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“We really can’t forecast all that well, and yet we pretend that we can, but we really can’t.” Alan Greenspan

“Because of the rate of technology change, forecast horizons are shrinking.” Steve Jurvetson

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” Jim Rohn

“2020 may be a year to forget, but 2021 will likely, and unhappily, keep reminding us of it.” Robert Malley

This is my fourth year to write this genre of “More than Meets the Eye”. Though I write it with a certain amount of trepidation, it is one of my favorites to write each year. It  is my annual  attempt to make some sense out of what happened the previous year, and to transpose that into what could happen in the coming year. 

There are literally hundreds of forecasts out there to read. There are forecasts for economics, politics, travel, crime, technology, internet and global security. Some of these are done by huge well funded teams of scientists, pundits, predictive analytical models run by artificial intelligence programming computers. So what in the world am I doing writing about these things? What makes me think I have anything to add to the gargantuan volumes of forecasts that are all available on the internet? 

First, I am hoping that the time I have put into sifting through the voluminous amounts of information on the internet will spare you some time so that you can get on with what is much more important to you. Second, many of the forecasts to which I will be tipping my hat, are not simply “surface level,” that will immediately jump out at you by reading them from more popular sources. It is important for us to be reminded that my goal each week is to discuss matters that do not necessarily have a “surface level” footprint, but rather appear just beneath the surface, indicating that there is more than meets the eye concerning the subject at hand. This is especially true in the field of forecasting.  

I am a bit of a historian, therefore I try to put events that are unfolding, either globally or locally, within in a context of historical veracity. I say this because, though by many different metrics, 2020 was a “bad year,” it by no means was one of the worst. It reminds me of a definition that distinguishes between major surgery and minor surgery. Major surgery is what is done to me, minor surgery is what is done to you.

We do not have to look very far to see that there have been many other years that have seen much more destruction, death and chaos than 2020. “In 536 AD, A cataclysmic volcanic eruption (probably in Iceland) covered the northern hemisphere in what seemed like a mysterious fog.” According to the History of the Justinian Wars, “And it came about during this year that a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is accustomed to shed. And from the time when this thing happened men were free neither from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death.” All of this made for the perfect conditions for one of the world’s deadliest pandemics – bubonic plague.  It is estimated this pandemic killed at least 25 million people worldwide.

In the years 1347/8 AD – the time of the so-called, Black Death, over the next 18 months, the plague spread with deadly speed through Italy and on into the rest of Europe, to Iceland and to Russia, killing anywhere between 25 to 50 million people – an estimated 30 to 50 per cent of the European population and many millions more in Eurasia and the East. 

These are just two years that come to mind. The Spanish Plague of 1918, killing 50 million people could be a candidate for the “worst year.” My point is, that declaring any given 365 day period as the “worst ever” has to be considered within the context of global events, and not simply what is happening to you. Some of my forecasts for 2021 will certainly be building on what has happened in 2020. Perhaps the best way to say it is: “2020 is not over yet.” Let’s look at some ways that 2021 will be different, and perhaps more of the same.

The review.

There are several conditions that will shape 2021: food insecurity, water scarcity, migration, and competition for resources. The secondary effects of the global coronavirus pandemic have the potential of leaving a devastating effect on food security and poverty levels this year. Food security and poverty are two primary conditions for violent conflict at local and regional levels. Few equate the two. However, if we look closely, the discontentment caused by poverty and food scarcity leads to discontentment with the government, to migration and to highly organized criminal activity.

We have seen the impact of the Coronavirus here in the West. It has been difficult for many, but the implications for the rest of the world are having, and will continue to have a staggering effect on food scarcity, poverty levels, and immigration.

Here are 5 of my top forecasts for 2021:

  1. David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program warned that this year, 2021 risks becoming the worst humanitarian crisis year since the founding of the United Nations. He also warned of alarming global hunger and food insecurity, with the number of people “marching towards starvation,” spiking from 135 million to 270 million as the pandemic unfolds.  He stressed that 2021 will be catastrophic. At times I feel like a lone drummer standing in the middle of a field beating a drum to which no one is listening, because there actually is far more than meets the eye concerning global food security.
  2.  Global Refugee migrations will continue to be a huge problem in the world in 2021. They have the same needs as in 2020, but there are more of them and the international community is becoming less enthusiastic about hosting them or paying for them. As we enter into 2021 there are 6.6 million Syrians seeking asylum globally. One in ten refugees, globally, are Afghans; that is about 2.7 million. South Sudan estimates that there are about 2.3 million refugees seeking asylum abroad, and over 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled on-going violence in Myanmar.

The on-going crisis in Somalia yields close to 1 million refugees. Other African countries add to the increasing refugee population with the Democratic Republic of Congo at over 800,000, with Sudan contributing 735,000, and Central African Republic estimating just over 610,000. Eritrea lost 505,000 of its residents, and Burundi stands at 381,000 living as refugees, up by the 40,000 in 2020. The global refugee problem is not going away and the effects of the pandemic have only exacerbated the issue. On top of that, one can look to the western hemisphere and see that 2021 will be a red-letter year for Mexican migration north into the USA. The biggest factor driving a resurgence of Mexicans north is economic desperation— Mexico’s economy shrank by more than 10% last year. Even before the pandemic, both public and private investment had fallen to historic lows. Since then more than 12 million Mexicans have lost their livelihoods, as the government has done little to keep companies going or preserve jobs.

3. In 2021 we will see a revival in terrorism risk levels. Terrorism is a global trend that will experience something of a resurgence due to the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.  Drivers include increased economic hardship in many countries most impacted by terrorism; international distraction mitigating effective responses to threats; the ability to exploit and benefit from inter-state rivalries, for example Turkey employing former Syrian fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh; and over-stretch of domestic security services. Lockdowns have also given people time to research and radicalize, with societal divisions and stress hardening mindsets. 

