Looking Ahead: Our World in 2027

Global health, data governance, transnational terrorism: These three topics are expected to dominate the international agenda in the future. As part of the "Global Governance Futures" program, 25 junior managers from China, India, Japan, the USA, and Germany took a look ahead to the year 2027. In Berlin, they presented their future scenarios.

David Weyand | June 2017
Photo: Matthias Erfurt

Over a year, the Fellows in the "Global Governance Futures (GGF) - Robert Bosch Foundation Multilateral Dialogues" program developed their future scenarios. One of the participants is Laila A. Wahedi from the USA, who is enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Georgetown University and has previously prepared analyses for the US military. "The best experience, and at the same time the greatest challenge, was working with the group of international Fellows: To encounter different perspectives and ways of thinking was eye-opening." On matters of the global world order, Laila was surprised to find that she agreed more with the position of the Chinese who favored hegemony and clear military power structures than with the German participants who promoted a multipolar distribution of power. "What we needed to bring to the table was not only critical and creative thinking, but also a willingness to compromise," she concluded.

[DE Copy] GGF2027_610_01
Photo: Matthias Erfurt

For the GGF-2027-group Berlin was the fourth dialogue round after Washington, a week in Tokyo, Beijing and New Delhi.

Thought experiments across borders

Depending on their professional backgrounds, each Fellow was assigned to one of three thematic groups in which they developed two or three future scenarios during the course of the year. Members of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) provided methodical guidance throughout the process. Regional experts as well as specialists in matters of health, data, and terrorism from the participating countries and the cooperating organizations shared insights, feedback, and tips. 

Between regular meetings, group members discussed and worked on their reports online. To conclude the program, the final reports were presented in person to other fellows and invited experts at three separate panel discussions in Berlin. All three groups stressed that their findings were experimental theories and not specific predictions. Based on their assumptions, they derived potential action plans for governments.

[DE Copy] GGF2027_610_04
Photo: Matthias Erfurt

The 25 GGF-Fellows took a look ahead ten years in the future in three groups. Their topics: Global health, data governance, transnational terrorism.

"Populist terrorism" - A new threat?

Just like Laila, Elisa D. Lux from Germany was one of the seven members of the "Transnational Terrorism" group. In previous years, she had served as a political advisor in the office of the UN envoy for peacekeeping missions. "Our group wanted to take a look at the unexplored areas and not the well-known phenomena of terrorism," she explained. While the group’s first scenario still dealt with rather ‘traditional’ religiously motivated terrorism, the geographic focus was unusual: Central Asia.

The second scenario in particular opened up completely new perspectives, pursuing the question: What if a new form of international terrorism came about? What if religious fanaticism, ideologies, and armed conflicts in the Middle East were no longer the driving forces of terror not only locally but also in the West? If industrial automation led to mass unemployment, social injustice, and marginalization in the West and consequently to a strong rise of populist movements? Subsequently, the assumption went, marginalized and frustrated people would launch terrorist attacks at shopping malls, at companies, at immigrants and politicians in Europe and the USA. Western societies would not only be the target, but also the main source of terrorism - in this case "populist terrorism."

"The election of President Trump and populist movements such as the Front National in France and the AfD in Germany naturally took center stage in our discussions," Elisa stated. "Our assumptions were built on a Trump victory even before his election." Events that many consider highly unlikely were deliberately included in the GGF scenarios.

[DE Copy] GGF2027_610_02
Photo: Matthias Erfurt

The three groups presented their results of one year work at the GGF closure conference.

Debates outside the specialist circles

Andreas Jacobs, the coordinator for Islam and religious extremism at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was invited as an expert. In addition to the panel discussions, the Fellows presented their analyses in greater detail to select experts. The group asked Andreas how conclusive their assumptions were and whether the derived recommendations were plausible. "Keep working on defining the term, but most importantly, keep publishing articles on the populism scenario," he advised.

According to Andreas, the Fellows had managed to detach terrorism from current associations with "Islamism" or "migration", bringing fresh views and new ideas about potential threats to the table. "When it comes to terrorism, there is definitely more than one reality," Andreas added, praising the composition of the group: "You come from different countries and backgrounds - with military experts, scientists and civil servants, business people, and representatives of NGOs together in discussion." Far too often, this type of discourse remained within the confines of specialist circles while there was a clear need to bring them together, just like the GGF did. 

Gruppenfoto der GGF Teilnehmer
Photo: Matthias Erfurt

Fellows of the current team met alumni of previous GGF years in Berlin. The alumni network is an essential element of the GGF.

"Identity politics in Germany"

In an effort to foster a better understanding of differing positions, all program stages also included events focusing on national particularities. In Berlin, participants discussed "identity politics in Germany", learned about the meaning of terms such as "Gastarbeiter" (guest worker) and "Willkommenskultur" (welcome culture), and found out what the discourses about "Leitkultur" (lead culture), "Parallelgesellschaften" (parallel societies), and "doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft" (dual citizenship) were all about. "Thanks to the views of the other Fellows, I had an opportunity to get to know the other countries from a different perspective," Elisa commented.

American national Laila was also happy: "I have learned a lot and made great contacts." So may the program have an impact on her further career development? Too soon to speculate, she smiled: "That’s exactly what I want to ask the alumni." To conclude the current year 2027, 25 alumni of previous GGF years - 2020, 2022, and 2025 - joined the current team in Berlin for two days. Discussions were once again of the highest quality and included guests such as Joachim Bertele, the deputy head of the German Chancellery’s department of foreign affairs and security policy.

Read The Final Report