5. How can policymaking be made more sensitive to global long-term perspectives?
The worldfood crisis has focused international attention on creating global long-termand short-term strategies to address hunger. International consequences of theU.S. sub-prime loan crisis and increasing reports of Arctic ice meltsdemonstrate the need for improved global long-term perspectives and global systemsfor resilience—the capacity to anticipate, respond, and recover from disasterssuch as tsunamis, financial crashes, pandemics, conflicts, prolonged electricor Internet outrages, and massive migrations due to water shortages. Suchforesight systems should also identify new technological possibilities andsocial innovations as well as problems.
Governmentpresidents or prime ministers should have some form of situation room with a nationally integrated information system(see Chapter 5) of data, knowledge, and experts supported by global scanningsystems (interoperable with all government departments) and the ability toidentify and assess expert judgments in real time (see Chapter 3). Its staffshould also synthesize futures research from other government departments,calculate a national SOFI (see Chapter 2), and produce national state of thefuture reports. Such government future strategy units (see Chapter 4) could beconnected to share best practices, compare research, and verify assumptions. Thisnetwork could also connect with similar units in UN agencies (such as WHO) andwith the Office of the UN Secretary-General to help coordinate national andinternational strategies and goals. Decisionmakers should be trained in futuresresearch for optimal use of these systems.
Nationallegislatures could establish standing “Committees for the Future,” as Finlandhas done. National foresight studies should be continually updated, improved,and conducted interactively with other national long-range efforts. Alternativescenarios that show cause-and-effect relations and expose decision pointsleading to different consequences from different strategies should be sharedwith parliamentarians and the public for feedback. Government budgets shouldconsider 5–10 year allocations attached to rolling 5–10 year scenarios andstrategies. Governments with short-term election cycles should consider longer,more stable terms and funds for staffers of parliamentarians. If national Stateof the Future Indexes (see Chapter 2) were constructed and used in evaluatingpolicymakers’ performance, decisionmakers would be more inclined to pursuepolicies that address the longer term. A checklist of ways to better connectfutures research to decisionmaking is available in Chapter 11 of the attachedCD.
Communicationsand advertising companies can create memes to help the public become sensitiveto global long-term perspectives so that more future-oriented educated publicswould elect more future-oriented global-minded politicians. Prizes could begiven to recognize the best examples of global long-term decisionmaking.Participatory policymaking processes augmented by e-government services can becreated that are informed by futures research. Universities should fund theconvergence of disciplines, teach futures research and synthesis as well asanalysis, and produce generalists in addition to specialists. Efforts toincrease the number and quality of courses on futures concepts and methodsshould be supported, as well as augmenting standard curricula with futuresmethodologies converted to teaching techniques that help future-orientinstruction.
Althoughthere is an increasing recognition that accelerating change requireslonger-term perspectives, decisionmakers feel little pressure to considerglobal long-term perspectives. Nevertheless, attaining long-range goals likelanding on the moon or eradicating smallpox that were considered impossibleinspired many people to go beyond selfish, short-term interests to greatachievements. (An international assessment of such future goals is foundin Chapter 4.2 on the CD.) The UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015 havebecome benchmarks for the future.
Each of the 15 Global Challenges in this chapter and theeight UN Millennium Development Goals could be the basis for transinstitutionalcoalitions composed of self-selected governments, corporations, NGOs,universities, and international organizations that are willing to commit theresources and talent to address a specific goal.
Challenge 5 will be addressed seriously when foresightfunctions are a routine part of most organizations and governments, whennational SOFIs are used in at least 50 countries, when the consequences ofhigh-risk projects are routinely considered before they are initiated, and whenstanding Committees for the Future exist in at least 50 national legislatures.
Africa: China is becoming a force in African long-rangeplanning. Daily management of many African countries makes future, globalperspectives difficult; hence, more regional bodies like the African Union,NEPAD, and African Development Bank are more likely to further futures work inAfrica and should build on 10 years of work of UNDP/ African Futures onincorporating long-term perspectives into mid- and short-term planning.
Asia and Oceania: The increasing power of China andeventually India should lead to more global, long-term decisionmaking as theyinteract with Europe and North America on global issues. Australia plans torelease its plan on its future role in Asia in late 2008. Japan includesprivate sector companies in its long-term strategic planning unit. South Koreais considering legislation for a permanent Future Strategy unit in the Officeof the President.
Europe: Global long-term thinking continues to be stimulatedby the Lisbon Strategy, increasing immigrants from developing countries, publicfinances for social and health services for an aging population, restructuringenergy systems, changing ethnic demographics, and geopolitical shifts such asthe emergence of China. The 7th Framework Programme of the EU expands foresightsupport; the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies provides futuresstudies for EU decisionmaking; the European Foresight Monitoring Networkconnects futurists; an annual European Futurists Conference is held inSwitzerland; and the European Regional Foresight College improves futuremethods. Foresight was included in the Russian Federal Program 2007–12.
Latin America: The shift toward more socialist politics ismotivating alternative futures thinking, as could the Union of South AmericanCountries. Yet futures approaches are ignored by the academic and mass mediathat focus on urgent and confrontational issues over ideologies, unmet basicneeds, growing inequality, and large economic groups that monopolize services.The Global Millennium Prize was initiated in Mexico for students worldwide whoare 15-19 years old and have the best ideas for addressing the globallong-range challenges.
NorthAmerica: National elections in the U.S. are creating alternative globalperspectives in American decisionmaking. New interactive and analyticalmechanisms could promote foresight, ifcitizens expect and demand it. A collection of high-impact cases should bedeveloped in which foresight leads to demonstrable benefits or when the lack offutures thinking proves costly. (See CD Chapter 11 for examples.)