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American Forces Press Service

Report on Global Trends Discusses Game Changers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2012 – The pace of change in the world has accelerated and Global Trends 2030 -- a publication of the National Intelligence Council -- lists what experts consider game changers that will drive world events over the next 18 years.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the Global Trends 2030 report Dec. 10. The game changers that appear in the report are mostly in place today.

"It's the economy, stupid" may have been the bumper sticker moment in the 1990s, and it will continue to be a game changer in the years ahead. The report said that the international economy will "almost certainly" be characterized by regional economies moving at different speeds -- just as they do today. This will cause imbalances and economic winners and losers in the world.

"The key question is whether the divergences and increased volatility will result in a global breakdown and collapse or whether the development of multiple growth centers will lead to resiliency," the report said.

China will eclipse the United States as the world's leading economy before 2030, the report says, and other nations such as India and Brazil will advance economically. The United States will no longer be the world's only superpower and with the emergence of other centers of power there will be a change in global dynamics.

"The world's economic prospects will increasingly depend on the fortunes of the East and South," the report said. The developing world already accounts for 50 percent of economic growth and 40 percent of global investment and this will increase. China's growth rate of 10 percent per year will probably slow to 5 percent by 2020, but that's still enough to maintain its growing economy.

Another game changer, according to the report, is the "governance gap." This means power will become more diffuse and a growing number of diverse state and non-state entities will play important governance roles.

"The governance gap will continue to be most pronounced at the domestic level and driven by rapid political and social changes," the report said. Advances in health, education and income will continue and will drive government structures, as will changes in communications.

The transition to democracy in some nations will continue to be rocky. "Currently, about 50 countries are in the awkward stage between autocracy and democracy," the report said. These countries are concentrated in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Recent history and trends, the report said, "support the idea that with maturing age structures and rising incomes, political liberalization and democracy will advance."

New communications technologies will become a double-edged sword for governance, the report said, noting social networking "will enable citizens to coalesce and challenge governments." On the other hand, the report added, such technologies "will provide governments … an unprecedented ability to monitor their citizens."

A third game changer is the potential for increased conflict. This may sound like an oxymoron because the recent trend has been toward fewer major conflicts in the world. The report posits that there will be less chance of conflicts between great powers and probably fewer conflicts between nations. But there will likely be conflicts within nations. These "intrastate" conflicts would most likely occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia.

The report said that the current Islamic terrorism may end by 2030, but terrorism will likely remain. "Many states might continue to use terrorist groups out of a strong sense of insecurity," the report said. Individuals with niche capabilities -- such as cyber expertise -- may sell themselves to terror groups to create widespread economic and financial disruptions.

A fourth game changer is a wider scope of regional instability. Essentially this means that localized unrest may spill over and cause problems well out of the area. The Middle East and South Asia, the report said, are the two areas where this is likeliest to happen.

A fifth game changer is the impact of new technologies. Information technology will continue to develop. Data storage will become cheaper and new ways of searching and fashioning data will aid all. Another breakthrough technology is anticipated in manufacturing and automation. These technologies will increase productivity and will drive the economies of Asia, the report says.

Finally, another game changer involves the role of the United States in world affairs, according to the report. How the U.S. role changes over the next 15 to 20 years will be crucial to reinventing the international system as the world transitions to a multipolar community. The United States will probably remain the first among equals, the report said. "The United States' dominant role in international politics has derived from its preponderance across the board in both hard and soft power," the report noted.

The United States' position in the world will be determined in part by maintaining alliances, building new relations with emerging countries and working with multinational organizations, the report said.

The report does say with certainty that a U.S. collapse or the sudden retreat of the United States from the world stage "would most likely result in an extended period of global anarchy."

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