Future Preparedness Study Revealed a New Leader Among the G20
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall (Bolshaya Tatarskaya 42, Moscow, Russia)
List of speakers

On September 18, the Valdai Discussion Club hosted a presentation of the results of a joint project between the Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) and the Valdai Club, titled “Future Preparedness Index-2019”. The project started in 2017, and allowed its authors to identify the dynamics of changes over the course of two years, as well as to develop an outline of the state of the world.

According to Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, this index reflects an attempt to develop a new tool that would serve as a comprehensive assessment of what is happening in the world. The study consists of two parts, quantitative and qualitative ones: the first part involves the analysis of more than 200 indicators in ten areas, and the second part – a survey of experts. The speaker also outlined a number of methodological foundations used in the work: “We are talking about countries and conditionally consider them the main subjects of the world order. Furthermore, we say that no one knows the future, but some twists and turns of fate can be predicted. We tried to understand what features and qualities of this or that country can help it act in an unknown future.”

Report: Future Preparedness Index
The vision of the future includes technological breakthroughs, cultural transformations, changes in public relations, new governance systems and other areas where changes over the horizon of 15–20 years can be decisive.

Valery Fyodorov, General Director of VCIOM, presented the general framework of the study and the conclusions that can be drawn from its results. “We started with the main thing – attempts to understand what key indicators reflect countries' readiness for the future. The work is based on various indexes and ratings made by the World Bank, the UN and other organisations, from which we selected the ones which provide the best prognoses, and then also took into account the assessments of experts.” Ten key areas were identified: technology, economics, education, science, society, culture and communications, resources and environment, sovereignty and security, governance, and international influence. In most areas, three countries remain the leaders: in economics and resources, it is Germany; in science, education, sovereignty and international influence – the United States; and in technology, governance, and society – Japan. The only spheres where the UK retains its leadership are culture and communications.”

Based on these ten areas, a composite index was compiled, allowing, albeit conditionally, the “leader in preparedness for the future” to be named. This year, Germany lost first place to the United States. In addition to them, the top five countries included the UK, Japan and South Korea. As Fyodorov said, most countries have strengthened their positions in the composite index, and many remained unchanged from the previous year. Only two “ultimate” results were revealed: these were Indonesia’s breakthrough and the sharp fall of South Africa. “The fact that the remaining 18 countries are quite stable is an indicator of the reliability of the index,” the speaker stressed. “We have a fairly multi-element and well-structured design, and a sharp change in the position of just two countries suggests that the Index reflects the real picture.”

A number of criticisms of the project were voiced by Natalia Stapran, Director of the Department for Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects at the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. In particular, she drew attention to the vagueness of the very concept of “the future,” both in the sense of its image and in the sense of specific terms – does this mean a period of 10, 50, or 100 years? In addition, she noted the absence of any recommendations: “We must now make the future as the present so that it is real and possible,” she said. “Any position in research should be an incentive to change something today. Therefore, the highlighted blocks in it are interesting, but not unconditional.”

Noting the positive nature of such experiments, Marina Larionova, Director of Centre for Studies of International Institutions at the Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), supported the comments made by Stapran: “There are common risks and goals that Russia shares as a responsible member of the international community – for example, economic inequality – and we need to pay special attention to them. The IMF has warned leading countries that there will be an explosion and that a financial crisis is inevitable – and we got 2007-2008, a global crisis. Therefore, it is necessary to observe the additional risks that are now growing. Moreover, it is necessary to look through the prism of other international indices, and, finally, it would make sense to look at all these indicators from the point of view of contribution to the public good and the implementation of goals in the national context.”

Special Session. Future Preparedness Index
On October 18, 2014, within the framework of the 14th Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, a special session was held, devoted to the results of the Future Preparedness Index, a  joint project of the Valdai Club and VTsIOM. The project is designed to show, that there are countries, that are most responsible for self-organization and their experience can be used to improve the picture of the future in other states.
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Nobuo Tanaka, President of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, drew attention to the need to take into account certain future scenarios instead of talking about the future as a whole. “This is a very interesting index, but does it respond to certain scenarios – for example, what about an energy crisis or a transition to alternative forms of energy?” he asked. “We need to analyze what each country can do to prepare for an unknown future.”

In response to these comments, Andrey Bystritskiy said that it would be unproductive to take into account catastrophic options, and as for the image of the future, the ten areas of it, in fact, comprise it: already now it is clear that the future, for example, will be determined by factors that are technological, knowledge-intensive, and communicative. At the end of the discussion, Valery Fyodorov added that the new index will be prepared in 2021 and built on an updated vision of the future – which, perhaps, will have time to clear up a little.