The Challenge Network

Introduction

Introduction

This article is the outcome of a team effort, initiated by Shell International on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of scenario-planning in Shell. The team addressed the topic "Geopolitics - the Next Wave" without any preconceived ideas about where the project should lead or what the outcome should be. It started with brainstorming in an open-ended manner. The brainstorming sessions covered a very wide range of topics and opinions. These did not produce a consensus point of view, but they could be clustered together in order to create structure. Gradually, the main demarcation lines emerged, and the team zoomed in on the most controversial and the most frequently mentioned topics. The outcome of this process was the 2x2 matrix that provides the framework of this report. This framework contains the clusters of opinions and insights that subsequently helped the team to identify the key forces, dilemmas and uncertainties. The corresponding scenarios illustrate how current developments are expected to develop in the medium / long term future.

Go back to the scenario history review here

Branching points

Branching points

Geopolitics is influenced by every other dimension of global development : technology, demographics, economics, socio-cultural and political trends - that are all interconnected. We each have our own views and convictions as to which new type of world is developing. As a first step, the team members discussed their views on "the big picture", including ideology, trends, events and issues. When a certain degree of convergence had been reached, a simple framework was adopted as the basic structure for further debate. This framework highlights two dimensions that were considered decisive for future geopolitical developments. These dimensions correspond with the key uncertainties and dilemmas, and are expressed in the following key questions :

These two dimensions are independent from one another. Hence they lead us towards four possible combinations, represented in the 2 x 2 matrix below :

  The future is seen in terms of:
How the major powers
will respond:

Fear and
Angst

Exploiting the opportunities

Using force to
impose progress
A1 B1
Power of persuasion
showing the way
A2 B2

We can define the two axes ( A - B and 1 - 2 ) in more detail. We do this by describing the end-points of the two axes (A, B, 1, 2). The descriptions of the end-points of the two axes are, by definition, rather black-and-white. In real life, we will rarely encounter these extremes, but rather the many positions in-between.

Horizontal axis (A - B) : The future in terms of threats or opportunities.

This axis distinguishes between pessimists and optimists, between those profoundly concerned about where current trends are leading, and those with confidence and the expectation that things will work out. Both perspectives were represented within the team.

Perspective A Fear of global catastrophe

Although the late 1990s were a time of positive economic development, the underlying trends are still going from challenging to unmanageable. Examples are the growing numbers of losers in the world, political fundamentalism and confrontation, conflicts over water, the ravages of AIDS, the unstoppable crime syndicates, the religious intolerance. We started opening our eyes, slowly. "Silent Spring" was the wake-up call. In this perspective, the message of the Club of Rome in the early 1970s was premature but basically correct. Many current trends, if allowed to continue, will create unsustainable situations. The billions of people in developing countries will not even come close to adopting the current lifestyles of the Western World. Long before, the world will face severe shortages and price increases that are politically disastrous. We are on a collision course. There are too many exponential developments, that require time to slow down or reverse. The question is not what we should do and in which direction we should steer the world. It is how we can survive a situation that, definitely in many communities and especially at the local level, is slowly but surely getting out of hand.

We have started to see how this process will develop in practice. Disaster starts on a local scale, often in communities that are the most exposed. At the same time, in other communities, economic development proceeds and accelerates. Media and modern communications make the connection ; every community is aware of how other communities are doing. Without signs of genuine improvement, or confidence in the leadership, people respond with anger, apathy, fear and frustration. People feel they need champions and protectors, and we see a revival of ethnic, religious and regional identities. They will hinder the very institutions on which progress depends. Under these circumstances, the expansion of democracy-Western-style and capitalism is coming to a standstill. We live in a world of winners and losers ; in some countries, disease is spreading and life expectancy is declining, whereas other countries are doing well, and increasing numbers of people have it all. This may seem all seem part of a normal development process, but observers at "A" are convinced that they are looking at the writing on the wall.

Perspective B Exploiting the opportunities

Mankind is progressing. It is better, in almost every country, to be alive today than at any other time in history. Terrorist attacks are evil, create high levels of frustration and attract a great deal of attention, but measured on a global scale the problem is quite manageable - it should be seen in proportion. Today's global terrorism is not rooted in deprivation or poverty, but in personal frustration and political expediency. Irresponsible leaders use national security in order to keep a grip on the population, promoting polarisation and nationalism as the means to stay in power. However, once a critical threshold has been reached, countervailing forces come into play; totalitarian regimes become isolated and increasingly lack the power to influence developments outside their own borders.

New opportunities for world development have emerged that offer bright prospects. Technology and improved communications are at the roots of many of these new developments, seeming to justify the belief in "technical fix" solutions. In every country, the right policies will lead to improving standards of living. The rich countries increasingly accept that they have a moral obligation to do everything possible that helps other countries to catch up with them. They are willing to show the way and assist the world's problem areas even if this is at some cost and sacrifice to themselves. High aspirations tend to be self-fulfilling. The first condition in every country is to establish civil liberties such as personal freedom, a free press, and living without fear of the authorities. Subsequently, government systems will gradually develop from authoritarian towards democratic. This process is in full swing in many regions of the world, improving the prospects of billions of people.

