Sleepwalking into a Complex Global Emergency

Why we must focus on young people to turn back the tide


Phrases like ‘disasters’, ‘catastrophes’, ‘calamities’, ‘tragedies’, or ‘emergencies’ no longer sufficiently describe the mega-threats humanity is facing. Rather, we are, because of a series of crises that are ‘interconnected, entwining and worsening one another’ – a polycrisis, sleepwalking into a complex emergency. 

The most talked about and visible today of a series of emergencies or disasters are the energy and food crisis caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. The less visible and less talked about are the multiple wars and conflicts spanning Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, producing millions of refugees, pushing the most vulnerable into a further abyss. The spiraling global inflation generated by short-term stop-gap measures has worsened the already dire situation.

Never before have our planet-unfriendly activities pushed the earth’s ecological systems so far, out of balance—that global and local systems have been rendered endangered, literally hanging on the straws. These multiple, simultaneous, and consecutive harms inflicted on the earth and its inhabitants, have produced unparalleled interlinked dilemmas. The set of solutions to resolve one crisis seems to be worsening others and producing new ones.  We have pushed ourselves into the uncertain and ambiguous terrain—and into an intractable polycrisis.

Now, solving the polycrisis by simply repeating, or ‘modelling back’ actions and solutions that produced the present polycrisis is not the smartest thing to do. Challenges such as sexual exploitation and abuse of children, hate crimes, rising virulent forms of political and religious extremism—some of which are produced and propelled by democracies, targeting younger generations, are likely to, if not addressed, combine with traditional risks and challenges, to produce the complex emergencies. 52% of the world’s population is under the age of 30, and in under 10 years, this segment of the population will be leaders, if not already. 

The complex emergencies from the polycrisis become inevitable if we ignore 52% of the population. We are sleepwalking into a complex emergency if we do not address, work with, and for the population that will take us into the complex emergency, and that which will inherit most of the problems we will trigger. 

Because the G20 platform is primarily an economic policy platform, let’s have this into an economic perspective. A study by Child Fund Alliance estimates that the global economic impacts and costs resulting from the consequences of physical, psychological, and sexual violence against children top $7 trillion. This high cost is a lot much higher than the investment needed to prevent much of that violence. As evidence suggests, prevention pays back better.

Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, GNRC, making his presentation at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Abu Dhabi

An excerpt from the GNRC Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali

Delivered at the G20 Interfaith Forum – 12th December, 2022

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