The Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) 2013 Report was the product of initial efforts to establish institutional foresight within ACT to provide NATO, national leaders and defence planners with a common perspective of the challenges facing the Alliance in the decades to come. The requirement for institutional foresight is affirmed by recent events, including unexpected crises in NATO’s immediate vicinity. In the East, Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and continuing support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine, and in the South, failed or failing states, deepening civil war in Syria and the emergence of Daesh1 have been compounded by chronic economic problems in the Eurozone, unstable energy prices, and increasing environmental concerns. These emerging issues and the convergence of trends reinforce the need for continuous future horizon scanning in order to support improved decision making.
The SFA 2015 Update Report largely reaffirms the findings of the SFA 2013 Report, with a few noted exceptions, and identifies several emerging trends that warrant additional analysis in future studies. The future is neither completely predictable nor predetermined, and there is always the possibility of strategic shock. Thus, the SFA Update defines the boundaries of the problem in order to facilitate future analyses.
The world is becoming increasingly more complex, more challenging, and less secure, even though globalization and developments in technology are expected to provide ample opportunities for positive developments in health, welfare and security. Increasing interdependency amongst countries has the potential to create stability in the long-term. However, the ongoing transition from a unipolar to a multipolar and multi-dimensional world has created instability that is likely to continue. This transition will test the Alliance’s ability to adapt to the challenges of a rapidly changing global security environment.
Fault lines between civilisations have the potential to promote the growth of extremist, radicalized groups. The global economy is changing, with power shifting from the West to other regions and also within the nation-state system. Advances in technology and the worldwide sharing of ideas and ideologies, research and education, supported by social media and big data, are accelerating these developments. It is not feasible to prepare for every eventuality that might occur. However, having the ability to handle the unexpected is important. This will require individual and organisational level measures and long term strategies. The institutional foresight capacity within ACT will provide NATO with advanced notice of potential discontinuities to assist the Alliance to perform its core tasks in a rapidly changing, complex and multipolar future security environment.