Vertical axis (1 - 2) : How the political powers will respond.

It is clear that, in response to today's geopolitical trends, the world should act - and in particular the countries with the resources and the experience to do so. The question is how they should use the power at their disposal. The leading nations should be willing to use force, is one reasoning, in order to impose change and initiate development. The other reasoning states that all societies are primarily responsible for their own development, and that countries can encourage others but not impose their points of view.

Perspective 1: Using force to impose progress

All evidence shows that civil liberties, democracy and various forms of capitalism generate prosperity and development. However, traditionalists and interest groups often oppose change by all possible means. These groups range from crony capitalists to political extremists or Islamic groups. The world community cannot allow splinter groups with often corrupt or fundamentalist intentions to halt development. It may be the most convenient solution to let regimes do to their own population whatever they want, quoting the principle of national sovereignty. However, this is short-sighted and it signals a lack of sense of responsibility. Without security, development is impossible. The criminal methods of terrorism world-wide have to be stopped with all means available. This includes declaring war on terrorists and their helpers and financiers. Especially the eschatological terrorists will never compromise, and use of force is the only possible response. The good news is : this war can be won, and has to be won, for the benefit of potential victims in the West and among the vast majorities of the population in developing countries. The main contribution has to come from the world's superpower, the US. Effective policies require military and economic capability, as well as the clear willingness to use power and threaten to use power, - in order to put pressure on the enemies of progress and peace. The military dimension has far from disappeared from global politics. The civilised world has the means, the right and a moral obligation to use the resources at its disposal. The world cannot be taken hostage by the forces of evil and backwardness.

Perspective 2: Power of persuasion showing the way

The impact of military power, regardless of rationale and the level of sophistication, is increasingly limited. If the enemy is militarily weak or consists of a vague network of fanatics that cannot be located, traditional arms cannot enforce victory. Widespread use of military means creates an unsafe world, because it accelerates the development of new generations of weapons, and cannot prevent that these will get into the wrong hands. Low-tech sabotage and terrorist activities can happen any time anywhere. Total control over all potential terrorists cannot be achieved. The new anti-terror powers of electronic surveillance and data mining are effective, but at the same time threaten civil liberties and even democracy. Whether we will have a safe world that is getting at ease with itself, depends on the projection of "spiritual" rather than military power. This process depends on setting examples and on persuasion ; it is helped by exchanges between cultures and countries, not just at government levels but at every level. It is crucial to mobilise the silent majorities of aggressive societies. Only a multitude of numerous small-scale projects at the micro-level can break down the opposition to change and progress. Peace is sustainable when war no longer rewards its proponents. The solution is not military power or ideology, but commitment, understanding, and people-to-people initiatives.

Four worldviews

Four worldviews

We can now fill in the four quadrants of the 2x2 matrix. Each quadrant describes a specific worldview, linked with specific interpretations and policies. We summarise the situation in each of the quadrants in a single statement, as shown in the matrix below. Subsequently, we describe the quadrants in more detail.

  The future is seen in terms of:
How the major powers
will respond:
Fear and
Angst
Exploiting the opportunities
Using force to
impose progress
The forces of evil have to be defeated No crusade, but carry a big stick
Power of persuasion
showing the way
Acceptance that this is a dead end Positive attitude and enlightened self-interest

A1: The forces of evil have to be defeated - use force for people's own good.

This is a world where a benign superpower, the US, plays a key role. It is willing and able to use a wide range of instruments, including military power but also electronic surveillance and anti-espionage. The bottom line is that certain countries and religious groups will try and prevail in major parts of the world -- unless they are stopped. The use of force is essential because this is the only language that the more extreme and fundamentalists movements understand. When those blocking progress and development can be eliminated, everyone is better off. Hence in such situations, the use of force is legitimised as it is the lesser evil. Apart from pro-active use of military force in problem areas, this development has consequences for American and European societies as well.

Defence policies will try and create protective shields, strict immigration procedures will be enforced, and civil liberties will be under pressure when new technology is used to keep track of suspects. The media strongly emphasise the world-wide threats and dangers of the new era, and make the population aware of the risks. In particular new biotechnology weapons, e.g. effectively sterilising a population, are considered with trepidation. Governments see protecting their population as a top priority and they will make the necessary means available. There is widespread agreement that evil can only be defeated by the use of force, and the US is being relied on to play the key role. This is a world where secret service activities are expanding and a new arms race can be expected. The US is in a class of its own - saving an unwilling world, that should be grateful to a superpower that is honest and generous. Even if America is less than generous and if others are not grateful, this creates not more than irritation and temporary setbacks. In essence, in spite of all the talking, there is no other way. The American neo-cons are at the heart of this mindset and worldview.

B1: No desire to initiate a massive crusade, but carrying a big stick.

