More of the same?
Although there have been some positive trends, the global security picture of late has been dominated by fragmentation, instability and authoritarian backlash – and this uncertainty looks set to continue. So too does the widespread sense that 'politics as usual' is not working.
There is a danger that the latter is a factor in growing global social discontent, upheaval and even political violence. But the solutions on offer have become more limited and short-term. And there is little evidence that the major underlying causes behind both spreading instability and conflict will be properly addressed, despite the patchy return to more widespread global economic growth.
There is a serious risk that trouble is being stored up for the future.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is among the biggest risks from future military escalation: look at the frequent deployment of chemical weapons in Syria and the looming threat of miscalculation and nuclear confrontation on the Korean peninsula.
Battlefield successes against terrorist proto-states in West Africa and the Middle East have done little to resolve the underlying tensions and political troubles from which these states arose. Indeed, many of these victories were achieved via the empowerment of unaccountable, non-state militias with criminal or extremist agendas of their own.
The list of potential conflict hotspots around the world continues to grow. The Middle East remains a concern, but the risk of a dangerous and unpredictable upsurge of violence in the South China Sea area and on the Korean Peninsula is increasing. The conflict in Ukraine never really stopped, despite dropping from the headlines.
Although there are examples of progress, several sub-Saharan African countries could become more dangerous: Burundi, Cote D'Ivoire, DRC and even South Africa among them.
While most terrorist violence is concentrated in or near to active conflict zones, high-profile attacks continue to be a severe threat across much of the developed world. Developing and newly-developed countries (such as Egypt, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkey) have, in recent years, proved to be tempting or soft targets.
Continuing widespread domestic discontent and international ideological conflict means we can only expect further incidents in years ahead.
Social and political instability
War and terrorism are intrinsically linked to social and political conflict.
The number of people forcibly displaced by conflict has reached record highs. Inadequately handled, these population flows fuel a cycle of extremism, racial tension, violence, threat from extremist groups and a breakdown of trust in conventional politics. Local crises can provoke international problems, sometimes with little warning. And countries or regions long- considered safe and predictable could be further destabilised.
Meanwhile, the suspicion of institutions, the spread of 'fake news', and the trend towards nationalist and identity-driven politics, all contribute to an erosion of faith in the democratic and legal norms taken for granted by much of the developed world.
The World Economic Forum identifies cyber-attacks and data fraud/theft as some of the most likely serious risks in the short to medium term.
Attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years, and incidents once considered extraordinary are becoming commonplace - with financial and reputational repercussions. As inter-state and other conflict moves increasingly online, expect an increased threat to public services too.
The environment and climate change
The impact of man-made climate change is increasingly recognised as a potentially catastrophic threat to global peace and stability. Around the world, floods and hurricanes kill and displace millions, while efforts to adapt cities and economies fail to keep up. Drought and food scarcity drive large numbers of 'climate change refugees' who can destabilise societies and increase the fear of competition for jobs, housing and even food. Don’t expect these trends to abate.
Don't forget the basics
Traditional business travel threats, such as crime, disease, adverse climate and road traffic accidents are likely to dominate. But they can be intensified by the negative developments outlined above. Business travellers can, and should, take simple and effective steps to research and mitigate them.
Avoiding major conflict areas is usually straightforward, but it is also important to be aware of trends and signs of a deteriorating security environment, in both regular and new travel destinations.
Don't forget to take sensible precautions: not least researching your destination, buying a first aid kit, making sure you know how to use it and seeking advice from those with local knowledge.
Seek specialist help and training if you are going to a dangerous location - especially if it has long-been considered safe in the past.
This post was written by Jonathan Brown, risk team manager at CEGA .
CEGA and security experts Solace Global are exhibiting their one-source medical and security assistance service, INtrinsic, at the Business Travel Show, stand B254: February 21st – 22nd 2018. Register for your free ticket now at http://bit.ly/2qYu9GF