At the World Futures Conference 2011 in Vancouver I attended a presentation called ‘Futurists’ Views from Around the World’. The presentation involved members of Millennium Project Nodes from around the world discussing the future challenges facing their countries:

  • China faces a rapidly changing social environment as a result of very intensive modernisation. The growth of internet media has challenged many of the traditional political institutions and changed the way young people think and act in the country. As the country’s social conventions and institutions undergo massive change there is also serious demographic changes occurring. As a result of China’s ‘One Child’ policy the population is ageing quickly, coupled with low fertility and marriage rates, this presents problems for China’s leaders. China needs to challenge its very strongly held social conventions and traditions in order to adapt to its changing social conditions.
  • Mexico’s main challenges are organised crime and violence associated with drug cartels. So long as the demand for drugs and the supply of weapons comes from the USA, Mexico cannot address this problem alone. One key area is economic development, if being part of a gang is the easiest way to make money and gain power then they will be attractive to young Mexican men.
  • Russia is working to develop a high-tech society, particularly focusing on nanotechnology. Russia now spends more on nanotechnology than the USA and is working hard to develop public and private partnerships that can maximise on this investment. It is important that encouraging high-tech investment in Russia comes alongside credible reporting and monitoring standards that track the outcomes of this investment.
  • Over half of Kenya’s population is under the age of 15. This means that over the next 10 years there will be an explosion in the number of people who need jobs and the necessary infrastructure to ensure a productive society free from violence, often associated with impoverished and idle young African men. Kenya will have to invest heavily in its youth’s potential, and education must be at the forefront of this investment. Better education now will radically improve the outlook for Kenya in 10 years.
  • Petroleum currently accounts for 90% of Kuwait’s export revenues and 95% of its government revenue. Kuwait is currently highly reliant on its petroleum and has done little to prepare for major changes in the global oil market. Kuwait needs to begin fostering and developing other industry areas to offset its reliance on oil and cushion it against major market upheavals. Key to this is investing in education and encouraging greater entrepreneurship from its young citizens.
  • The biggest challenge facing South Africa at the moment is inequality. South Africa is now commonly regarded as one the most unequal countries in the world. This has severely impacted on social and political engagement since the end of apartheid. Initiatives that seek to engage and include people from all walks of life are needed to ensure that everyone has a political voice.
by Rory