The Most Important Political Issues of 2016


Global Matters has polled our select group of experts on what political issues they believe will be the most important in 2016. In order to do this, we provided a list of eleven major issues, and asked each expert to select 3 issues which they believed would be important in the year ahead. Of these, the most important issue was given 3 points, the runner-up 2 points, and the final issue 1 point.

The eleven issues which they selected from were as follows:

  • The emergence of populist movements
  • Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
  • The rise of artificial intelligence/cyborgs
  • Climate change
  • Unregulated migration
  • The erosion of the EU
  • The meltdown of China’s economy
  • A collapsing Russia
  • A populist republican administration in the US
  • A new financial crash
  • Military action in the South or East China Sea

Following our poll of 12 experts, this was the result:

Global Matters Graph UpdateAs can be seen several issues dominated our experts’ concerns. Among these the threat posed by the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) was viewed as the most important and pressing issue for 2016. Following closely behind was the issue of ‘unregulated migration’ relating to the large number of refugees who have entered Europe over the last year.

Climate Change, a hot topic following the Paris Conference, also was viewed as an important issue for the year ahead, as nations begin to implement policies which will tackle this global problem. A final issue which has emerged as important was the risk of a new financial crash, perhaps triggered by a slowdown (or meltdown) of China’s economy.

Do you agree with our experts? Which issues would you score as the most important in 2016, and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

, , , , , , , ,


  1. Tobias 2 years ago

    1. Socialist turn in the Anglo-American world (U.S. and U.K.)
    — impact of Sanders’ campaign on Democrats
    — impact of Trump’s campaign on Republicans (protectionist, pro social security etc.)
    — Corbyn’s new Labour

    2. Challenges for Transatlantic partnership / new Eurasian axis?
    — anti-NATO parties in almost every European country
    — some of them partly financed by Russia (Front National, Syriza?), Iran (Podemos)

    3. Iranian-Arab conflict / proxy wars

    ReplyShare >
  2. Sabina Pindur 2 years ago

    From a German perspective, the erosion of the EU due to unregulated migration looks like a distinct possibility a the outset of 2016. The fact that one EU member state after the other introduces restrictive measures stems from the Initial refusal of some to cooperate in fair burden sharing. Could this be the year that Mearsheimer’s 1990 prediction becomes reality?

    ReplyShare >
  3. Terence Fernandes 2 years ago

    Interesting to see how this group of experts have ranked these issues. It would be useful to have some context as to the background of the panel that was polled. I wonder to what degree the rankings have been influenced by the environment of the experts (i.e. country of residence) and the timing of the poll (i.e. soon after the Paris attacks). I suspect experts from one region to the next would rank these differently and it would be interesting to see those differences. Some issues that I would like to add for consideration include:

    The lifting of sanctions of Iran:
    – with the lifting of sanctions on Iran, it will be interesting to observe how the dynamics in the region will shift in 2016. Will Iran’s more moderate leadership tread lightly for fear of damaging its newfound relations with the West? Or will hardliners in the regime gain momentum to use Iran’s improving economic situation to be more assertive or aggressive in the regional conflicts? Globally, it will also be interesting to see how Iran chooses to engage the wider international community. Just recently Iran and China agreed to closer economic and political ties.

    The concern about ‘superbugs’
    – Scientists have recently warned that the world is on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era. This issue may gain traction in 2016 and it will be interesting to see how governments, NGOs and epistemic communities try and address the issue.

    Civil liberties vs security
    – I suspect that in 2016, more and more debate will emerge regarding the balance between the two in the West.

    Socialism in US political discourse
    – completely agree with Tobias regarding the Sanders campaign in the US. Socialism used to be very taboo even a decade ago in the US. Now, it is very much part of the mainstream political discourse.

    Xenophobia / Integrating migrants
    – will be interesting to see how the West will integrate (or not) migrants in 2016.

    ReplyShare >
  4. missbjelica 2 years ago

    I would rank climate change as the most pressing global issue, followed by terrorism (ISIS/Daesh). The world has been seeing both the rise and fall of populism; the coming together and collapse of alliances and states; financial breakdowns, most often accompanied by populist political movements, migration, and always followed by recovery. The pressing dangers behind global climate change, however, are unique to our time, and not only are we unprepared to face these challenges, but the instability that all the aforementioned issues bring together make the common goals of climate change more difficult to reach.

    Terrorism is perhaps not the root cause of migration, the erosion of the EU, populism and conservatism, but certainly affects the state of play, in how policies are developed and alliances shaped. The influx of migrants to Europe might be higher than the one we have seen in the 90s, and the challenges greater, however given how history has managed to evolve and develop after similar events – I would categorize migration as a sub-category of a much greater problem. Of course, related to this is the economy, and for the economy not to crash again – we need to develop better relations across the political and ideological borders we have today.

    ReplyShare >
    1. faisal 1 year ago

      what a splendid and brillant writer and thinker you are maam…

      ReplyShare >
  5. faihaa 2 years ago

    1- Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
    2- Climate change
    3- Unregulated migration

    ReplyShare >
  6. Zhao, Wenbo 11 months ago

    Given the fact that the global politics has undergone dramatic sea change in the past years, the experts’ prioritization of striking global issues, nonetheless, looks quite strange for me. One interesting observation is that the so called “very low politics,” like climate change, received 12 votes from experts, ranking third among all the 11 issues. I am sure climate change, as component of public goods of international committee, is certainly important, but I doubt that climate issue would not be able to generate any significant geopolitical change in any short period of time, given the extremely long term effects of any climate related problems. Based on the similar reason, ISIS for me personally, is not qualified for being the most important issue of the contemporary world politics. The reasons that make the ISIS problem unsolvable are complicated. That the involvement of major powers within Syria, that the hesitant attitude within western powers, that the disputes among allied countries, that the complex ethnic and religions background of the conflict, that the secret diplomacy of neighbor countries, and so on and so forth. Those reasons, however, at the same time, make the escalation of hostility economically and militarily highly impossible, for the subtle equilibrium among major powers and tremendous potential cost will hinder all states owning the capacity of providing a feasible solution for ISIS issue. For me, among all the 11 mentioned issues confronting global politics, the issue that most likely to lead to great global geopolitical change is China’s economic crisis. The reasons are not only concerning with the huge scale of Chinese economy, though this is certainly of great importance as well. The de facto authoritarian nature of Chinese politics is at least of same, if not larger, importance. Following the neoliberal rationale, China as an authoritarian regime bonded its legitimacy and task almost exclusively with the development of economy. Therefore, the melting down of Chinese economy would significantly undermine the authority and legitimacy of Chinese regime, which may led to unexpected reactions from the Party. Consequently, Chinese may veer to a new direction that is different from its previous blueprint, be that more authoritarian, nationalism or otherwise. Such a dramatic change of social path in a potential super power is, for me at least, certainly the most likely factor that would change the whole global system in the future.

    ReplyShare >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available