5 man-made global megatrends identified by UN Report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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A new report published by UN Economist Network has analyzed 5 man-made five global megatrends that are affecting economic, social and environmental outcomes.

The UN-backed report highlights climate change, demographic shifts (especially population aging), urbanization, digital technologies and inequalities as the 5 global megatrends.

The report which has gained contributions from several UN agencies such as UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN-Habitat, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that lack of remedial “policy interventions” against these megatrends could derail the overall development process.

Titled, “Shaping the Trends of Our Time” the report remarks that goals achieved through the Sustainable Development Agenda are already off-track within 5 years of its launch. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pause might have helped to reverse those setbacks.

Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said, “This is the moment for the world to come together to confront the megatrends highlighted in this report through forward-looking policies that are fit for purpose.”

He further added that “A better and fairer society can emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic if globally coordinated action is taken to address the fragilities within and among nations to ensure prosperity for all.”

The report commented that policy commitments have not translated into policy actions.

Slowly driven initiatives 

The report remarks that even though sustainable financing in on the rise but the support is not fast enough nor at the necessary scale. It added that our behavior and mindsets changes does not yet match our ambitions for sustainable development.

It observed that the 15-year global objectives to improve the lives of people everywhere would be highly unlikely unless there is an overhaul of the current disjointed policy-making mechanisms.

“Decades in the making, these megatrends cannot be easily undone or changed in any significant way in the immediate term,” said Mr. Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs that led the report preparation.

“But they are the result of human activity, and therefore they can be shaped over time by consistent policies.”

Citing an example, he denoted that decades of targeted policies have resulted in one of the biggest shifts in man-made megatrends, the drastic changes in the world population. It was observed that the average annual growth of the global population has slowed down to 1 percent at present from its peak 2 percent in the 1960s with further decrease expected by the end of the century.

“Because each megatrend also affects the other megatrends, policy interventions in one area can generate positive and mutually reinforcing impacts in another,” remarked Mr. Zhenmin.

The report added that even though urbanization brings together all the factors necessary for technological innovation and productivity gains it also facilitates urban centers to generate most global greenhouse gas emissions and close to half of all waste which can be overcome with proper planning and control.

It also stressed that the UN has a crucial role in framing the responses to global megatrends.


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