Who (else) is using the term polycrisis today?

Now, a number of well-known public commentators have endorsed the term polycrisis as an apt characterization of humanity’s present predicament. Lawrence Summers, a past U.S. Treasury Secretary and economic advisor to President Barack Obama, in an op-ed with Masood Ahmed, President of the Center for Global Development and former senior official at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, used the term polycrisis to propose that "Challenges ranging from increased interest rates, climate change and an epically strong dollar, to food-supply shortages, high inflation and a still-prevalent pandemic all combine to threaten not just the global economy but also the livelihoods of hundreds of millions."

In another op-ed, businessperson and philanthropist George Soros asked “Can democracy survive the polycrisis?” He argues that there are three main sources of the polycrisis (in order of importance): artificial intelligence, climate change, and Russia's war on Ukraine, each of which poses a major threat to democracies around the world. For him, the title question remains an open one.

The polycrisis concept has also gained currency in the work of several international organizations. In August 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific published the foresight brief “Polycrisis and Long-Term Thinking”. It proposes several strategies to foster long-term thinking and adaptive governance to grapple with a growing number of systemic and existential risks (see: "What other terms have been used to capture intersecting global crises?").

The UNDP Strategic Innovation Unit commissioned the report “Global Polycrisis as a Pathway to Economic Transition” by Zack Walsh of the Polycrisis Transition Consultancy. The report argues that unsustainable and unjust economic systems are the main underlying drivers of polycrisis, but the polycrisis opens opportunities for international institutions to pursue systemic transformation.

And a recent report of the United Nations Infant and Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), “Prospects for Children in the Polycrisis”, highlights the distinctive harms for children and future generations posed by eight global trends that are part of the polycrisis: continued impacts of the pandemic, inflation, food insecurity, energy shortages, underinvestment in children, threats to democratic rights, international factionalism, and inequalities of internet access.

Insurance companies and investment firms have also taken note of the global polycrisis, especially after the 2023 WEF summit. A Forbes magazine article proposed that the “Davos Obsession with ‘Polycrisis’ May Seem Remote, but Corporate Boards Should Take Notice”; a piece in Investor Relations magazine made a similar point.

The Zurich Insurance Group, which contributed to the WEF Global Risks Report, highlighted “The Good News Inside Today’s ‘Polycrisis’”. The firm argues that while its constituent crises are not entirely new, the proliferation of the polycrisis neologism signals an increasing recognition that new sorts of solutions are necessary. Zurich also has a section devoted to Sustainability Risk.

And Aviva Investors Group, in a post on “Investing in the Age of the Polycrisis,” propose that the UK economy and global equities are potential losers of the polycrisis, while equities in healthcare, energy, and raw materials may be poised as winners, for which polycrisis has spurred innovation and demand.

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