The use of power is rationalised in terms of commitment to the common cause and the well-being of the global community. It is legitimate because the world community is aware of the dangers posed by totalitarian and fundamentalist leaders, and by small groups of determined extremists in particular. In matters of war and peace, full legitimacy requires explicit support of the UN. If UN support has been secured, other countries will participate in the enforcement of international laws and principles, also if this asks for military involvement. "Imposing progress", in particular in nation-building programmes where civil liberties and a legal framework have to be introduced, is a difficult task. Without a legitimate base, it would be almost impossible. The period after WWII showed how societies and "failed states" can be resurrected successfully - clearly imposed from above, but based on legitimacy and bottom-up initiatives. Nation-building in developing countries without previous experience and without the right institutions, is considerably more difficult. The first step is always the introduction of civil liberties ; freedom means a free press, the right to go to school, free religion, and property rights. Introducing democracy is important but ensuring good government is more important. None of this will happen automatically, certainly not within a limited time-frame. Where governments are concerned who are a disaster to their own people and a threat to their neighbours, the developed world is obliged to keep the pressure up, and to cut off trade and diplomatic links with those regimes, - while supporting people of good will with all means available.

A2: Accept that we are at a dead end, encourage the necessary paradigm shift.

world is becoming ever more depressed as the forces emerging from globalisation and modernisation develop beyond control. Countries, companies and individuals are forced to be cautious, never knowing if and where disaster will strike. There is a strong temptation to sort things out once and for all. But the threats we are facing, cannot be removed in a traditional fashion. This even applies to the most 'visible' of challenges, such as eschatological terrorist groups. These are not interested in solutions, do not listen, and, instead, are encouraged to intensify their campaigns in the face of weak opposition. Suicide bombers are another example of threats that cannot be eliminated in traditional manners. The bigger challenge is how the standard of living of the poor billions can be improved, and how people can be shown that the sensible policies of capitalism and democracy really work. Every major battle is a battle for "hearts and minds" - for which military victory is no substitute. The Western world cannot afford to be soft or absent, but definitely has to be cautious and subtle. Increasingly, the use of force will turn out to have many unexpected and negative side-effects. Every crisis is a reminder that we are all in this together, and that the rich countries bear a major responsibility for what happens in the rest of the world. The people outside the developed countries have to get the feeling that they are potential winners, not the losers. They themselves have to co-operate, as, in the long run, one can only help people who want to help themselves.

B2: Positive attitudes and enlightened self-interest ; conviction that only change of behaviour can safeguard our future.

Developed countries accept that they bear a prime responsibility for sustainable global development, and they agree that they should do everything possible to achieve it. They realise that the use of force - military, economic, political - is not the solution that will make the world safe and prosperous once and for all. Many different measures are needed, creating a climate of trust and mutual respect. It is absolutely essential to avoid escalation and polarisation. People and organisations that are afraid of, or opposed to, modernisation, have the power to block or slow down whatever progress others can make.

The major powers who feel responsible for global development, are careful to respect all cultures and not to impose their own models and ideology as a universal success formula. Experience shows that successful development depends on the realisation that other great cultures in the world have their own legitimate traditions and aspirations, and should be given the chance to achieve economic development on their own terms. In some respects, the relative weight of the West in the world has peaked, and emerging powers such as China have started to take their appropriate place. At the same time, we realise that many performance criteria in the West are not as meaningful as was always assumed, for example GDP. Free markets do many things well, but there are areas where they fail. Perhaps it is not so much economic and military power that will decide the future of the world, but spiritual power, that can bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds. The result is a change of paradigm, a "listening to other people's stories". This is also the only way in which the specific problems and the frustration of the Islam world can be diminished. Overall, the people of the world realise how much they have in common, and the self-imposed divisive constraints will gradually be removed.

The matrix below summarises the four worldviews in a few buzzwords. In the next section, we will explore to what extent these worldviews correspond with the situation in different countries and different eras.

  The future is seen in terms of:
How the major powers
will respond:
Fear and
Angst
Exploiting the opportunities
Using force to
impose progress
"Armed peace."
Security above all in a fortress-like world
Benign superpower imposes success formulae.
Remove bad apples.
Make laggards follow.
Power of persuasion
showing the way
Hoping for common sense and "technical fix" solutions.
Jointly avoid disaster.
Heed warnings.
Cultural globalisation; common vision.
Prevent polarization.
The same rights for all.

A framework for actors and trends

A framework for actors and trends

Within the matrix structure, the team tried to position individual countries. The question is with which worldview the country in question has most affinity, - in view of its current policies, aspirations and behaviour on the world scene. These assessments are very subjective, and there were major differences of opinion within the team. This is understandable; for example : who is America ? President Bush ? or California ? If both, which element should prevail ? This exercise has great potential, but the terms of reference need to be very clearly defined. It certainly made the differences of individual positions very clear and explicit. The chart below should be seen as the compromise that resulted from the team's discussion.

