What are the threats and challenges?
As part of an OSCE-wide project we interviewed representatives of almost all Dutch ministries and advisory councils in order to learn how they perceive the main threats and challenges for the Netherlands, now and in the coming 10 to 20 years. The results will shortly be published by Clingendael.
Quick scan of threat perceptions and challenges
Last summer a conference organised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) led to the foundation of an OSCE wide Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions. This network decided to make a study of threat perceptions in the OSCE area to provide a more solid background for current and future debates within the OSCE.
The first phase of this project, undertaken by twenty think tanks in OSCE countries, is a quick scan of the threat perceptions of relevant state actors in these countries.
The outcome of the 24 interviews that we conducted in the Netherlands is that most of the perceived threats and challenges fall in two broad categories:
(1) the adverse consequences of technological development and economic growth and
(2) the lack of adequate responsiveness of governments and public to these adverse consequences.
Growing inequality was on top of many lists, referring to a widening gap between highly educated, healthy and wealthy citizens who benefit from globalization, and less educated citizens who feel victimized by globalization. The inequality is illustrated by the fact that the highest educated segment of Dutch society can on average expect twenty more years of healthy life than the lowest educated segment.
Climate change and biodiversity
Most respondents felt that the direct impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity on the Netherlands and Europe will probably remain manageable, but that they might lead to disasters and instability in other parts of the world.
International cooperation in a time of geopolitical change requires great skills of all parties involved anyway, but the combination with climate change, scarcities and failing states will make this challenge even greater.
Many felt that the vulnerability of our ICT infrastructure is underestimated.
Scarcity of natural resources
If managed wisely at local, national, regional and global level, growing scarcities of water and raw materials do not have to lead to armed conflict and disaster, but our interlocutors were more optimistic about finding technical solutions for these scarcities than about the political handling of these problems.
Many of our respondents pointed at the difficulty governments have to react adequately to new threats, either overreacting, as in the case of terrorism, or postponing necessary changes of policy year after year. This shortsightedness might be provoked by the capriciousness of voters, but threatens to undermine the trustworthiness and legitimacy of governments.