Global outlook 2018 | Daily News

Global outlook 2018

This year is actually not over yet, but with just a couple of days to go before 2019 dawns, the time is right to look back on an eventful year on many fronts. Migration is perhaps the biggest story of 2018 and we focused on that exclusively in this space yesterday. But the next biggest story is no less important and has even been identified as a cause for migration itself – Climate Change.

The emission of the heat-trapping gases that produce Climate Change continues to rise globally. A report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018 says we may have only 12 years to act or pass the point of no return. To judge by the hurricanes, devastating wildfires, floods, and record-breaking heat in 2018 that Climate Change fueled, our descendants will inherit an Earth on the verge of becoming hell. We have experienced many freak weather events in Sri Lanka. Although some natural disasters cannot be directly linked to Climate Change, there were many of them this year – including two massive tsunamis in Indonesia. One major problem is that Climate Change deniers are a very powerful group and could derail efforts to save the world.

Bad news generally gets a lot of press, but good things happen too. North and South Korea are (literally) mending fences at a remarkable pace, perhaps spurred on by a landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The two countries even held a ceremony this week to formally link their railway systems, but it could be blocked by sanctions imposed on North Korea. In Africa, Ethiopia and former foe Eritrea (they were at war for 12 years until 2000) signed a peace deal that has seen the resumption of diplomatic relations and commercial air traffic between Addis Ababa and Asmara. Talking of air traffic, this year was an exceptional one for civil aviation with four billion passengers carried and only a few major accidents, most notably the crash of a brand new Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia a few weeks ago.

Good things can happen out of bad experiences too. The #MeToo Movement, spurred by the case of Harvey Weinstein went global this year, with thousands of women coming forward with similar tales. In Italy the movement became #Quella Volta Che (“that time when”), in Spain it is #Yo Tambien, in France it is #Balance Ton Porc (“squeal on your pig”), and in Arab-speaking countries it is #Ana Kaman. Several high-profile men faced jail as allegations against them were proved beyond doubt. The Movement has gained momentum throughout the year and even figured in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh in USA.

The murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sent shockwaves throughout the world. The incident soured relations between the West and Saudi Arabia, which finally admitted that Khashoggi has indeed been murdered and arrested 15 of the men implicated by the Turkish authorities. He was not the only journalist killed this year – more than 50 journalists were killed in the line of duty around the world while a few others were killed in attacks not specifically targeted at journalists. Journalism is becoming a deadlier business in many parts of the world, but we hope 2019 will be a better year for the scribes.

Scribes around the world were perplexed by events happening in the UK, where confusion reigns over Brexit – exit from the European Union. A Deal with the EU? Or is it a No Deal divorce? Many have criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans and there are growing calls for a second “people’s referendum” to at least decide on the framework of the divorce terms, if not the original question of whether to leave the EU at all. But to many outside observers, Brexit increasingly looks like a bad choice that will leave the UK worse off.

This year saw the election of many new leaders around the world, from Mexico (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) to Maldives (Ibrahim Solih). And the entire world condoled when America’s elder statesman George H.W. Bush departed at the age of 94. He died just weeks after Senator John McCain (80), a celebrated war hero.

One growing trend in world politics is the rise of political populism, ethnic extremism and diplomatic isolation. From Hungary to Italy, many leaders have assumed an openly hostile attitude towards immigrants and minorities. In France, Emmanuel Macron faced tough times with the “Yellow Vest” movement turning into a much bigger phenomenon. In Germany, Angela Merkel is ready to bow out and a replacement (Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer or AKK) has already been named. Not surprisingly, it is the US that grabbed the most headlines this year, with President Trump heading into another controversial year with the recent resignation of Defence Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and legal action against some of his close associates. The next year indeed looks more challenging for leaders around the world.


 

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