  The future is seen in terms of:

How the major powers
will respond:
Fear and
Angst
Exploiting the opportunities

Using force to
impose progress

Russia              India

France
USA

  UK                   Australia

Power of persuasion
showing the way
Japan          
Club of                 Germany
Rome                                

China
Canada          
NGOs                        

Not only had the team members clearly different views on the present "State of the World" but also on the past. We tried to use the matrix for showing which geopolitical development the world had experienced in the last forty years, illustrated in the chart below. After the early 1960s, we see increasing levels of fear as a result of the oil crises and alarmist views on global sustainability. This was followed by an easing of the cold war which later led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the world became smaller (globalisation) and bigger (China and others entering the scene), the global balance of power became once more a prominent topic. In recent years, we have seen that fear became a more important force again as a result of fundamentalism and terrorism.

  The future is seen in terms of:
How the major powers
will respond:
Fear and
Angst
Exploiting the opportunities
Using force to
impose progress
1973

      1963



2003
Power of persuasion:
showing the way
1983 1993

Relevance and plausibility of the "four worlds".

Relevance and plausibility of the "four worlds".

The team members gave their personal assessment of the relevance and probabilities of the "four worlds" shown in the matrix, in the medium and long term ( as distinct from : desirability). A high probability in the long term means a multitude of signals at this very moment. Each plausible long term future has its roots in past and present. After adding up the individual scores, the resulting picture is as shown in the chart below.

  The future is seen in terms of:
How the major powers
will respond:
Fear and
Angst
Exploiting the opportunities
Using force to
impose progress
120 200
Power of persuasion
showing the way
50 230

These scores can only be seen as a sign of optimism. They point to a world that will be less driven by Angst than at present, with decreasing dependence on the use of force. The world will increasingly be driven by aspirations rather than fear. It is not predetermined that we face an unsustainable future. The implicit assumption of the above scores is that there will be elements of synergy, learning, and resilience that can prevent the doomsday scenarios from developing. There are not only vicious circles but also virtuous circles.

Scenarios

Scenarios

The quadrants of the matrix, which emerged as clusters of opinions and viewpoints, correspond with four distinct perceptions of the current state of the world. Taken together, they are a snapshot of a world full of diversity and profound disagreement. People who are convinced of the power and the benefits of a specific worldview, find it difficult to communicate with people supporting another worldview. When it comes to values and beliefs, people tend not to negotiate and compromise. For this reason, it is important to identify and distinguish the prevailing worldviews.

The next step is to look to the future. If we accept that the world resembles most closely the profile of a specific quadrant of the matrix, what can we expect in the medium and long term ? In other words, how can we "extrapolate" each of the worldviews into the future ? If we restrict ourselves to a specific worldview, - a specific "box", - which tensions and contradictions can we expect to emerge ? The team's answers to these questions have led to the following four scenarios, which, because they materialise within the constraints of a specific worldview, we consider "narrow scenarios".

A1 - Using Power Unilaterally to Confront Challenges

The world will be made instantly aware of any crisis, anywhere. As a result, the attraction of terrorist activity keeps increasing; even minor attacks attract world-wide attention, and seem to achieve part of the proclaimed objectives. People feel far more endangered than the human and economic losses incurred in the attacks justify, but the perception is enough to initiate a vicious circle. Political leaders across the world cannot resist the temptation to mobilise their constituents in major national campaigns to protect the homeland. The "war" against terrorism becomes a 21st century substitute of the mass wars and the cold war of the 20th century. The rationale is a mixture of fear and political expediency, against a background of global problems that seem ever more daunting. The nation-state will become more important in spite of ongoing globalisation trends. It defends its position as the core of people's identity and solidarity, against both regional and global entities. Patriotism will increasingly be called upon by political leaders, who make people aware that walls have ears and that criticism weakens the national effort.

Governments are expected to use the latest technology for tracing people with evil intentions and pre-empting the next strike. Special attention is asked for the development of, and the protection against, new types of weapons, such as new generations of biological and chemical weapons. Scientific developments will vastly increase the options for countries wanting to disrupt or incapacitate their opponents. The total expenditure in the field of security and defence can climb to 10% of GDP and higher, claiming the best brains and resources in the process.

The US will play a key role in this scenario - being the world's superpower and hence being the most "able and willing" to engage in the new battles upon which world peace depends. The country will implement its plans for an anti-missile shield that is intended to make the US a battle-free zone. It will impose thorough border controls to avoid attacks from within. The US will ensure by all possible means that its competitive advantage in hi-tech armaments will be maintained over any possible competitor. If necessary, the super-power status will be defended at the expense of free trade or co-operative diplomatic relations. The unilateralist rhetoric may be abandoned, but in essence the Bush-approach will be maintained. Decisive leadership and effective policy implementation will receive higher priority than civil liberties, democracy and privacy. Outside the country, the US will expand and maintain a global network of military support points and friendly regimes. American policy will be goal-oriented, a mixture of stick and carrot, and basically opportunistic. American moves will be greatly influenced by the situation at the time, and by a pragmatic assessment of the various options. The US will be convinced that it is the country's duty to play this dominating role, because it is the only country that can make the world safe for a civilised and sustainable future. Past successes and past campaigns are seen as evidence of the country's benevolent objectives. It will be increasingly difficult to distinguish where America's campaigns are self-serving and where they are driven by idealism. The alternative is paralysis and chaos, and a world that will be overwhelmed by global threats.

