Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


2024 is a year of global risks, challenges, ballots and bullets.

The elections held in more than 70 countries serve as a stress test for the democratic system. Increased conflict in Africa, tensions and conflict in the Middle East and in Ukraine as well as calamities from inadequately controlled transformational Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies, may pose heightened risks. 

The Global South is consolidating as a space of confrontation and leadership. BRICS represents about 46.5% of the world’s population, US$30.8 trillion, about a third of global GDP and 45% of global oil production.

War and violence drove forced displacement worldwide to a high estimated at 114 million people. “The world is woefully off-track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)“ has declared António Guterres, UN Secretary General.

Some 2.3 billion people, nearly 30% of the global population, currently face a situation of moderate or severe food insecurity.

These major trends will continue to reshape society and will impact the lives of everyone on the planet: how they play out will have profound implications.

Ballots and bullets

In 2024, “uncertainty” and “election” are two key words for unfolding situations in the world.

The 2024 U.S. presidential election is scheduled to take place on Nov. 5. The struggle between the two parties is expected to intensify.

The ongoing Ukraine crisis has entered its third year in late February this year, only weeks before the Russian presidential election with Putin winning his fifth term.

The current conflict between Palestine and Israel shows no signs of easing with its spillover effect extending from politics and security to economic and social fields.

Meanwhile Europe is facing numerous political and security uncertainties.


The list of general elections in 2024 includes countries from all continents and the participation of more than 4 billion people going to the polls in 76 countries, which amounts to nearly 51% of the world’s population.

At the core is the US election where former president Donald Trump, if re-elected, may continue with his policy of “global engagement abstention” as evidenced by his past willingness to disengage from NATO.

Such a stance may weaken the global economic and political system and contribute to the rise of other countries searching for greater global clout. Another important aspect emerging from the cornucopia of general elections is the potential erosion of democracy.

In Russia, the win by president Vladimir Putin sees him remaining as president until 2030 with the possibility of a further sixth term up to 2036.

In other countries, such as El Salvador, some politicians are willing to circumvent their constitutions to be re-elected or to ban efforts to monitor elections. Such practices are likely to weaken democratic institutions or constrain their development.

The future of the European Union, which is facing two wars on its doorstep, will also be decided at the ballot box. Apart from the elections to the European Parliament, which will be held from June 6th to 9th, 2024, 12 member states are also going to the polls. The general elections in Belgium, Portugal or Austria will be a good gauge of the strength of the far right, which is shaping up as one of the winners in the elections to the European Parliament.


With all-out hostilities in Ukraine, Palestine, Sudan or Yemen, we are seeing the most active conflicts of any time since the end of the Second World War. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the world have been exposed to conflict in the last year. The sense of impunity and disregard for international law has escalated. Not only in Gaza. The entrenchment of the war in Ukraine; the expulsion of the ethnic Armenian population from Nagorno Karabakh; or the succession of coups in six African countries in the last 3 years are a clear illustration of this moment of “deregulation of the use of force”, which has been crystallising over years of erosion of international norms. And if in late 2023 we saw the departure of the international troops from the G5 Sahel deployed to Burkina Faso and Niger, as had already occurred the previous year with the expulsion of the French forces from Mali, on  last February 29 the United Nations mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) has left the country.

Human Rights Watch has called the withdrawal a “catastrophic abdication” because it increases the risk of large-scale atrocities and abuses in a scenario of civil war, ethnic cleansing and famine that has forced more than 7 million people to flee their homes, making Sudan the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a part of everyday life and virtually no industry or aspect of our lives is untouched by it. While it’s undoubtedly driving innovation and creating efficiencies in fields as diverse as healthcare, space travel and ecological conservation, it’s also causing a fair amount of fear and uncertainty. The threat to jobs is real, although it will undoubtedly create new opportunities, just as it creates redundancies.

There are also concerns that handing over control of our lives to algorithms can exacerbate divisions and inequality in society. In truth, no one knows where the AI revolution will take us as a society or as a species, but our actions will be critical to setting us on a path that leads to a happy outcome.

Last year ChatGPT was presented to society and in August had already 180 million users. Yet the revolution also brought a new awareness of the risks, acceleration and transformation involved in a technology that aspires to match, or even improve or surpass human intelligence. That is why 2024 is a crucial year for AI regulation. 

The European Union is the first region in the world to equip itself with a comprehensive law to regulate AI and lead the coming leap forward. The EU has opted to categorise the risks (unacceptable, high, limited or minimal) posed by the use of AI systems and requires a “fundamental rights impact assessment” before a “high-risk” AI system can be put on the market. The agreement reached in December 2023 was ratified on 13 March 2024 giving way to a period of two years before its full implementation in 2026.

Global South and BRICS

The Global South is consolidating as a space of confrontation and leadership. In 2024, this reconfiguration has gone a step further with the BRICS bloc formalising its expansion. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have welcomed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran into the fold. The contradictions and fragmentations of the dichotomous North-South approach will become more apparent than ever. The Global South has thus established itself as a key actor in the pushback against the West on anti-imperialist grounds or over double standards.

