Nations and businesses exist within a global context. All individuals and organizations are impacted in small and large ways depending on where they operate, and the reach of the global context. Most organization leaders should have a strategy that considers the global context. A common framework used by strategists for environmental scanning is the PESTEL framework: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal. While the below does not strictly conform to this framework, it considers many of these issues in highlighting what is important today.
As there is no formal global governance, global problems have to be addressed by voluntary collaboration between countries. Some organizations drive certain behavior as a condition of membership, for example the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other organizations such as the United Nations (UN) have in theory the ability to take security actions, if designated countries agree. Nonetheless, ongoing collaboration continues to be hard work and fraught with hurdles.
In any collaboration context, there is always the tension between the majority opinion, and individual members, that either have a legitimately held differences of opinion, or are simply pursuing their own self-interest. Large powerful countries are often outliers from the majority opinion. Those countries that wish to push a different perspective will always face the condemnation of the majority opinion, whether this should sway them from their course is a matter of political nuance and principle.
Water and air are examples of resources that are often shared by multiple countries. This inevitably creates conflict. All around the world we see rivers flowing from one country to another, creating concern over dam and irrigation projects. Sea-level air and upper atmosphere air is also subject to damage by modern pollutants.
While there is significant existing activity among countries to address global environmental issues, there continues to be tension. Some of the tension is created by the potential economic damage of change, notwithstanding recent arguments that change could lead to net economic benefits. The state of the environment is fundamental to life: both its existence and its quality. Therefore, environmental issues will continue to be at the top of the global agenda.
Economic development is fundamental to a large scope of human concerns. Mixed market economies based on industrialization and/or services have been the best examples of how to pull billions of people out of poverty and improve quality of life.
How to achieve economic development while navigating the concerns of environmental impact, work relocation, holistic quality of life, and competition for resources, is a concern that many countries are struggling with, and is of increasing global interest.
One important topic in economic development is global debt, public and private sector.
Liberal Democracy Efficacy
The 20th century saw both Fascism and Communism discredited leaving Liberal Democracy standing alone as the only major secular ideology likely to provide global leadership. Environmental concerns, increasing wealth disparity, and the number of people in the world that are still living in poverty, are among the issues that have led to a global conversation about whether Liberal Democracy is “working”.
Concurrent with this conversation has been the rise of both nationalism and socialism. The emergence of these ideologies have also led to the observation that political tensions are high, language is coarse, and the prospects for cooperation small. What emerges from this conversation and tension is bound to have consequences for individuals and organizations.
The upside of nationalism has been the reduction in tensions and warfare between city states. The downside has been country borders that create conflict. In many places of the world, economically advanced countries act as magnets for those seeking work, and those wishing to raise a family. Revolution, warfare, and other domestic troubles have also led to large numbers of refugees.
The concept of a country, and specifically a nation, is one of citizens prospering through a common wealth, where participation is granted or earned, both legally and culturally. This concept has historically presupposed that borders need to be protected and immigration managed, so the common wealth can be managed. Immigration tensions challenge not only our empathy, compassion, and shared humanity, but also our sense of country and nation. As such, it provides fuel for both socialism and nationalism. Many countries/nations are struggling with immigration tensions and it has become an issue of global interest.
There is no doubting the visual and emotional impact of events such as what occurred in America on 9/11, 2001. This particular event was a Pearl Harbor like event that gave birth to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even less dramatic events spawn a fear of the unexpected, of the unpredictable, and the uncontrollable. Terrorism terrifies.
Against the obvious terror created by terrorism is the numerical observation that terrorism usually takes less lives each year than other sources, including cancer, accidents, diabetes, homicide, and suicide. Despite the numerical weight of evidence, terrorism is an emotionally packed political issue and governments feel the need for responses that are demonstrable to voters/citizens. Terrorism is therefore a global concern.
China vs US
With a fast growing economy, and the second biggest population in the world, the 21st century is emerging as the Chinese century. With the 20th century being the American century, it is perhaps inevitable that a rivalry would emerge between China and America.
To put an exclamation point on the rivalry, in early 2019, China landed on the far side of the moon, which is a potential security threat if other nations, and in particular the United States, can not monitor activity on that side of the moon. While the point has been made that part of China’s economic success has been the avoidance of any protracted military conflicts, China is both a military and economic threat to the United States, and any nations that the United States might offer protection to. When elephants dance, everyone else should worry. The rivalry between China and the United States is a global concern, with clear consequences for organizations, at least.