The 14th edition of GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum aspires to look beyond the current grim picture of the state of international affairs and the disruptive narratives engulfing our societies. GLOBSEC 2019 will zoom in on opportunities to bridge the divisions and reconnect with each other, thus rethinking our collaborative effort to build a prosperous, secure and sustainable future. We need to rediscover our values. We will search for ways to achieve this goal within five streams of key topics shaping our future – European integration, defence and security in the transatlantic sphere, technology as a benefactor and a threat, sustainable societies and, finally, challenges to democracy and liberal order.
Future of Europe Stream
The year 2019 could make or break the European Union. Brexit will hopefully result in a new form of constructive relationship between the UK and the EU-27. In May, decision on the future course of the continent will be in hands of hundreds of millions of Europeans who will elect a new European Parliament. The acute migration crisis has abated, however, the challenges of social integration and protection of external borders remain to be conquered. Across the continent, extremists and populist forces are looking for ways to consolidate their crusade to undermine the existence of the EU. The laying of the foundation for the European Defence Union or continuous work on completing the Single Market should, on the other hand, re-inspire us with clear willingness to further integrate and re-establish mutually beneficial cooperation. Europe cannot afford divisions between East and West or North and South. The 30th anniversary of the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe will offer an opportunity to appreciate the progress and address the shortcomings to move forward. Slovakia will once again have the helm of the Visegrad Group, bringing an ambition to contribute to overcoming these challenges, thus delivering a stronger, more secure and prosperous Europe.
Defence & Security Stream
In the midst of the erosion of decades-long relations among closest allies, protracted confrontation between Russia and the West, stirred up turmoil in the Middle East and shattered strategic deals on global security, hybrid threats flourish and exploit societal vulnerabilities. Due to the ambiguity of these threats and foes, the current global security environment allows leading actors to hide from their responsibilities and break the rules of international relations. Technological advancements in the defence sector may offer redemption as much as help to conceal acts of aggression. Further, disrespect of established rules results in a growing mistrust even among allies, causing threats such as nuclear and chemical weapons to return to the stage. The 70th anniversary of NATO should serve the Alliance as well as the whole international community as an impetus to rediscover its sense of shared responsibility for each other’s security. Slovakia’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2019 will also seek to make progress on some of the most delicate security challenges in the wider transatlantic region. The only other option is that we will all be left to our own devices fighting multiple threats on many fronts at the same time.
Digital Future Stream
Staggering societal divisions and borders being raised again seem counterintuitive to the borderless digital world of which we are learning to be citizens. We are more connected than ever before and everything that the international community faces is intertwined with digital dimensions. At the same time, we entered an age of reckoning which confronts us with the fact that technological progress has been, and largely will be, a double-edged sword. While technology certainly is not the only source of the disorder, it also will not become the silver bullet for all societal challenges. The public as much as private sector bear the responsibility to stand up for the interests of our communities and ensure accountability of future technologies. At the breaking point of expanding our social capital via technology and letting discord run its own course, Slovak chairmanship of the OECD Ministerial Meeting in 2019 will aim to advance responsible regulation as well as ground-breaking innovation.
Sustainable Societies Stream
Striving for global stability is inevitably intertwined with addressing the underlying challenges to human and societal security. The fast approaching deadline to achieve the UN SDGs is no longer only a question of charity and indeed, security, but all the more a matter of living up to our own liberal democratic principles. Resilient and sustainable societies are preconditions for political and economic prosperity of our world, thus equally crucial for governments and companies alike. With $5–7 trillion needed annually to implement the UN’s Agenda 2030, our planet does not stand a chance without substantial involvement of the private sector in this existential endeavour. Working towards sustainability has proven that the result is always greater than the sum of the efforts of its various stakeholders. This synergy could be ever so greater if a coordinated approach of public and private stakeholders was applied. Harnessing the overwhelming power and potential of the newest technology and innovation will significantly accelerate the progress in achieving sustainable societies if proper conditions are created for their development and use.
Democracy & Disconnect Stream
Democratic liberalism seems to be in survival mode. If we are not careful, democracy could indeed see the end of history only in a much gloomier sense. Democracies are doubting their alliances, breaking off free trade ties and seeking ways to meddle with each other’s internal politics. Individualism, arrogance and ignorance of norms and values are thriving. The internet has indeed shifted some power towards citizens but they are largely disengaged and have given up on politics. The populists are let off the hook for more and more bending of our democratic institutions. The wedges within societies reflect in less cooperative politics. Hybrid threats exploiting these vulnerabilities make us question whether another liberal concept, soft power, has turned evil in order to sow further discord among allies. In light of the 30th anniversary of democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, it is high time we rediscover the roots and value of democracy to be able to maintain and extend the stability and prosperity the West has enjoyed for decades.