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Politics & Governance

Ten Policy Priorities for Global Leaders in 2024


Commentary18th December 2023

2024 will be an enormous year for elections and political news worldwide. Policymaking will play a part, but there is a risk it could be overshadowed by personalities and party dramas. This would be a shame, as there are good reasons to believe that the major challenges the world is facing can be addressed if the thinking and will to act are there. Here are ten policy areas I would love to see prioritised in 2024. 

1. Countries Finally Address Investment in Health

In the wake of Covid-19, there is growing awareness that it is vital for countries to prepare for future pandemics. This not only requires better coordination between nations but also the right preventative measures, in particular a more robust adult-vaccination infrastructure. As memories of the global pandemic ebb it is tempting to move on, but a return to the status quo ante would be a terrible mistake. Addressing public health is one of the most impactful things policymakers can do for people. The economic benefit is also becoming increasingly clear, meaning the business case should soon be seen as overwhelming.

2. Net-Zero Targets Get Real

There are already signs of a net-zero backlash. Voters who feel the pinch as climate targets become real will find more outlets next year to protest against what they see as arbitrary timelines and unfair distribution of costs. Policymakers with few easy options will be tempted to redefine targets, let them slip or abandon them altogether. But postponing action won’t solve the problem; instead, the path to full net-zero implementation should be defined. Realism on genuinely achievable plans will be increasingly important; countries that can take the big decisions necessary to actually get there will be much better positioned than those with only a deadline, however eye-catching.

3. International Finance Finds Climate Projects

At the same time as setting out national plans, policymakers can support international efforts to channel willing finance to ready projects. Capital is available and many potential projects exist, but lack of confidence, incomplete information or the absence of necessary policy backing hamper efforts to connect them. Better information and support can help more projects in emerging markets come on stream and make a significant contribution to the global effort to reach net zero. This process should also be self-perpetuating: as investors find new partners, they will gain the connections and experience to enable more projects.

4. All Levers Are Used to Achieve Food Security

As climate change and geopolitical shifts affect supply chains, many countries are rightly thinking about protecting food security, one of the fundamental tasks of government. The good news is that, despite mounting challenges, more tools than ever are available, from CRISPR technology, which can programme the biology of crops and make them more resilient, to tech-intensive vertical farms, which bring production to urban or challenging environments. Together with satellite monitoring and new weather-forecasting methods, the potential exists to significantly improve agricultural yields, provided policymakers foster the conditions in which farmers can implement them.

5. Policymakers Maintain Momentum on AI, Even If Public Interest Dips

While there is currently plenty of hype around artificial intelligence (AI), next year it is reasonable to expect that some predictions will not come true and some of the rhetoric may look overblown. Over the longer term, however, we are likely to understand that this apparent lull was simply our experience of the early stages of the technology’s exponential upward curve. Big changes are coming, even if they are not evident right now. So policymakers should keep working on the deployment and regulation of AI, and in particular act fast to ensure access to the compute capacity their country needs to compete.

6. Public Services Start to Serve the People

Countries are experimenting in different ways with applying technology to public services to make them more user-friendly, responsive and efficient. But genuinely transformative progress relies on connecting the many silos of information to deliver proactive support to the people who need it, reducing waste while maximising service value. This requires a common infrastructure and identity system, and considerable design work. Many policymakers already recognise that the technology to enable transformation exists; now what is needed is the policy commitment.

7. Strengthening the Digital Backbone Becomes a Priority

Digital infrastructure, the network over which government services, business and social connectivity can flourish, is a key factor in each country’s ability to compete. Ensuring investment is delivered to support fixed, mobile and broadcast capacities is a never-ending task, but the fact that satellite broadband is finally fulfilling its promise in remote or complex environments is promising. Policymakers have a range of tools to support the rollout of modern infrastructure. One way or another, citizens are depending on them to fill in the remaining blank spots on the map.

8. Newer Forms of Work Get the Status They Deserve

Tech platforms have opened up new forms of work that are providing new services. While delivery drivers and ride-share services might be the most visible examples of the “gig economy”, new models offering short-term commitment and easy access to specialist skills exist across many sectors. It is tempting to think about these jobs in terms of existing categories – “employee” or “self-employed” – and apply protections and conditions accordingly. But our research suggests that workers very often value elements of the job that would be taken away if they were shoe-horned into traditional categories. A smarter approach to gig work would be to support transparency, accountability and consistent enforcement of standards while protecting flexibility.

9. Supply Chains Get Smart, but Stay International

Countries’ future success will rest in large part on their positioning in the new tech economy. This will mean developing domestic talent, infrastructure and research, but also taking a strategic approach to supply chains, including the vital issue of compute capacity. While building domestic capacity is crucial, onshoring everything just isn’t a feasible strategy. Instead, policymakers should be thinking hard about alliances and reliability in the face of geopolitical change. 

10. Policymakers Reimagine the Kind of State They Want

Government almost everywhere is growing, usually in pursuit of solving the very real issues that policymakers face globally. In some cases, this is delivering value to citizens and incremental gains for countries. But the mid-21st-century state could look very different to that of the 20th century. Policymakers with genuine ambitions to achieve transformative change have the chance to start building a reimagined state – one that is based on a concept of smarter, more effective interventions, tech-driven decision-making and significantly reduced waste. Countries that can deliver a reimagined state will lead the way in governance and demonstrate a way forward that reduces the appeal of easier populist answers.

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