The in-depth analysis by Francesco D’Arrigo, director of the Italian Institute for Strategic Studies, starting from the report of the National Intelligence Council (Nic) “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”
Every four years, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), center of strategic analysis of the US Intelligence Community, submits to the newly elected President of the United States a study on global strategic trends for the next 20 years. This report, called Global Trends, is one of the most relevant studies in the sector worldwide. The declassified version of the seventh edition, titled – Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World – was released last March.
Global Trends 2030, the fifth edition and the most widespread version in the world to date, was presented for the first time in Italy in 2013 by one of the authors of the report – Dr. Mathew Barrows – (Counselor of the National Intelligence Council) at the Forum organized by the Italian Institute of Strategic Studies.
In that event sponsored by the President of the Republic, Barrows described the origins of Global Trends, born from American Intelligence, a community of 17 agencies coordinated by an Intelligence Director. Within his office (the Office of Director of National Intelligence, ODNI) the US intelligence reform law of 2004 – Intelligence Reform and Prevenction Act – placed the National Intelligence Council (NIC) or the main strategic analysis center. medium-long term of the American Secret Service community. But the NIC, directed by Prof. Thomas Fingar until 2009, is also a real think tank among whose tasks, since 1997, there is that of supervising an ambitious and complex research program that was precisely called “Global Trends” .
The objective of the program is not to predict the future – which is impossible – but to stimulate the critical thinking and strategic reflection of the decision maker on the rapid and vast current and future geopolitical changes, encouraging and contributing to more effective long-term planning – National Security Strategy . Since 1997, therefore, every four years, on the occasion of the election of the new president of the United States, the National Intelligence Council publishes the results of these researches and analyzes. Since 1997 the National Intelligence Council has produced seven Global Trends, each with a time horizon of approximately 15/20 years.
The confidential version of Global Trends is presented with a special briefing to the newly elected president of the United States and subsequently distributed within the national security establishment. A declassified “open” version is, however, released publicly and is the one we can all read.
The institution that prepares these reports (NIC) is a body of the US intelligence community (IC), responsible for the development of medium to long-term analyzes and the production of intelligence appraisal documents relating to the deepening of issues related to national security. .
The institutional mission of the NIC is “Lead and support Intelligence Community integration; delivering insights, driving capabilities, and investing in the future “. The NIC is led by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines, and currently consists of 16 members who provide ongoing support to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Security Council (NSC). The NIC also provides support to the US Congress and, following a specific request, develops analytical products focused on certain subjects, deemed useful for legislative activity.
In a nutshell, the NIC is a strategic analysis center committed to developing high-level and highly reliable information products, intended for the top management of the US administration, and (should be) characterized by independent judgment and evaluation with respect to predominant political lines within the current government.
The main objective of Global Trends is to provide the top management of the current government administration with a complete picture of information, trends and scenarios on how the world can evolve in the medium-long term, highlighting the most significant dynamics, at in order to allow decision makers to take the decisions and interventions necessary to affect structural forces and their interactions, pursuing the interests of the United States and protecting its national security. The project is based on a complex analytical process, which, in addition to drawing inspiration from the techniques and skills of the US Intelligence Community, is characterized by the synergy between several subjects, belonging to different institutions (public and private) and coming from different countries. .
On the basis of these organizational principles, the DNI has developed this last analysis by dividing it into three general sections.
In the first, it identifies the “structural forces” in four main foundations: demography, environment, economy, and technology. The analysts have selected these macro areas because they are those considered fundamental in shaping the future, dynamic and relatively universal in scope, and because they offer the availability of data and information that allow projections and analyzes with a reasonable degree of reliability.
The second section examines how these structural forces interact and intersect with other factors to influence emerging dynamics on three levels of analysis: individuals and society, states, international system.
The analysis in this section involves a higher degree of uncertainty due to the variability of the decisions that will be made in the future. Analysts focus on identifying and describing key emerging dynamics at every level, including what is governing them and how they may evolve over time.
Finally, the third section identifies several key factors of uncertainty and uses them to create five future scenarios for the world in 2040.
When exploring the future by developing long-term scenarios, one of the biggest challenges is choosing which issues to cover and emphasize and which to leave out. Global Trends 2040 focused on long-term global trends and dynamics that are likely to shape communities, states and the international system for the next few decades and to present them in a broader context. Consequently, there is less consideration for other issues with short-term repercussions.
In this document, experts focus a lot on the impact of the pandemic, defining it “the most significant and single global crisis since World War II, with health, economic, political and security implications that will unfold in their severity for years to come” .
Furthermore, according to US intelligence analysts over the next twenty years:

  • Advances in technology will provide the potential to address problems such as climate change and disease, but they can also provoke new tensions.
  • Although the health, education and prosperity of families have made historic improvements in recent decades, this progress will be difficult to sustain due to the “headwinds” caused not only by the effects of the pandemic, but also by the aging of the population and from potentially slower economic growth.
  • The rivalry between China and a coalition of Western nations led by the United States, fueled by significant power, demographic and technological policies, will likely intensify, and divisions and conflicts over governance models will intensify.
  • “State and non-state rivals will compete for leadership and dominance in science and technology, with potentially cascading risks and implications for economic, military and social security.
  • The erosion of trust in governments and institutions and the “trust gap” between the less well-to-do citizens and the more educated and better-informed sections of the population was accentuated.

While Global Trends is necessarily more speculative than most intelligence assessments, it builds on the foundations of the analytical expertise of the Strategic Futures Group that produced the paper: “we develop arguments that are data-driven and adequately collected and analyzed; we show our work and explain what we know and don’t know; we consider alternative hypotheses and consider errors; and we do not support political positions or preferences.
Regarding the five scenarios of what the world could look like in 2040, the Global Trends reflects the National Intelligence Council’s perspective on these future trends, but does not represent the official and coordinated view of the United States Intelligence Community or policy. of the United States.
The scenarios of this seventh edition represent a rather gloomy picture of the future of the world – A More Contested World – precisely, due to the pandemic that has increased economic inequalities, severely tested the resources of the States and the political choices of the governments, and fueled nationalist sentiments.
The most pessimistic scenario (the fifth) – “tragedy and mobilization” – postulates how the pandemic generated by the Covid-19 virus, global warming and the repercussions on the environment could devastate global food supplies, causing riots, mass migrations and thousands of victims.
The most optimistic (the first) – a “renaissance of democracies” – depicts a scenario in which democratic governments by strengthening common Western alliances and values ​​prove to be more capable of promoting scientific research and technological innovation, catalyzing an economic boom , which would allow them to cope with internal needs and pressures, and to counteract their international rivals.
These scenarios must absolutely not be understood as forecasts, but as an analytical tool to broaden the field of possibilities, exploring various combinations of how the “structural forces” examined (demography, environment, economy, and technology), emerging dynamics and factors of uncertainty could influence future events and interact.
Global Trends 2040 provides an analytical framework characterized by many unknowns to the Biden administration, and the United States will have to return to exercising its leadership to focus on global challenges, investing in established alliances, international institutions, reviving relations with the EU and stimulating economic growth, which is the key to avoiding the most dramatic scenarios hypothesized in this report from materializing.

Previous articleCamino de Santiago: tips to prepare the getaway from Andalucia to Galicia
Next articleOutdoor awnings: tips to protect yourself with style