The Risk Advisory Group Ltd (‘Risk Advisory’) has released Strategic Outlook 2020 - The New Poltical Risks - its sixth annual global security forecast.
The Outlook conveys the joint assessments of Risk Advisory’s regional and thematic intelligence analysts. It contains more than 300 forecasts on a range of issues relevant to security, crisis and geopolitical risk across every region.
Intended to be a practical working document, the Outlook also provides early warning indicators to watch through 2020. It flags outliers to challenge assumptions and encourage anticipation of higher-impact surprise events. And it provides thematic analysis across different regions to help readers interpret and predict intentions, actions and outcomes in 2020.
The Outlook is essential reading for anyone concerned with and making decisions about geopolitical and security risks and how to manage them.
Key themes include:
- Europe - A probable economic downturn is likely to destabilise governments and help nationalists grow their support in 2020. Some of Europe’s largest economies will come under strain, having built little resilience since the 2007-08 financial crisis. Rising unemployment and low wages will add resonance to calls of nationalists and right-wing extremists to accelerate the collapse of the established order. A reaction by the far-left is also likely, together deepening societal and political divides, and in some countries pushing mainstream policy in a direction that is hostile towards business and diversity.
- Environmentalist terrorism - We forecast that 2020 will be the year when climate-change related terrorism starts to become a new normal. As the impacts of climate change become more acute, and the sense of existential emergency more widely felt, climate activism will probably become more radical and violent. Activists on the left and right are already using climate change to rally people to their ideologies. Business and governments have traditionally been targets for climate activism, but right-wing extremists are likely to use climate change to justify violence against minorities and other perceived adversaries.
- Eurasia is likely to focus inwards in 2020, with most states pushing for regional self-reliance and resolution to conflicts. Nearly all governments face societal and economic pressure as they balance the growing sway of China with the waning influence of the US and Russia. Demands for change will test the stability of stagnant political systems, but sudden changes are unlikely. The main sources of geopolitical risk will be Russia and Turkey, with key fault lines in the western reaches of the region.
- We warn of several potentially high-impact political and security crisis in West and Central Africa in 2020. Security threats posed by evolving armed insurgencies and weapon flows across porous borders, alongside a series of contentious elections, are likely to result in unrest and place significant stress on unstable regimes and fragile economies across the region. Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire are the countries we assess to be most at risk this year, with a breakdown of the rule of law in the former, and civil war in the latter.
- East and Southern Africa face challenges in 2020. Economic growth in several countries in the south of the continent is likely to be sluggish. Some are at risk of recession, which will test the resilience of governments, most notably in South Africa. It will probably also undermine security in states that were previously among the region’s most stable. Underlying tensions in other countries will also make them vulnerable to crises. Potential triggers include an election due in Ethiopia in May, drought and famine in Zimbabwe, and the increasingly nationalist resource policy of the government in Zambia.
- The ability of several countries in North Africa to manage political transitions and maintain stability will probably be tested in 2020. Social and political demands to improve economic conditions will almost certainly rise. But most governments are either unwilling or unable to make the changes required to deliver growth, preferring control and continuity over sudden political change or economic reforms that may increase hardship in the near term. The incompatibility between public and government stances, coupled with chronic insecurity in Libya and the Sahel, suggest that 2020 will be a year of persisting tumult.
- Middle East - Middle Eastern powers are likely to increasingly take it upon themselves to contain security threats in 2020, rather than rely on the United States. This will probably be through direct unilateral military action, forming new alliances, or building backchannels. New alliances will take time to yield results and will deepen the multi-polar power balance within the region. The absence of an effective mediator in 2020 will sustain a high likelihood of military or militant-proxy activity - and with it miscalculation and escalation into conflicts.
- The year 2020 is likely to be a year of significant risk for civil aviation, and by extension global commerce. Geopolitical tensions and high potential for armed conflict threaten to disrupt the busiest air corridors in the world in 2020. The strategic routes linking Europe and Asia are particularly vulnerable due to multiple flashpoints. States appear increasingly willing to use airspace as a means of diplomacy and coercion. Airlines will also need to contend with evolving terrorist and activist threats.
- South Asia is likely to see significant geopolitical change and risk in 2020. With waning US influence in the region, China is likely to become more assertive in its overarching strategy for political and economic dominance. Renewed and escalating security crises - particularly tying terrorist action to bigger geopolitical risks - are likely in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. And perceptions by China of growing threats to its economic investments, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, mean that direct intervention to safeguard its interests is becoming a more probable scenario in 2020.
- Asia Pacific - Regional disputes over unresolved historical issues are likely to intensify in 2020. We forecast that this will negatively affect economic and political stability across Asia Pacific. With a gradual decline is US engagement, China will most likely become even more assertive, fuelling anti-China sentiment and growing resistance in Hong Kong, Taiwan and some countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. Continuing tit-for-tat actions between South Korea and Japan will probably add to the economic pressures from the US-China trade war and make it increasingly difficult for governments and businesses to resist Chinese influence.