Other countries will be ambivalent about the new reality in global affairs. The 'softly softly' approach to achieve a peaceful future for mankind, will be seen as naïve and irresponsible. But there is no clear alternative for small and medium-sized countries. They will use the US as an alibi for not taking actions that they would anyway be unable or unwilling to take, but they also feel compelled to ensure that they are not without the means to defend themselves. The US becomes the world's referee, wielding a big stick. At the same time, we will witness a new arms race that other nations will start but which the US will win. Japan could be a driving force but will not go for military options as long as China does not pose an immediate threat. The more America operates as a global referee, the more it will develop the expertise and experience that other nations cannot match. Europe will lack the determination and the centralised leadership that is needed to achieve superpower status. The competition between Europe's national leaders will intensify, and lofty planes will just not be realised. Europe is furthermore vulnerable because of the uncertain role of large immigrant communities, and free movement of people can be another trigger for ethnic friction. The world will be in a permanent state of semi-war, without an end in sight. This creates a restless geopolitical scene. A positive element is that the battles against crime and terrorism will be quite effective. Many would-be terrorists will be deterred by the knowledge that they will sooner or later face the consequences of their actions.

The ends justify the means : the world is full of regimes unable or unwilling to lead their countries to a democratic and successful future. To pressure these regimes and to impose progress through the use of force, will be seen as the lesser evil. In the struggle for a safer and better world, nations will feel justified to use all the tools and resources at their disposal -- which includes economic pressures, boycotts, the formation of coalitions, the use of media and entertainment, sabotage and espionage, and a continuing campaign to maintain morale and legitimise patriotism. In their desire to justify their cause, political leaders will simplify the options available and come close to fundamentalist thinking. Spinning, as part of defending the nations interests and security, is legitimate as long as it is effective. As a result, the chain of action and re-action will be kept going. Only fear of open conflict and real war will prevent countries from letting escalation continue unchecked.

Challenges and contradictions

The risk is that the costs to the USA of being in a state of permanent readiness, on behalf of the international community, will seem excessive. Continued diversion of economic resources into military expenditure and the loss of life, will take their toll. This scenario will come under heavy strain if the situation deteriorates instead of improves, and if people begin to wonder whether they want to live in a state of war, and whether fighting this war does not make matters worse.

B2 - Negotiated Settlements; the unstoppable drive towards global democracy

The war in Iraq will turn out to be an event of great importance, and a turning point in modern history. The war demonstrates to the world that military power has severe limitations - even if used by a superpower against an exhausted, demoralised, poorly equipped country with a criminal regime and without a single friend in the whole world. The destruction of the enemy army can be achieved according to plan, but after the war, wholly different instruments are required. To impose development on a country requires the legitimacy of the world community, the experience of the UN, and visible respect for the values and traditions of the country that is conquered. The second Gulf war shows that the use of force can destroy an army, but is almost counter-productive in guiding a society towards democracy and progress. Disproportionate power is incompatible with the basic elements of democracy - the fact that all people are born equal and are entitled to an equal say in deciding their future. Every society has its honour, its pride, its values and aspirations - even when its army has been defeated. But military defeat is associated with inferiority, humiliation, lack of courage, and guilt. The ultimate reason why national and military matters no longer decide the world's future, is because the ubiquitous media make the world community into a witness and participant.

The formation of coalitions that are meant to bundle military capability and provide security, ended up creating two world wars. Thinking in these terms is a remnant of Europe's 19th century. Following WWII, Europe changed tack drastically and far-sighted political leaders sought to ensure that nationalism could never lead to another European war. Peace in Europe is secured not because of a balance of power, but because, in Europe, the people could no longer be convinced of the necessity of invasion or the benefits war under any circumstances. Although a Western-centric world is suspicious about China's intentions, it is possible that China was never interested in occupying other countries. In this scenario, China resists the temptation to build up a threatening force, even though it will have the means to do so. The reason will be that China has witnessed the limitations of US military might and because it can exert a powerful influence both in Asian affairs and in global institutions on better terms. Japan, too, will adopt this approach, and refuse to feel severely threatened by the inevitable rise of China as a world power. In Europe, NATO has no new role, following the end of the Cold War. With the accession of its former enemies, the organisation will go into irreversible decline. The West as a whole will accept that it is only natural that its relative power in the world, and its share of the global economy, will not remain at 20th century levels. This is seen as an inevitable trend, signalling a successful global development process, rather than as a deadly threat in a zero-sum game.

The underlying driving forces in this scenario are not ideological nor evidence of widespread idealism. This new mindset and this new way of thinking will in fact just "be there", and will be imposed on leaders world-wide. Political leaders in developed countries realise that most of their citizens are not prepared to die for king and country, unless their country is in clear and present danger. They realise that in the countries from where possible aggressors operate, - the rogue states -, the situation is rather similar. Also in these countries, people want to get on with their lives, more than anything else. If a country wants to strengthen its position, almost any route is more effective than aggression and occupation. This awareness follows the fast growing information flows to and from every citizen in any country. Global media show the world community where and when crimes are being committed against humanity. They also demonstrate that very few conflicts are a matter of black and white only. Tolerance vis-à-vis other countries and cultures is a must ; this does not mean actually liking each other or ignoring the very real competition between countries that will continue.

