's business elite will gather. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News

Optimism behind the uncertainty for decision-makers

Someone asked me recently, with so much uncertainty in the world today, how can world leaders effectively plan and implement long-term policies? The person had a point. Five years on from a global financial crisis, uncertainty still reigns on how we achieve sustainable global growth.

In geopolitics, the dynamic between traditional superpowers and emerging economies, while fascinating, is far from being fully understood. Even our virtual personas tread muddy waters, contending with ambiguities over digital rights and doubtful online security. And globalisation - the very system that links these spheres together - is equally threatened. Its capitalist underpinnings have been questioned, while the glut of institutional governance systems it has spawned suggests that we are a long way from true global trusteeship.

Some of these challenges are explored in the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Outlook 2013. It takes the input of more than 1,500 global experts and thinkers who, through their research, commitment and leadership, address the world's most pressing issues daily.

The report looks in more detail at some of the uncertainties that lie ahead. However, its unspoken argument is that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, one side effect of uncertainty is hope - and there are plenty of optimistic messages in the Global Agenda Outlook for world leaders to focus on this year.

There is hope in the sphere of economics: the report identifies nanotechnology, better robotics and increments in the energy sector as three sources of economic prosperity this year.

There is hope in regions that have experienced increased volatility in the past two years; although the Arab Spring is still in its infancy, our report touches on the promise the area holds for democracy and citizen engagement. There is great hope in hyperconnectivity, too; by its very nature, it is bringing us together and allows for a much more effective exchange of information, goods and services. Our experts single out the innovative use of data and technology for immense public benefit in, for example, cancer research.

There is hope in globalisation, still, which will continue to be a vehicle for poverty reduction and the spreading of wealth.

Finally, we should remember we have succeeded in overcoming major global obstacles before, and we will continue to do so this year. We are on the cusp of eliminating diseases - HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis - which were previously thought deadly. This is a benchmark of society's progress.

For me, the Global Agenda Outlook 2013 is more than a summary of the uncertainties we face today. It highlights the most compelling debates throughout the Forum's Network of Global Agenda Councils and critically examines the existing claims and discussions, with the intention of deepening our understanding of how this year will shape up. We launched the report a week before the Wednesday's start of the annual meeting in Davos, which always falls in January, precisely because the world leaders in attendance are looking for new ideas to guide their decision-making for the year ahead.

Our intention is for the report to act as a briefing document for decision-makers. At the same time, we feel that a little dose of optimism is much needed medicine for the world's ills.

Martina Gmur is senior director and head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, World Economic Forum

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