Beyond the Horizon: Understanding the Future for Better Development Today
When Super Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines last month, the incredible damage visited on the people, infrastructure, and land was shaped by trends that have been in motion for decades. The country’s population has been growing rapidly, with high concentrations of people living in cities and along the coast; economic growth had been steady, but weak governance and corruption may have exacerbated vulnerability; and the gradual loss of coastal forests and mangroves left many communities exposed to the full brunt of the typhoon’s storm surge. On a positive note, wireless technology and crowd-sourced data helped in disaster response.
Demographic change is another trend that arises as a common factor in several chapters. Richard Cincotta, demographer-in-residence at the Stimson Center, writes about the importance of “age-structural maturity” – the relative distribution of children, adolescents, working-age adults, and seniors in a country’s population – for a country’s political, economic, and social conditions. For example, he notes that over the past four decades, states with youthful age structures have been the most vulnerable to outbreaks of civil conflict and political instability. A better understanding of how population age structures are likely to change over the coming decades – and demographic projections indicate there is likely to be substantial change – can help us identify areas that may be ripe for focused policies to promote and support democratization, for example.
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