BRICS represents about 46.5% of the world’s population, US$30.8 trillion, about a third of global GDP and 45% of global oil production. A related economic consequence is that the BRICS’ expanded trade network can reduce their dependence on western markets, particularly through preferential trade agreements   and possibly the use of a common currency.

For countries that have been sanctioned by the West, such as Iran, becoming a BRICS member increases their diplomatic options. This may make BRICS attractive to other sanctioned countries. The BRICS’ expansion can also enable members to strengthen their impact by pursuing their political and economic interests more easily by gradually moving away from   current institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Worldwide Displacement

The year 2023 left international cooperation in a shambles. Employing increasingly blunt language, António Guterres, UN Secretary General, declared that the world is “woefully off-track” in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which reached the halfway point to their 2030 deadline in 2023. The coming years must prove whether the international community is still capable of and wishes to agree on coordinated responses to common global problems through organs of collective governance. It will not be easy. We face an acceleration of the ecological crisis, record migration and forced displacements and a clear regression of the gender equality agenda.

War and violence drove forced displacement worldwide to a high   estimated at 114 million people by the end of September 2023, according to UNHCR. The main drivers of these forced displacements were the war in Ukraine and conflicts in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, as well as drought, floods and insecurity blighting Somalia and a prolonged humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The reignition of forgotten conflicts has increased levels of volatility and violence. In October 2023, over 100,500 people, more than 80% of the estimated 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, fled to Armenia after Azerbaijan took control of the enclave. And the images of over 1 million Palestinians fleeing their homes because of the Israeli military offensive, after Hamas attack from October 7, illustrate the humanitarian crisis afflicting Gaza.

This increase in the number of displaced persons and refugees, however, has not been accompanied by a boost in international aid. The United Nations reduced its food assistance and humanitarian aid by one third in 2023. A lack of international funding considerably reduced assistance levels in 2023 and the World Food Programme was obliged to cut the size and scope of its food, monetary and nutritional assistance by between 30% and 50%. Some 2.3 billion people, nearly 30% of the global population, currently face a situation of moderate or severe food insecurity. Further rises in food prices in 2024 and the impact of adverse weather conditions on agricultural production may make the situation even worse.


The Ukraine War will continue at high intensity but is still unlikely to escalate to direct conflict between Russia and NATO. Among the Western supporters of Ukraine, domestic political trends, particularly in the US, will make it more difficult to sustain unity over further funding and military support. Sanctions and export controls on Russia will continue to pose compliance challenges for international business in 2024.

Meanwhile Vladimir Putin’s threats to use short-range nuclear weapons in Ukraine underscore that the threshold for employing nuclear weapons could be lowered. Russia’s doctrine of “escalate to de-escalate” suggests that limited nuclear wars might occur. Emerging technologies - AI, offensive cyber, and anti-satellite weapons - are creating new vulnerabilities for nuclear powers, shrinking decision times, and stoking fears of first strikes, even as arms control efforts seem far off.

The Israel-Hamas conflict will de-escalate only following further degradation of Hamas and mounting international pressure on Israel. The direct involvement of Iran remains unlikely. The conflict has not had substantial impacts on the global economy. However, the targeting of international shipping in the southern Red Sea by Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement continues to threaten temporary disruption of global supply chains. Political rifts between the US and Global South countries that lean towards supporting the Palestinian cause will continue in 2024 over a potential settlement of the conflict.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) may destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, but the destruction of Gaza housing and infrastructure will leave most Palestinians homeless and a hotbed for new terrorists under Hamas. Arab states will be more wary of partnering with the U.S.

Washington will struggle to find any takers for running Gaza, absent a demonstrated Israeli commitment to a two-state solution, which has proven elusive for 50 years.


All the risks and challenges discussed above are discernable events or trends whose trajectories we can assess. But one intangible driver of many of these trends has not been adequately considered: certainty or moral absolutism.

This mindset views issues through a Manichean us-versus-them, good-versus-evil lens and tends toward intolerance and identity politics.

“There is,” warned theologian and political philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, “the illusion of managing history,” explaining that “modern man lacks the humility to accept the fact that the whole drama of history is enacted in a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management.” As the late Henry Kissinger admonished “History presents unambiguous alternatives only in the rarest of circumstances.”

In 1972, the mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz posed the now famous question: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” His question anticipated today’s highly interconnected world.

At the end of 2023, some 110 million people around the world were displaced from their homes by conflict, violence or persecution – the highest figure ever recorded. Violence and hunger go hand in hand.

There is a reason for the dramatic increase in refugees and internally displaced people: we fail to prevent war and violence, and national and international leaderships fail in conflict resolution where we have protracted emergencies

More complex and more sophisticated threats require imaginative and bold responses, and strengthened collaboration between states, as well as the private sector and civil society. Institutional boundaries must also be bridged, so that political, human rights, and development partners can work in concert.