World told lack of foresight exacerbated pandemic problems

The World Economic Forum has said the world is paying the price for failing to heed its warnings over the threat of a global pandemic.

As the WEF launched its Global Risks Report 2021 this morning, its Managing Director highlighted the the inaction that had left the devastation caused by COVID-19 is set to impair a generation.

“In 2020, the risk of a global pandemic became reality, something this report has been highlighting since 2006. We know how difficult it is for governments, business and other stakeholders to address such long-term risks, but the lesson here is for all of us to recognise that ignoring them doesn’t make them less likely to happen,” Saadia Zahidi (above) explained. “As governments, businesses and societies begin to emerge from the pandemic, they must now urgently shape new economic and social systems that improve our collective resilience and capacity to respond to shocks while reducing inequality, improving health and protecting the planet.”

The WEF added: “In 2020, we saw the effects of ignoring preparation and ignoring long-term risks. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only claimed millions of lives, but it also widened long-standing health, economic and digital disparities. Billions of caregivers, workers and students – especially minorities who were disadvantaged before the pandemic – are now at risk of missing pathways to the new and fairer societies that the recovery could unlock.”

The report warned urgent global cooperation is needed to address long-term challenges such as environmental degradation.

“Economic and societal fallout from COVID-19 will profoundly impact the way organisations interact with clients and colleagues long after any vaccine rollout. As businesses transform their workplaces, new vulnerabilities are emerging. Rapid digitalisation is exponentially increasing cyber exposures, supply chain disruption is radically altering business models, and a rise in serious health issues has accompanied employees’ shift to remote working,” said Carolina Klint, Risk Management Leader, Continental Europe, Marsh. “Every business will need to strengthen and constantly review their risk mitigation strategies if they are to improve their resilience to future shocks.”

The report warned that responses to COVID-19, will need to be swift. It will also need to draw on lessons designed to bolster global resilience. These lessons include formulating analytical frameworks, fostering risk champions, building trust through clear and consistent communication, and creating new forms of partnership. The key risks outlined in the report are complemented with recommendations to help countries, businesses, and the international community to act, rather than react, in the face of cross-cutting risks. The report closes with an overview of “frontier risks” – nine high-impact, low-probability events drawn from expert foresight exercises – including geomagnetic disruption, accidental wars and exploitation of brain-machine interfaces.

“The pandemic in 2020 was a stress-test that shook the foundations of economies and societies worldwide. Rebuilding resilience to systemic shocks will require significant funding, international cooperation and greater social cohesion, said Lee Hyung-hee, President, Social Value Committee, SK Group.

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