Contemporary Operating Environment

'Global Trends: Paradox of Progress' by the United States National Intelligence Council

By Mick Fry May 13, 2019

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In 2017, the United States' National Intelligence Council published 'Global Trends: Paradox of Progress' which is an assessment of the forces and choices that will shape the world over the next two decades. . The first part of the publication examines the trends that are transforming the contemporary landscape and how these trends are 'changing the nature of power, governance and cooperation'. Seven trends are identified:

  1. The rich are aging, the poor are not
  2. The global economy is shifting
  3. Technology is accelerating progress but causing discontinuities
  4. Ideas and identities are driving a wave of exclusion
  5. Governing is getting harder
  6. The nature of conflict is changing
  7. Climate change, environment, and health issues will demand attention.

The authors predict that these trends will converge at an unprecedented pace, to make governing and cooperation harder and to change the nature of power—fundamentally altering the global landscape. The second part of the publication explores the rising tensions  across all regions and types of governments, both within and between countries. Within countries, tensions are rising because citizens are raising basic questions about what they can expect from their governments in a constantly changing world. The authors suggest that these internal tensions are then heightening the tensions between countries - increasing the risk of interstate conflict during the next five years. The third part of the publication uses three different scenarios to think about the future: islands (national level), orbits (regional level) and communities (transnational level). The final part of the publication explores the next five years by region - East and South East Asia, South Asia, Europe, North America, South America, The Arctic and Antarctic, and Space.



Mick Fry


Mick Fry is a member of the Cove Team.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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