A report out today from the United Nations Economist Network features contributions from UNU-WIDER’s Carlos Gradín and UNU-MERIT’s Neil Foster-McGregor – respectively writing on inequalities and the emergence of digital technologies.
The report examines five megatrends: climate change; demographic shifts, particularly population ageing; urbanisation; the emergence of digital technologies; and inequalities – that are affecting economic, social and environmental outcomes. Efforts to reverse or redirect these trends must be reinforced to ensure that we achieve the full measure of the 2030 Agenda, and set the stage for an inclusive, sustainable and equitable future during the next 75 years.
All trends are the result of human activity, and as such, they can be shaped by human decisions and policy choices. By making the right choices today, without further delay, it is not too late to shape the major trends of our time in a direction that is sustainable and delivers benefits to all. Policies can influence a single megatrend as well as other megatrends that interact with it. This creates the potential for co-benefits, where a positive result is achieved in one area through an intervention designed to generate change in another. Such policy interventions can propel more effective, mutually reinforcing changes, and significantly greater impacts.
The UN can help to frame responses to the megatrends in terms that encourage domestic political consensus to form behind taking sustained action. In doing so, the UN can assist in mobilising needed global support for individual countries, particularly those with fewer resources.
“The five megatrends identified and discussed in the report relate to the most important challenges that humanity faces, trends that will continue to be major drivers of change in society across the globe,” said Prof Foster-McGregor. “The report highlights the important role for policy in mitigating the costs – and maximising the benefits – of these trends, and in particular the importance of systems thinking in looking to address the challenges that these inter-connected trends bring in a holistic and integrated way.”
The opinions expressed here are the authors’ own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNSplash / A. Kelly