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- New global players set the first trend. They include India, China and other countries that are going to change the geopolitical scene, like the newly united and rising Germany did in the 19 century, or the United States did in the 20th.
- Globalisation is another trend. It is an all-encompassing force and will have a fundamental influence on all other essential trends of the world until 2020. The world economy will probably continue to grow: it will have grown 80% by 2020 compared to 2000, and the average per capita income will be 50% more. Benefits arising from the development, however, will not be of a global nature. They will only include such countries and groups that will have access to new technologies and will master them. Both China and India are in a position to play a leading role in technological development. Even the poorest countries will be able to use the potential of cheap technologies in order to boost their own development. More companies will become global, their structure will be more diverse, and their orientation will be toward Asia rather than the West. Like the present-day multinational corporations, they will not be subject to control, and will be the key players in spreading of technologies, causing the integration of the world’s economies and supporting the economic development in developing countries. Growth of economies will result in increased demand for resources. The competition for resources along with the likely collapse of oil supplies are the key uncertainties.
- The third trends is the new civil service challenges. The national state will remain the dominant, fundamental unit within the world order, but economic globalisation and the spread of technologies, especially in information, will exert enormous pressures on governments. Part of the pressures will also originate from new forms of politics striving for preserving identities based on religious beliefs. Especially political Islam, supported by various ethnic and national groups, will have a significant global influence also in 2020. It may also form an authority exceeding national borders. The ‘third wave’ of democratising may reappear in 2020 especially in the former Soviet Union countries and in Southeast Asia, some of whose countries have never been democratic. The permanent change affecting the international system may lead to failure of those institutes originally intended to control it.
- A feeling of uncertainty can be expected to grow, caused by psychological and physical threats. Although the majority of the world will grow richer, globalisation will shatter existing relationships greatly. Enormous economic, cultural and eventually political tensions will thus be generated. The transition will not be painless, and it will affect the middle classes in developed countries predominantly. The combined action of weak governments, failing economies, religious extremism, and growing young population may result in internal conflicts in certain regions. The likelihood of conflict between superpowers is smaller than at any point during the last century, however.
- It seems that the next fifteen years will see no change in international terrorism. Other, similar extremist groups can be expected to replace Al-Qaida. The most pressing question is whether the terrorists can acquire biological or, less likely, nuclear weapons, which could lead to massive death tolls. Four trends of possible futures are then based on these trends.