For Westerners, particularly in Europe, the controversy between France and the Muslim world will be the immediate concern going into 2021. More established terrorism risks will continue to impact the energy and mining sectors in Africa and the Middle East, with the former overtaking the latter and even South Asia as a center for activity.

4. According to the International Rescue Committee, there are some conflicts that need attention in 2021. The global cost of these conflicts will be staggering, not only in the loss of life, but in the loss of economic output and humanitarian assistance.

a. Mozambique: Humanitarian needs rise rapidly as insurgency intensifies

b. Venezuela: COVID-19 compounds years-long economic crisis

c. Nigeria: Conflict and famine risk in the northeast

d. South Sudan: Recovery from civil war at risk

e. Burkina Faso: The world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis

f.  Ethiopia: New conflict threatens the region

g. Democratic Republic of Congo: Unprecedented hunger crisis

h. Syria: The deadliest place for humanitarians

i.  Afghanistan: Stalled peace process under threat

j.  Yemen: Unrelenting conflict and risk of famine

5. The World Bank published its economics forecast for 2021…it appears that the situation is not as dismal as many people would have guessed. The pandemic has caused a severe loss of life; is tipping millions into extreme poverty; and is expected to inflict lasting scars that push activity and income well below their pre-pandemic trend for a prolonged period. 

Prospects for the global economy are uncertain, and several growth outcomes are possible. In the baseline forecast, global GDP is expected to expand 4 percent in 2021, predicated on proper pandemic management and effective vaccination limiting the community spread of COVID-19 in many countries, as well as continued monetary policy accommodation accompanied by diminishing fiscal support. Nonetheless, the level of global GDP in 2021 is forecast to be 5.3 percent below pre-pandemic projections—or about $4.7 trillion.

I am going to leave my projections at five this year. For an additional list of forecasts from just about every other angle, check out my resource list below.

The why.

Understanding the times we live in is essential to a healthy life. Refusing to learn about the cares and concerns in the world in the 21st century is tantamount to really not caring. Your security and mine is indirectly tied to each of these catastrophic categories. Global food insecurity, poverty, refugees, terrorism, global conflicts and economics affect us personally. Even though we may ignore for today, its effects will linger just on the fringes of our society. We can refuse to acknowledge that they affect our lives, but just because we decide to stick our collective heads in the sand, this will not make the world’s problems, which are all around us, go away.

More importantly, your security depends on it. When global issues such as food insecurity, extreme poverty, conflict, terrorism and economics increase unabated, they grow like a cancer, metastasize, and affect everything around them. The fact is: we are all in this together, and sink or swim, we as humans will do it together.

The action.

Decide to do something in 2021, to serve somebody, to really serve someone. Serve sacrificially. It may seem strange, but there is more than meets the eye in my suggestion. Did you know that there are at most, six degrees of separation between you and every other human being on this planet. Only six degrees. When I learned that fact, it added a new perspective for me concerning my connection to humanity. It filled my mind with the possibilities of how I could impact that small starving child in Ethiopia in ways that I might never before have imagined. So, let me say it again. A great action for each of us in 2021 that can make a difference in our world, is doing something, anything, for someone else. Then watch how it transforms their world…and yours.

The follow-up.

‘Your move, Mr President’: North Korea sets the stage for Biden… https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55617502

South Korean Diplomat In Iran Amid Tensions Over Seized Ship, Frozen Funds…

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-south-korea-ship-funds/31042500.html

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests, please feel free to write to me at: david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

https://www.businessinsider.com/i-asked-10-historians-to-nominate-the-worst-year-in-history-here-are-their-picks-2016-7

https://www.morethanmeets.co/myopia/

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/29/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2021-ethiopia-iran-yemen-somalia-venezuela/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=29055&utm_term=FP%20Subscriber%20-%20Digital&?tpcc=29055

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/1918-flu-pandemic

https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/ga12294.doc.htm

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/10-conflicts-watch-2021

https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/global-economic-prospects

https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/94219-terrorism-and-security-threat-trends-in-2021

https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/29/here-s-what-experts-are-forecasting-for-the-travel-industry-in-2021

https://www.businesstravelnews.com/Transportation/Air/IATA-Forecasts-2021-Global-Airline-Revenue-to-Decline-46-Percent-From-2019

https://www.cfr.org/blog/mexican-migration-could-be-first-crisis-2021

https://www.jtbusabusinesstravel.com/2021-global-travel-forecast-what-impact-will-the-pandemic-make/

https://apnews.com/press-release/wired-release/technology-business-corporate-news-diseases-and-conditions-products-and-services-bb334f752833fcd45e9bc55606da7586

https://worldview.stratfor.com/forecasts

https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/global-predictions-2021

https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/the-national-security-implications-of-global-poverty/

https://www.oliverwyman.com/our-expertise/insights/2020/jan/globalrisks2020.html

https://www.eurasiagroup.net/issues/top-risks-2021

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/the-top-ten-risks-and-opportunities-for-2021/

https://info.worldaware.com/2021-global-forecast?utm_source=website&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gf2021&utm_content=

https://www.fireeye.com/blog/executive-perspective/2020/11/a-global-reset-cyber-security-predictions-2021.html

https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/94125-top-global-security-threats-organizations-will-face-in-2021

https://www.csis.org/global-forecast-2021

https://www.ft.com/content/cbfe6821-c70b-4e4d-977b-979bfe929fd3

https://www.kiplinger.com/economic-forecasts

https://blog.wego.com/travel-2021-predictions/

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO

https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-top-10-strategic-predictions-for-2021-and-beyond/

© 2019 • More Than Meets