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World worries about war and water

LONDON: The World Economic Forum (WEF), due to hold its annual meeting January 21-24, says the biggest threat to global stability in the next decade is the risk of international conflict.

According to the 10th edition of its Global Risks report, interstate conflict is the number one likely global risk followed by extreme weather events, failure of national governance systems, state collapse or crisis, and high structural unemployment or underemployment.

water shortageDan Smith, secretary-general of conflict resolution NGO International Alert, says the conflict trend is "re-entry into an era of the non-state state" citing examples of ISIS in Syria and Iraq; Boko Haram in northern Nigeria; the FARC in Colombia; Al Shabab in Somalia; and the Seleka militia in northern areas of the Central African Republic.

In WEF's latest risk survey, nearly 900 experts rate water crises and conflict as the greatest risk in terms of impact, together with rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction and failure of climate change adaptation.

"Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world again faces the risk of major conflict between states," said Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, lead economist at the World Economic Forum. "However, today the means to wage such conflict, whether through cyberattack, competition for resources or sanctions and other economic tools, is broader than ever. Addressing all these possible triggers and seeking to return the world to a path of partnership, rather than competition, should be a priority for leaders as we enter 2015."

With water crises the biggest threat facing the planet over the next decade, roughly one-third of the world's population now lives in water-stressed areas, and nearly a billion people still live without access to safe drinking water. Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a metro population of 20 million, had its worst water crisis since 1930 last year and is currently rationing supplies.

"Without doubt, urbanization has increased social well-being. But when cities develop too rapidly, their vulnerability increases: pandemics; breakdowns of or attacks on power, water or transport systems; and the effects of climate change are all major threats," commented Axel Lehmann, chief risk officer at the Zurich Insurance Group.

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