Social tensions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will dominate the international agenda next year, according to a survey of 1,500 experts by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The Switzerland-based organization, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, collated the views of academics, business experts and government employees for its report on the outlook for key economic trends, published Friday.
It found that unemployment and a widening income gap were also major concerns for world leaders, although MENA tensions ranked highest.
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The WEF highlighted the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has involved high-profile negotiations between Russia and the U.S., and political instability and unemployment across North Africa as particular areas of concern.
"The year 2014 is absolutely not the year for complacency," Martina Gmur, senior director at the WEF, said in a press release.
"The global economy may be recovering from the global economic downturn but this survey shows there is an incredible amount of work to be done to turn the world to a sustainable footing, economically, politically and environmentally."
The widening income gap was ranked as the second-most-important trend by the WEF, with ramifications for health, education and social mobility across all regions of the world.
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It comes after Bill Gross, co-founder of the world's largest bond fund, Pimco, weighed in on the income gap debate, joining Warren Buffett in calling for the U.S. to have a more equitable tax regime.