Navigating the Future: Trends and Signals That Will Shape Development in Serbia

May 8, 2024

The development landscape is being reshaped by a multitude of emerging trends and potential disruptions. At the recent meeting of UNDP Serbia Country Office (CO) top management experts in Belgrade we discussed and analysed these trends in the context of Serbia so that our CO can identify and address them effectively. 


The Accelerator Lab moderated the first session which explored the key trends influencing the future of development globally. Based on the UNDP's Future Trends and Signals System (FTSS) and the expertise of its Communities of Practice, we identified a number of themes.  Prior to the session, we sent out a survey asking the participants from the CO to rate the trends according to their likelihood and relevance for Serbia. They were then asked to analyse the relevance and potential impact of these global trends specifically for Serbia and UNDP's work in the country.

Mapping of trends for Serbia by probability and relevance

Environmental and climate trends took centre stage, in particular the intensification of climate shocks, the race for scarce resources, the rise of climate activism, and the ongoing issue of fossil fuel subsidies. These trends highlight the pressing need for climate action, sustainable resource management, and a concerted global effort to transition towards a low-carbon economy.

In terms of the governance trends, concerns were raised about democratic backsliding, the growing disconnect between citizens and institutions, rising social unrest, and increasing polarisation within societies. These trends underscore the urgent need for development of policies, as well as actions from leaders and institutions to address underlying issues and build more inclusive, equitable, and resilient societies.

In the realm of social and inequality trends, the spotlight fell on the alarming decline in mental health, the strain on social contracts, the backlash against gender equality, and the disproportionate impact of geopolitical tensions on developing economies. Addressing these challenges is crucial for fostering social cohesion, protecting human rights, and ensuring sustainable development progress.

Technological and economic trends, such as the boom in breakthrough technologies, growing concerns about privacy, the inequitable distribution of technology, and the ever-increasing possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI), were also extensively discussed. While these trends present both opportunities and challenges, they underscore the importance of proactive measures, ethical considerations, and regulatory frameworks to ensure that technological advancements benefit everyone in the society equally.

Throughout the meeting, participants engaged in thought-provoking discussions, exploring the relevance of these global trends to the specific context of UNDP's work in Serbia and the wider region. They delved into the necessary types and levels of engagement in Serbia, as well as the potential for forging new partnerships to effectively address the identified trends at the national level.

As Serbia navigates the complexities of the future development landscape, futures and foresight discussions such as this meeting, serve as important platforms to anticipate and respond to emerging global trends in the country's context.