New views on global relationships will not emerge in isolation. They are part of a paradigm shift that is triggered by the failure of the existing international order and its institutional frameworks. The main challenge is the result of envy and resentment on a massive scale - the result of a colonial past, disparities of income and wealth, lack of health care and sanitation, conflicts about water, and the incompetence and corruption of political regimes. Global awareness is helped by the fact that Western societies will increasingly question many of their traditional concepts, for example the true meaning of GDP as a measure of living standards, or the superiority of Christianity among the religions, or the potential of unfettered capitalism to create a fair and stable world, or the validity of today's definitions of true democracy.

As a result, the powerful countries will be more hesitant to impose their values and aspirations on others, whereas they will increasingly be interested to absorb certain aspects of Third World cultures. The next step will be more explicit and genuine acceptance of the notion that all people are created equal. In the end, this leads to a form of world government. This is not primarily an institutional development, but a sign of the growing belief that all people, regardless of race and religion but also regardless of nationality, have similar rights and can make similar claims. Geopolitical decisions increasingly affect all people world-wide ; traditionally, the decisions were made by people who lived in countries that exercised power. In the long term, those on the receiving end will demand a say as well, for example through a more proportional representation in the global institutions. This will greatly enhance the opportunities for creating a climate of trust and mutual respect. It will become clear that this is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an essential ingredient of sustainable futures. The belief that this can and should be achieved, is not a sign of idealism, but a consequence of continuing globalisation. Although it is tempting to use chauvinism and polarisation as political instruments, leaders will be increasingly aware that these are double-edged swords. Once conflicts are allowed to escalate and become irreversible, there are no winners any more. Progress increasingly depends on open exchanges of views, tolerance towards diversity, and the removal of self-imposed constraints. The majority of people do not have to be told this or be convinced of this - they just know.

To achieve this end-point, fundamental shifts of attitude are required, as well as major institutional reforms. The rich countries have to make difficult decisions in this scenario. They are under growing pressure to be open towards other ways of thinking, to respect their opponents, to sacrifice part of their wealth and power, and to make an effort to be seen as universal and even-handed. For reasons explained by Robert Kagan in "Paradise and Power", Europe has most affinity with this scenario, precisely because it lacks the means to act as a superpower and impose its values on the world. The USA, too, will be part of the shift described - but reluctantly. The power balance in the world will be far more dispersed than at present. The "unipolar world" and the automatic legitimacy of even a benign superpower will come to an end. When this development is accepted by the USA, the country may switch major resources from military expenditure to global welfare. Without a climate of fear and intimidation, an increasing number of poor countries and their political leaders become convinced that sound governance, the rule of law, and equitable rewards for initiative and investment will work to their advantage. The UN will benefit because it is the only major organisation that can institutionalise the new global awareness. It will be charged with tasks beyond its capabilities, but, at the same time, it will be the place where the numerous ideologies and vested interest groups will meet. In spite of the institutional challenges, the UN will steadily enhance its world-wide legitimacy and develop into the forum of the global community. It will be far from perfect, but the UN cannot be allowed to fail.

Challenges and contradictions.

This scenario is full of obstacles, but has relatively few internal contradictions. The major players will find this scenario a difficult path and a traumatic experience, but the scenario can only materialise if, in the process, these players adapt their aspirations and objectives. The question is : will we, in an increasingly democratic and globalised world, consider this scenario to be in our own interest ? Most other scenarios are likely to face internal tensions and contradictions, and become unsustainable.

B1 - Tactical Interventionism; using "stick and carrot" on a global scale

The world is, now more than ever, a massive system with numerous cultures, interests, aspirations and constraints. Somehow, we feel that we have to make sense of all this, to respond and anticipate. It is very unlikely that everything will be all right in the end if we leave things alone. It would be nice to think that "the people" in the end know what is best for them, and figure out how to progress on the road to economic development and improved quality of life. However, we do not have the time for this rather relaxed approach: the world needs some kind of accelerated learning. This should force underdeveloped countries to "leapfrog" the richer countries, and, instead of following their traditional development path, move straight into 21st century reality. The longer we wait, the more difficult it becomes to realise the world's potential and avoid major crises.

For the billions of people in the developing world, we need a vision and we need commitment. Gaps have to be bridged, new technology made available, discrimination banned. There is world-wide convergence in important areas such as human rights and the prosecution of war crimes, and this development has to be speeded up. Civil liberties and democratic institutions are the sine qua non of development and prosperity. Essential is the guarantee of civil liberties to all citizens, such as the right to education, to justice, to democratic rights, to health care. Essential are the institutions that register property rights, can make loans available to poor people, uphold the law and ensure that everyone is equal for the law. These are major challenges, and there are no shortcuts. The essence is not development aid, which makes countries dependent and erodes their dynamism By now it is clear how development can be triggered and accelerated. In the interest of the large majority of the world population, these recipes for success should not be blocked or banned. People should be helped and supported against their own leaders if these are opposed to progress, or subject their population to criminal and pernicious policies.

