State of the Future Index
On what basis should the world’s resources be allocated on behalf of humanity? The State of the Future Index is a tool in development to help answer that question. It is a statistical combination of key indicators and forecasts related to 15 Global Challenges as a whole that assesses whether the future is improving or getting worse over the next 10 years. It integrates expert judgments from around the world to answer in quantitative terms which issues deserve attention to diminish risk or improve the future.

Several years ago the Millennium Project examined the interaction among the Challenges and found that improving one improved most of the others, while deterioration in one makes the condition of all the Challenges worse. This led to the belief that more may be learned about effective policies by studying the relationships among the elements of a system than by studying the elements themselves. Why not search for the policies that have the most beneficial effects across the set of issues? SOFI provides a mechanism for doing just that. With SOFI, someone could conceive a hypothetical policy and test it to determine not only whether it promises to satisfy its primary intent but what its overall effect will be on the general future outlook.

This year, new software was developed to ease the chore of data entry and the computation of the SOFI. Sensitivity tests were performed to determine the response of the SOFI to changes in assumptions about two or three key external developments. The policies that held the key to the future were found to be associated with lowering the projected number of AIDS deaths and diminishing the probability of a high number of deaths due to terrorism. Without effective policies in these areas, there is a significant chance of a much darker future, with a SOFI sharply lower than it might have been. (See Figure 1 for a graphic representation of the 2004 SOFI.)

The future cannot be reduced to a number, but the process of developing this index forces people to consider what they mean when they say the future is getting better or worse.

An international panel of more than 200 scientists, business planners, decisionmakers, and futurists who work for international organizations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities identified and rated developments that might alter the SOFI variables. Chapter 3 presents an executive summary of these insights, and the full details can be found in the CD’s Chapter 2. Chapter 4 introduces the first national SOFIs.

2004 State of the Future Index

Middle East Peace Scenarios

The time and energy it would require to rectify past injustices felt today might be better spent on building a more just, humane future. We do not have to forget the past, but we should not let it enslave our ability to build a better tomorrow together. In this spirit, at the suggestion of the Cairo Node of the Project, the Millennium Project agreed to produce three alternative normative peace scenarios for the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Even though this conflict is one of the most analyzed issues today, there are no well-researched, objective, plausible peace scenarios for the Middle East—not frameworks, proposals, treaties, or road maps, but scenarios that are stories with causal links connecting the future and the present.

Working backward from an imagined peace sometime in the future, seven conditions were identified that had to exist just before peace was achieved. Actions to address each precondition were identified and rated by an international panel as to their likelihood, the importance of achieving the precondition, and the possibility that it could backfire or make things worse. The results from a two-round questionnaire were used to write draft scenarios, which were submitted to the panel members for comment. The pattern of results of this third round was used to write the three scenarios presented in Chapter 5. These can now be used as a basis for discussion among the interested parties. The full study with the results of all three rounds is available on the CD.

Scenario 1: Water Works—Water crises led to water negotiations that built trust that peace was possible and boosted political negotiations. Momentum increased with new youth political movements, the “Salaam-Shalom” TV series complemented by Internet peace phone swarms, tele-education in refugee camps, the Geneva Accords complemented by parallel hardliner negotiations, joint development with Arab oil money and Israeli technology, participatory development processes, new oil pipelines from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, and a unique “calendar-location matrix” for time-sharing of the holy sites. UN troops enforced agreements with non-lethal weapons, and new forms of international collaboration cemented the peace.

Scenario 2: The Open City—The new Pope challenged Jewish and Muslim religious leaders to solve the question of governance in Jerusalem. Politics, power, and media all played a role in reaching a proposed solution that was ultimately codified in a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly. The threat of a fatwa ended the suicide bombings; when the bombings stopped, so did the Israeli retaliatory missions. Education of young Muslims gradually changed; schools that once taught hatred moderated. On the question of refugees, the Israelis were concerned about being overwhelmed and outvoted by Palestinian immigrants in their democratic society. The issue promised to be inimical but a compromise restricted the right to vote to people who had lived in Israel for more than seven years. Finally, a historic proposal came to the UN from Israel—it traded guarantees of Israeli security for establishment of a permanent Palestinian state.

Scenario 3: Dove—“Dove” was a secret, contested Israeli plan to de-escalate and unilaterally renounce retaliation in order to demonstrate that Palestinians were aggressors. At the same time, a secret debate was taking place among extremist Palestinians on whether to escalate to more lethal weapons. Those against escalation said “If we desist, Israel will be seen as the aggressor.”

So each side had reasons for wanting to stop but seemed frozen by circumstances. The tide changed when 27 Israeli pilots said they would not participate in future air raids, initiating the “Refusnik” movement. What happened next was like a chess game. The Israelis got a guarantee that the bombing would stop; the Palestinians got an agreement that the Israelis would withdraw to the pre-1967 borders. A series of non-aggression treaties and agreements stated that Israel had a right to exist. Jerusalem became an open city, with its own democratic government. Immigration quotas were established. Foreign capital flowed into the area. New businesses were established, and unemployment among the Palestinians dropped sharply. It was a self-fulfilling cycle: the move toward peace sparked the environment for peace.

While writing these scenarios, it became increasingly clear that the speed of building better conditions must be so fast that the voices of those who would have us understand the past before we move forward are less audible than before. It is a race. It is easy to say there are many alternative scenarios for the Middle East that show variations on the current violence, but without plausible stories of how peace could evolve with cause-and-effect relations woven into peace scenarios, it is difficult to motivate people to move toward more cooperative pursuits to build a new story for the region.

Environmental Security

The links between the environment and security are increasingly becoming the subject for international agreements. Environmental security is environmental viability for life support with three sub-elements: preventing or repairing military damage to the environment, preventing or responding to environmentally caused conflicts, and protecting the environment due to the moral value of the environment itself. The Millennium Project has been scanning a variety of sources to identify emerging environmental issues with treaty and military implications. Over 200 items have been identified during the last two years.

A summary is presented in Chapter 6, and the full text of these items and their sources can be found in CD Chapter 9.1, Emerging Environmental Security Issues. Some general patterns and insights from the items include:

•“Business as Usual” will be a misleading forecast: New sensor technologies, increasing environmental awareness, and international agreements mean that many actions accepted over the past 10–20 years will not be tolerated over the next decade or two.
• Military roles are increasing in documenting military chemicals, food, equipment, and impacts and locations of weapons (such  as the spent uranium shelling controversy), in securing pathogens and toxins from terrorists, in conducting more-sophisticated post-conflict clean ups, and in anticipating disaster responses as the impact and number of disasters rises and as disasters become more acute due to climate change and chemical and biological pollution.
• Environmental causes of conflicts are expected to become more significant as environmental deterioration increases the number of “environmental refugees,” which will in turn increase the number and scale of conflicts related to migration.
• Environmental issues continue to rise on the international political agenda.
• The Aarhus Convention reinforces the growing trend of increased public and NGO participation in shaping national, regional, and international policy, legislation, and treaties.
• Sovereignty and environmental security may increasingly be in conflict.
• Global warming is not going away, and legal mechanisms to recover damage seem inevitable.
• A global framework for chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons is needed.
• New initiatives to increase eco-efficiency and eco-security are emerging all over the world and at all levels—the UN, regional groups, and national and local organizations.


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