- Many countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are likely to be seething with public anger in 2020. Widespread public discontent across social classes with economic stagnation, political corruption and authoritarianism gave rise to prolonged periods of intense protests against ruling elites and bouts of civil unrest in 2019. Discontent over these issues is likely to continue well into the next year, and renewed bouts of protests and unrest are also likely. A regionwide series of popular uprisings - a ‘Latin American spring’ - seems very unlikely, but a restive year beckons in 2020.
- The US presidential election will be among the most consequential global events of 2020. A lot could change before 3 November. But our preliminary forecast is that President Donald Trump will narrowly win a second term. In any case, his ‘America First’ agenda is likely to continue to isolate the US this year, undermining what has come to be his administration’s primary foreign policy objective, countering the rise and ambition of China. This paradox exemplifies an incoherence and unpredictability in US foreign policy. None of it is likely to harm the president’s electoral prospects, however.
Strategic Outlook 2020 also provides:
- Trend indicators: These are net judgements on whether we expect - on balance - security and political risks to grow, stabilise or lessen over the course of 2020
- Regional keynote: Each regional section highlights the themes and trends that we think will define and shape events in the coming year. These contain specific forecasts but also aim to serve as a lens through which to interpret and anticipate the causes and impacts of risks in 2020
- Infographics: We use a variety of infographics to illustrate our assessments, the basis of our ideas, causal relations and ensure the overall outlook is easy to grasp and succinct
- Forecasts: These convey specific forecasts on important issus not covered in the regional keynote assessments and aim to capture the most probable priority risks and developments
- Outliers: Scenarios outside of regular expectations and what we think could prove surprises or failures of intelligence or imagination. They are framed as high-impact events that, while improbable, are within reasonable plausibility. Outliers aim to challenge assumptions and biases, and present ideas for crisis planning
- Monitoring points: Early warning indicators to watch. They are specific information points or developments that we flag to help readers track whether our forecasts in the regional keynote are on their way to realisation or taking a different trajectory
Key Quote(s) from Henry Wilkinson
“The Strategic Outlook 2020 aims to help Risk Advisory's clients better understand transformation and change in the global risk environment, anticipate and plan for crisis, and foresee improvements to gain an early commercial advantage. Forecasting is not an exact science but it is an essential process that starts conversations and the process of building resilience. Our assessments show that the need for global businesses to take board-level ownership of geopolitical risks, and invest in intelligence that one can trust amid a growing tide of disinformation, has never been more urgent or important."
“Strategic Outlook is intended to encourage our clients to consider, discuss and plan for future risk scenarios, and to reduce the risk of surprise by stimulating forethought. For us, it informs our intelligence collection and plans and resourcing for the coming year.”
Key Quote(s) from readers
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- “Henry Wilkinson, Head of Intelligence & Analysis at The Risk Advisory Group”
- “The Risk Advisory Group”
About Henry Wilkinson
Head of Intelligence and Analysis, Henry has overall responsibility for the group’s worldwide political and security intelligence gathering, risk and threat assessments and analytical products and services, including SIAS.
About The Risk Advisory Group
The Risk Advisory Group Ltd is a leading independent global risk consultancy that helps businesses grow whilst protecting their people, their assets and their brands. The driving purpose of Risk Advisory’s Intelligence and Security practice is to reduce clients’ security-risk anxiety and free them up to achieve their goals, knowing their people, assets and reputation are safe. By providing facts, intelligence, analysis and security expertise Risk Advisory helps its clients negotiate complex and uncertain environments to choose the right opportunities, in the right markets, with the right partners.
The company was founded in 1997, employs over 125 people and has offices in Washington DC, New York, London, Moscow, Dubai, Beirut and Hong Kong.
Further information is available at www.riskadvisory.com
About SIAS (Security Intelligence & Analysis Service)
An intelligence capability for leaders in security.
Risk Advisory’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service (SIAS) provides global organisations with an operational, current and strategic-level intelligence capability.
SIAS delivers highly actionable, anticipatory, all-source intelligence for security and crisis management decision making, advice, policy, planning and operations.
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About The Strategic Outlook 2020
Strategic Outlook 2020 is for those whose decisions and responsibilities hinge upon geopolitical and strategic security risks. It aims to provide strategic early warning of crises, changes and trends in risk, scenarios to inform planning, monitoring points for informed observers, and contextual frameworks to interpret coming events.
Strategic Outlook 2020 is intended to be a practical working document. As well as a digital version, a hard copy edition with Security & Safety Risk Map wall chart is available.
Further information is available at: https://www.riskadvisory.com/campaigns/strategic-outlook-2020/