This is the 28 May 2020 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial: This week, as increasingly clear over the last month, many signals relate to and indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic’s cascading effects are at work. We highlight here some of those picked up by the scan and that deserve further monitoting.

The COVID-19 could help close the Thucydides trap: Again, the U.S. increases pressure on China, in and probably because of a far more difficult context. That context includes the tragic still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its multiple complex impacts. The position of the U.S. in the world was already at stake before the pandemic. The COVID-19 so far seems to have revealed more fragility than strength, which may precipitate dangerous behaviour. Furthermore presidential elections are also looming, which may not be stabilising.

Europe and European states might be forced towards a new path, but do they still have the necessary might, creativity, vision, flexibility and self-belief to do so?

Meanwhile, Turkey goes on trying to take advantage of the COVID-19, playing actors against each other, with Libya as epicentre.

South Asia, also because of the COVID-19 induced food insecurity and disappearance of remittance, could be at high risk of civil unrest. Should these risks materialise, would that mean, again, potential coming disruption to supply-chains, notably for drugs, medicines and vaccines?

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The Scan

The 28 May 2020 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Milky Way above SPECULOOS / The Search for habitable Planets – EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) is searching for Earth-like planets around tiny, dim stars in front of a panorama of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

Published by Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the President/CEO of The Red Team Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for international relations, national and international security issues. Her current focus is on the war in Ukraine, international order and the rise of China, the overstepping of planetary boundaries and international relations, the methodology of SF&W, radicalisation as well as new tech and security.

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