From the deadliest wildfires in California’s history to the devastation of Hurricanes Florence and Mangkhut, via the resurgence of authoritarian politics, and the ever-growing threat of cybercrime, 2018 saw the world becoming more complex and dangerous.
Understanding potential global threats is essential to empowering you to continue to travel safely in 2019. Before you book your 2019 travel, read our expert guide to emerging global trends.
In Africa there are over a dozen countries that are slated to hold elections in 2019, and several incumbent governments will face significant challenges as they seek to extend their time in office.
Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is hoping for a first peaceful transition since independence , and Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two largest economies, will be especially significant for regional dynamics.
Al-Shabaab in Somalia , extremists in Sahel, and a possible resurgence of Islamic State in ungoverned parts of Libya will continue to pose a significant challenge across Africa in 2019.
Hopes of elections in Libya in 2018 proved unfulfilled; while there has been some progress in the country, both security and stability have some way to advance before elections can be held.
However, it has not all been negative. There have been significant improvements in Ethiopia, which experienced a rapid period of political and security sector reform in 2018.
2019 will be a critical time for Ethiopia’s reforms. If the reform programme is continued and expanded, it is likely that crucial sectors of Ethiopia’s economy will be opened up to foreign investment after decades of centralised control.
The Americas were also shaped by a number of populist candidacies that arose due to public angst over corruption and frustration with the political establishment.
Both Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil mounted successful populist bids handing over Latin America’s two biggest economies to ‘outsider’ politicians. The success of the Bolsonaro presidency in 2019 will be determined by his ability to form a stable and working coalition.
The US, which has also continued to be wracked by a high degree of political polarisation, will enter 2019 with a divided Congress, further constraining the amount of legislation that will be passed.
Further flashpoints on the continent will come from Venezuela’s economic turmoil and Nicaragua’s unrest.
Asia and Oceania
Islamist militant groups will continue to undermine Southeast Asia’s security environment, most notably in Indonesia and the Philippines.
In Indonesia, political commentary has been dominated by identity politics, but changing voting patterns and the youth vote will be equally important for its 2019 elections.
Elsewhere in Asia, 2018 opened up with serious concerns about a deteriorating security environment on the Korean Peninsula. However, a combination of sanctions from the US and engagement from South Korea culminated in a historic summit and an easing of tensions.
Any lasting deal is unlikely to be reached in the short-term, and there is credible risk that years of mistrust and/or negative rhetoric from other stakeholders such as the US or Japan could undermine possible talks, but it represents progress nonetheless.
In Europe, political discourse has been dominated by Brexit, creating significant uncertainty in the business environment that is unlikely to be allayed any time soon.
Elsewhere on the continent, the rise of populism has fragmented the political environment and challenged the traditional centre-left or centre-right governments.
Governments in Hungary and Poland, both with a populist bent, have attempted to weaken core liberal institutions. 2019 will be a significant year for the European Union, whose direction will be shaped by its own elections.
Yet it may be developments on the fringes of Europe, especially in Ukraine, which will be more consequential.
If you are a CloseCircle member and would like security advice to help navigate these global trends and plan your safe travel in 2019, contact the CloseCircle experts for free, 24/7 on +44 203 948 6842 (UK and International) or +1 646 844 1032 (US).