In many countries, vested interests abuse their power, instil fear in the population, and ensure that change is blocked. They have a veto on institutional change, which can only be achieved with whole-hearted support and in the absence of active resistance. This is a battle between old and new, progress and stagnation, regression and development. Increasingly, the world community seeks to set the scene, and de facto decide what is unacceptable behaviour. Especially where backward regimes create irreversible escalation of violence and export violence to other countries, the world community will act. From time to time international coalitions have successfully acted against totalitarian leaders, and brought crimes against humanity to justice, not least as a warning sign to others. If these actions require the use of force, this will be seen as a logical consequence and as wholly legitimate. The old rule that leaders are free to do whatever they like within the borders of their own country, because every UN member is a sovereign state, is no longer acceptable.

The first Gulf war was an example of how the world community can condemn a criminal act, and follow up with military means. The US, then as now, plays a key role as the world's superpower, in first instance in order to enforce what the world community has decided. There will be an active policy to "remove bad apples", which is legitimate if and when the UN have given the green light. The overall attitude is not focused on crisis management or muscle-flexing, but on making the world a better place. The world community is in a hurry, and should act in time for facing the major challenges around the corner. The US may expect the world community to be supportive, and to actively contribute to the new geopolitic reality that is emerging. International co-operation is based on sharing aspirations and objectives, among countries poor and rich, great and small. Recriminations, such as those that followed the Iraq war in 2003, are avoided when the rationale and objectives can be explained to all concerned. In this scenario, the US image in the world will once again be as positive as it was in 1945 or 1991, because countries will accept that military force is being used in the common interest - not to defend a dominant position or as part of a new global arms race.

Challenges and contradictions.

This scenario is pragmatic: working together instead of ideological battle, plus using force and pressure where development is too slow or non-existent. The precondition is that countries with very different histories and capabilities recognise that what they have in common, matters more than what divides them. The question is whether a world where power plays such a decisive role, can build effective alliances, which always leads to winners and losers. The way-out will be to focus more on bridge-building than on the "big stick", or to create a world where power is decisive but where everyone knows the score and accepts reality.

A2 - Compromises, compromises; running out of options, but stopping short of global disaster.

The world is widely seen as "failing", because tensions rise and solutions seem ever more elusive. Terrorist groups start using suicide bombings on a massive scale, and the potential for such attacks is, by definition, very large. Many new dissonant groups refuse to be identified, have no leader with whom the world can negotiate, and are closer to people welcoming death than to people wishing to find solutions. Frustration is a more important cause of terrorism than poverty. In any case, the blame for the current state of affairs is laid on the doorsteps of the powers that be, such as the rich countries, the multinationals, and all others who benefit from the current imbalances in the world. The result is an ongoing series of crises, some of which can be contained, and many of which simply create more anger and anxiety. In many areas, mutual hatred has reached levels that cannot be reversed within at least a generation. As more natural limits become visible and as more people, at the front-line, are exposed to new scarcities and shortages (for example, water), people will see that sustainable development cannot be taken for granted. Even in terms of sustainability, there are no equal chances in the world. Some experience what sustainable development means, while others are unaffected. Technical fix solutions will help but not enough, and not everyone. In general, people increasingly feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges they are facing - ranging from overpopulation, epidemics, ageing populations, mass migration, the growth of crime, the vulnerability of modern developed societies, and many more.

Containment and crisis management seem to ask for a tough approach, ("three strikes and you are out"), supported by massive development of new technology. Where crime and terrorism emerge, societies defend themselves, as they experience this as a frontal attack. But people will also realise that there is no military solution to the problems the world is facing. In general, solutions cannot be imposed from above on a world population that is unconvinced and uncooperative. Convincing requires giving an example, dialogue, sincerity and an open mind. Without these elements, the accusation of cynical hypocrisy cannot be avoided - one set of rules for those in control, and other rules for the losers.

There will be a growing conviction that the new challenges cannot be resolved with the traditional dogmas of Western industrialised countries. There are many worthwhile goals that free markets cannot achieve. Democracy will not in every country mean what it means in the West ( "one man, one vote", and "50% + 1" is a decisive majority). In this scenario, solutions for the world's major problems will increasingly reflect the cultures and values of the people directly concerned, rather than be imposed from above.

Because every war claims innocent victims, the world community will increasingly be convinced that war should only be a last resort, and should not be fuelled by self-interest.

The use of force, as in war, is often not legitimate, and often not effective. The rich countries are wondering how much they are prepared to sacrifice for introducing other countries to democracy or free markets. In fact, when they are not directly threatened, they will send money and aid, but will not engage in full-scale war.

