FAQs | International Futures and COVID-19

FAQs | International Futures and COVID-19

What is International Futures?

The International Futures (IFs) is an integrated modelling and forecasting tool developed by the Pardee Centre for International Futures at the University of Denver which facilitates the analysis of potential effects of policy interventions and shocks across multiple areas of development. By integrating a set of individual but interrelated sub-modules on governance, finance, international politics, economics, education, health, demographics, gender, agriculture, energy, environment, technology, and infrastructure, the IFs can generate simulations to assess synergies and trade-off between development areas and policy choices at the country, regional and global levels.  

The IFs builds on a comprehensive historical database of about 4000 data series for 186 countries which allows it to model medium- and long-term scenarios informed by current trends, policies and analyze how changes in one or several systems can affect multiple dimensions of development. 

How has UNDP applied this tool and in which countries?

UNDP has been collaborating with the Pardee Center since 2017, facilitating the application of the IFs tool to assess SDG achievement pathways. UNDP has applied this tool through several projects and MAPS engagements in 11 countries including Brazil, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Moldova, North Macedonia, Sudan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.  

In the UNDP report “Assessing the impact of War on Development in Yemen”, the model was applied to explore how conflict has set back economic and human development efforts in the country and reduced their ability to achieve four SDGs: 1. No Poverty; 2. Zero Hunger; 8. Decent work and economic growth and  10. Reduced inequalities. Furthermore, the study provides quantifiable insights for policymakers that require inputs to make evidence-based decisions on the humanitarian aid needs of the country, considering different development trajectories including incentivizing household consumption, increasing food security and access, expanding water and sanitation and tackling child nutrition.  

The application of IFs in Egypt’s MAPS engagement showed that investment in women empowerment would offer the most acceleration potential for poverty reduction and improving wellbeing. Subsequently, the UNDP Country Office will undertake deeper analysis of women economic empowerment as SDG accelerator (combining IFs with other microsimulation tools), and will support the Government of Egypt in developing integrated policies on women empowerment. 

In addition to this, UN Women, UNDP and the Frederick S. Pardee Centre are working together to develop a new model that would allow forecasting of the gender gap in poverty estimates. The findings are expected in July 2020, and the new model will be integrated in the IFs platform. 

What kind of policies can the tool inform?

IFs creates medium- and long-term development scenarios as well as longer-term effects of policy interventions. The tool shows the development benefits of a successful policy intervention and can be used to assess development priorities and policy effectiveness.  

For example, the application of IFs in Egypt analyzed four policy spaces. Promoting women’s empowerment was determined to have highest potential for achieving development goals around reducing poverty as well as broader system benefits, such as health and education for children. 

What are the kind of analysis that are not suited for this tool?

IFs is a medium to long-term integrated assessment model and is generally not equipped to assess or model shocks in the short-term. Additionally, the unit of assessment is country-level and therefore does not handle subnational spatial analysis. 

What kind of COVID-19 assessments can be done with the IFs tool?

IFs can be used to assess the uncertainty space of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 and its potential setback on development goals.  

UNDP and the Pardee Centre engaged in discussion since early days of the pandemic and agreed on initial scenarios based on two variables which can be easily deployed for country-level assessments in the current UNDP-Pardee Centre collaboration:  forecasting the range of medium to long term impacts of COVID-19 across the SDGs based on reasonably informed estimates of best and worst case outcomes of short-term interventions on GDP growth and mortality. 

Furthermore, the research explores a futures scenario which allows us to imagine how a set of ambitious but feasible targeted interventions in Governance, Social Protection, Digital Disruption and Green Economy can support countries in recovering better from the impact of COVID-19. The SDG Push scenario, developed by the Pardee Centre and UNDP, explores this combination of policy choices and investments in the wellbeing of peoples and countries progress towards the achievement of the SDGs. 

What are the optimal spatial and time horizons for the scenarios developed under the IFs framework?

The optimal spatial level of analysis for IFs is the country-level, though IFs can natively aggregate to any larger political or geographic country grouping (i.e. low-income economies, southern Africa, or OPEC) or decompose countries to sub-national entities (with additional modeling effort). Regarding the time horizon, IFs projects to 2100, but is most applicable in medium- to long-term analysis (roughly 2030 to 2050). Longer horizons are primarily used for climate impact evaluation.

How can I apply this to my country?

IFs can be applied to assess the uncertainty space of COVID-19’s effect on country development. Understanding where COVID-19 is likely to have the most severe and longest lasting effects can inform policymakers about development priorities and resource allocation. 

Furthermore, IFs can help assess a country’s efforts in fulfilling its medium to long-term development goals, such as the SDGs. It can be used to better understand the potential effects of development policies on broader socio-economic systems. A scenario analysis of different policy interventions can help people in government think about and situate how resources can be allocated to fulfill development goals. 

Deeper, country-tailored and more focalized analysis can also be carried out with the IFs depending of country level interest and policy priorities. Further applications could consider unpacking submodules to focus on specific policy areas.

I missed the previous training(s). Can I still join this training?

Yes, each training can be taken independently. We are looking forward to your participation! Go back to the main page of the Training on the Use of IFs to Model Impact of COVID-19 on the SDGs. Find more information about training sessions taking place on 25 May and 9 June 2021.