On New Year’s Eve, we raised our glasses and drank a toast to the new year, reassuring ourselves that 2021 will hopefully be a step back to normality. However, our wishes have yet to be fulfilled.
Only six days into the New Year and the US Capitol was stormed by Trump supporters. Incited by President Trump’s false claims about the “stolen” election, they put his words into action, showing how fragile even the most rigid democracy can be. As a result, President Trump can leave the White House in January with the comforting feeling that he has done everything in his power to polarize and divide the country, spreading distrust in its fundamental institutions. It is unclear if and how President-elect Joe Biden is able to bridge the trenches that have been dug into American society.
And so, the new president will inherit a diplomatic minefield. Yet it doesn’t end there: the relationship with Iran is worse than ever (after President Trump left the Iranian Nuclear Deal), and after US Soldiers were brought back from conflict-ridden areas like Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Taliban were able to gain a foothold in those regions again, according to reports from the New York Times. Generally, international relations have been severed with the US, as Trump has violated every rule of diplomacy over the past four years – significantly weakening Biden’s prospects for reconciliation with international parties in the future.
Meanwhile, a global pandemic is causing catastrophic effects across the world, causing millions of deaths and crippling the world’s economy. In the UK alone, 2.6. million people will be unemployed by the middle of the next year, as stated by the government’s watchdog, which does not paint a particularly bright picture for 2021. However, in comparison, the future for places like Sudan, Lebanon and Venezuela doesn’t just look gloomy, but rather dire. According to the Foreign Policy magazine, real incomes are likely to collapse in developing countries, and the unemployment rates will grow rapidly, leading to an increasing demand on state support – at a time when states do not have the financial means to meet those needs. The combination of economic hardships, widespread poverty and political dissatisfaction presents an explosive mix, paving the way to social unrest and the outbreak of violence. Moreover, the safeguards of European nations and the US, who usually provide financial support and stability to other struggling nations are now faced with issues on home turf.
Since Covid-19 is probably still going to dominate our minds in the new year, other conflicts are likely to fall into oblivion. However, they are far too important for global peace and security to be left out. In 2021, the inhumane treatment of the Uyghur Muslims under the Chinese government is going to continue. The people in Hongkong still haven’t given up their strike for freedom and democracy. And we are yet to see if the ongoing wars in the Tigray region of Ethiopia or in the area of Bergkarabach between Azerbaijan and Armenia, are able to be resolved.
With all those troubles in mind, the elephant in the room might be overlooked. Climate change. According to the Guardian, the highest global temperature ever was measured last year. With 1.25 degrees celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, we are dangerously close to the 1.5-degree target set by global leaders in the Paris Agreement. With more heat waves, extreme tropic storms and floods, governments will have to deal with water scarcity, food insecurity and increasing migration as living spaces will become inhabitable in the near future, bearing the risk of even more violent outbreaks.
Therefore, I’m afraid as much as we would like to forget 2020, it will continue to cast a long and dark cloud over the new year.
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