Under the circumstances, democratic countries feel a strong need to convince poor countries that they damage their own prospects and that fundamentalism and extremism are genuinely counter-productive. Such countries may be sceptical, assuming that the rich countries' arguments are self-serving, but they will not be able to deny that certain success formulas do actually work. It is equally true that many ideological and authoritarian recipes have failed spectacularly. World-wide media and communications will be used to make countries realise that they have the option to create progress - even though they may dislike the people who are telling them this. Demographic changes, diseases such as AIDS, environmental constraints, new technologies, make the urgency even greater. We cannot accept a failing world as a result of failed states. But countries have to do it themselves. No one can help leaders and societies that are unwilling to be helped.

Challenges and contradictions.

This scenario has many "muddling through" elements, without offering or imposing clear solutions, and without the creation of a positive "can do" attitude. People are not at ease with what is happening in the world, but accept that the right instruments to create progress, are just not available. Progress will have to come from initiatives at the micro-level. In the end, frustration with those in power and with the institutions may rise to such levels that the scenario becomes unsustainable. This will lead to reform, to either "get tough" policies, or to new and visionary goals.

Scenario probabilities.

We have presented four "narrow" scenarios, each of which is contained within a single worldview and a single logic. At the end of each description, we indicated the tensions that would gradually build up, as a result of conflicting interests and aspirations. In order to illustrate the relevance of the four scenarios or worldviews, the team made an estimate of their relative importance (in the past) and probability (in future). This assessments is shown below. The chart shows that A1 thinking became much more important in the course of the 1990s, and prevails in today's world. In parallel, the role of both B1 ( benevolent and optimistic use of stick and carrot) and A2 (persuasion, hoping to avert disaster) declined in the course of the 1990s. B2 played a minor role, and still seems rather far-fetched in today's world. However, B2 is seen by the team as a natural endpoint of the current geopolitical re-alignment. Technology and globalisation are changing the world in irreversible ways, and B2 offers the best prospect of a new equilibrium. The "loser" in this process must be the prevailing worldview at present, i.e. A1 (willingness to use force, initiated by fear).

The relative importance and probability of the four "narrow scenarios" , as estimated by the team and shown in the chart, implies that the team anticipates transitions between the four quadrants of the matrix (or the four "narrow scenarios"). In reality, it is unlikely that geopolitical development will take place completely within the mindset of a single quadrant. The team expects that we will move from a world where A1 -thinking is dominant, towards a dominance of B2 thinking. Such a development can be seen as a paradigm shift. In the end, most countries in the world will respond less to the use of force and more to persuasion and proven success formulas. They will be less driven by fear than by determination to improve their quality of life. It should be mentioned that the assumed path is seen as the most probable and "natural" path, - what the team feels "should" happen, is not part of the exercise.

The team sees two different routes for this A1 to B2 transition : via A2 and via B1 (see chart above).

In the former case, increased use of military power becomes ever more counter-productive and ineffective. Other ways have to be found to push the world community in the right direction and avoid disaster. Initially, we see a world where no one is in control and where many problems become more, not less, serious. Gradually, a more self-confident and visionary attitude develops, leading towards B2 via A2.

In the latter case, the benevolent and far-reaching policies of the military superpower, plus its allies, will convince the world that terrorism has no future, and that a strong arm can create a safe environment for constructive global development. Once more countries have taken control of their own destiny and apply success formulas, there will be a "critical mass" of good performers, forcing the world towards B2 via B1.

Concluding remarks

Concluding remarks

The worldviews and scenarios are a direct reflection of the team's discussions. The scenarios highlight topics that the team paid attention to, and largely ignore topics that were left out. Interestingly, much attention was paid to the dimensions power and fear, whereas the technological and economic dimensions were not frequently mentioned and were not considered major driving forces. Another observation is that the team saw little evidence of wave patterns, although the initial project theme referred explicitly to "the next wave". The team's expectation corresponds with an irreversible transition rather than a cyclical movement or wave.

When the contours of the scenarios became clearer, the team discussed at length whether a B2 world was not "too good to be true". At present, believing in such a geopolitical future may seem unrealistic and naïve. However, this transition is supposed to take place because countries and their leaders consider it to be in their own self-interest. As the world keeps getting smaller and more transparent, with more people demanding a say in global affairs, geopolitics will adapt to a new reality. The rules and recipes of today's geopolitical system are not tenable in the long term. Supported by new notions of human rights and democracy, this may amount to a change of paradigm. B2 implies that major current problems will be resolved, and new problems will emerge.

The essential uncertainty is that we do not know how we, collectively, will respond to the new world that is emerging. This is implicitly confirmed by the matrix and the scenarios. Will the global "balance of power" decide who are the winners and the losers, as always ? Is it possible that globalisation and the spirit of democracy are fundamentally rewriting the rules ? Should we fear or welcome the achievements of technology, and hence prepare for disaster or unparalleled opportunities ? In addressing these questions, the team was very much aware that the non-Western perspectives were definitely under-represented. The challenge for the Western world, with much at stake and often taking the initiative, is to consider a wide enough range of worldviews and scenarios.


London, July 2003 - February 2004

Henk Alkema

Aart Beijdorff

Hans Dumoulin

Norman Duncan

Michael Jefferson

Joachim Lukas

Oliver Sparrow

Joop de Vries (rapporteur)

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