In 2019, the cards will be laid on the table. A great deal is at stake: the future of the international order’s institutions, and the democracy, dignity and social and labour rights many societies for long considered secure or took for granted. But opportunities will arise amid the fray. The importance of this year will not be determined by the end result of this confrontation but by the confirmation that basic elements of global progress are at stake. In 2019, it’s back to basics.
- The rules of the game: multilateralism and polarity — The United States set about undermining multilateralism as soon as Donald Trump took office. In 2018, the US cut its funding for numerous projects and even withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran. Nothing suggests this trend will be reversed in 2019 and other countries may follow the same path.
- Preparing (or not) for the next economic crisis — In 2019, speculation will grow about the trigger of the next global economic crisis and whether we are better or worse prepared to face it than in 2008. The gradual ending of the monetary expansion cycle, the fluctuations in the energy markets and the fear of contagion between and from emerging economies could deepen the financial difficulties already felt in 2018.
- Between the platform economy and digital oligopoly — 2018 has been a year in which discussion of the effects of the business model of many digital platforms has been generalised and terms such as “uberisation” have begun to form part of everyday language. Precisely this will divert the attention from another economic (and social) phenomenon: the hegemony of a very small number of digital companies and the growing divorce between capital and work, as the world’s five largest companies by market capitalisation all belong to this category: Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook.
- Democracy, global regression and resistance — In 2018, populist forces – openly xenophobic, in many cases – came to power in countries such as Brazil and Italy. In 2019, we will have to pay great attention to whether exercising power takes its toll on them. Above all, we will see the extent to which they are able to force regressions on issues of gender, immigration, the death penalty and LGBT rights.
- Parallel realities, the crisis of trust and digital combat — The 2018 Brazilian elections suggest a transformation in the use of (dis)information in political activity. While in previous years the fashionable concepts have been “infoxication”, “post-truth” and “fake news”, in 2019, this new society fragmented by information will increasingly express itself through online identities and will continue to configure a digital tribalism that isolates some groups from others.
- Normalisation of conflict (and violence) — Most of the conflicts that have broken out over recent decades fail to show signs of resolution. Not only have conflicts been normalised, so have their effects: states that exist in appearance only, borders that lose their meaning and, above all, underfunded humanitarian needs and forced displacement of people that, far from receding, continue to grow.
- Border desires: physical and symbolic walls — In 2019, the 30th anniversary will be celebrated of the fall of the Berlin’s wall. And yet it will be a year in which many more walls are put up, both physical and symbolic. Great attention will also have to be paid to the effects of border militarisation in spaces where territorial limits exist only on paper because local communities ignored them and maintained strong social and economic ties.
- Protracted Brexit — 29 March 2019 is marked on the international calendar as the deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. At the end of 2018, domestic policy issues unleashed all manner of speculation. Could the clock be stopped? Would it be possible to back out? Are both parties really prepared for a no-deal scenario? Can what has already been agreed be renegotiated?
- Brazil: division with global reverberations — Brazil’s political shift will acquire global importance as a reverberation of the Trumpist worldview and specially if a new means of attacking multilateralism opens up. Nevertheless, this political shift will have greatest impact in Latin America.
- Iran: scope and consequences of the sanctions — In 2018, the Gulf had acquired greater centrality and this trend will be maintained in 2019. We will see how united the anti-Iran bloc led by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia is and, above all, what the scope and consequences are of the sanctions imposed by Washington.
‘The World in 2019: Ten Issues That Will Shape the Global Agenda’ – Op-Ed Eduard Soler – Barcelona Centre for International Affairs / CIDOB.