Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadly manifestations of the climate crisis, there were few places to hide for most of us in 2021.
Ageing billionaires riding booming stock markets could take their first flights into space in their own rockets, but for the rest of Planet Earth’s 8 billion people with their feet on the ground it was a year of placing hope in the hands of scientists and our political leaders to turn the tide.
Whether desperately trying to get a place on the last evacuation flights out of Kabul or trekking to the borders with neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, tens of thousands of Afghans are fleeing their country once more.
Events are unfolding at speed. The Taliban are establishing a central government in the capital to fill the void of the collapsed western-backed administration, but they do not control all the country as the protracted civil war enters a new stage. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says that in its “worst case scenario
” it is preparing for around 500,000 new refugees in the region by the end of this year. As with many past estimates that could prove optimistic.
Despite its grim record of multiple natural disasters and a deepening climate crisis, one could be forgiven for looking back on 2019 with a degree of nostalgia. There is no disguising the extent of the calamity wrought this year by COVID-19, yet as we approach the end of 2020 we may also draw strength from positive developments emerging.
Wearing an orange jacket and face mask, Li Zehua, a Chinese freelance journalist, can be seen filming himself
in a car. He is sure that state security agents have been pursuing him since he began documenting events in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, the first epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. A second YouTube video, circulating widely since he launched his appeal, ends abruptly when two men knock at his apartment. He has just reappeared online after two months, saying police interrogated him and put him in quarantine and that he was well looked after during this period.
As the coronavirus pandemic shifts around the world, now stretching even the developed health services of richer nations to breaking point, here at IPS our dedicated journalists in developing countries are standing strong in giving a voice to the Global South.
The narrative surrounding women’s rights in 2020 carries much hope and possibility. A new decade is ushering in important anniversaries and milestones: 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action, 110 years since the birth of International Women's Day and the 10-year countdown to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Let’s face what lies ahead with open eyes: 2020 is going to be a very tough year for the world, and developing countries in particular. The infant decade has already begun with the harbingers of climate disaster as thousands fled to beaches in Australia from raging bush fires, and the Middle East braced for more conflict after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad killed Iran’s top general.
By any measure this has been a devastating year: fires across the Amazon, the Arctic and beyond; floods and drought in Africa; rising temperatures, carbon emissions and sea levels; accelerating loss of species, and mass forced migrations of people.
Mass public pressure backed by the weight of scientific reports is starting to bring governments to their senses as the annual UN climate summit kicks off in Madrid today.
Statistics and stories. When aid agencies appeal for funding to tackle the latest refugee crisis and journalists do their reporting, then these are the two narratives most chosen -- one impersonal and the other upfront and individual. The sheer numbers can feel overwhelming. The UN refugee agency UNHCR
says more than 70 million people are currently displaced by conflict, the most since the Second World War. Among them are nearly 26 million who have fled their countries (over half under the age of 18) and 3.5 million more are registered as asylum seekers.
Mottled and reddish, the Lake Oku puddle frog has made its tragic debut on the Red List
, a rapidly expanding roll call of threatened species. It was once abundant in the Kilum-Ijim rainforest of Cameroon but has not been seen since 2010 and is now listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct.
Barely a week passes without alarming news of the most recent scientific research into the global climate crisis compounding a growing sense of urgency, particularly the impact on small island states from rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Headwinds are blowing amid IMF warnings of a “synchronised slowdown” in global economic growth, yet Africa’s investment drive is still gathering pace, supported by intense international competition in development finance.
In a life peppered with tragedy, Mary Shelley wrote in 1818, “Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery?” That this accurately sums up the fate of many women in South Asia who suffer a major health shock such as a serious illness or a disability or both, is hard to dispute.
In an inaugural lecture at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, Amartya Sen began with a swipe at Queen Victoria who complained to Sir Theodore Martin in 1870 about & quote: this mad, wicked folly of 'Woman's Rights’ ", as in her rarefied world nobody could trample upon her rights. The world has of course changed dramatically and women’s rights are widely acknowledged but injustices persist. Our concern here is with health injustices that are widely prevalent in India. These take multiple forms: female foeticide, widespread morbidity and denial of access to good quality healthcare until a critical condition develops. Our focus here is on vulnerability of women to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their limited access to good quality healthcare in India.
On a cold night in December 2012, a ghastly crime was committed in New Delhi which stunned the world. Six men dragged helpless Nirbhaya-a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern- to the back of the bus and raped her one by one. As she kept fighting off her assailants by biting them, one of the attackers inserted a rusted rod in her private part, ripping her genital organs and insides apart. She died a few days later. One of the accused died in police custody in the Tihar Jail
. The juvenile was convicted of rape and murder and given the maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment in a reform facility, and subsequently released. The Supreme Court awarded the death penalty but legal complications have prevented its execution.
The year now closing, 2018, culminates an extraordinary period in the quest for a world where sexual harassment and assault are, as the words indicate they should be, rare and punished.
Dear Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi,
We learned today that you will address the Rohingya issue via television in Myanmar on 19 September - over 144 hours from now.
When you were finally able to accept your Nobel Peace Prize, you spoke eloquently of the ultimate aim of a world in which “every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.”
Rogue interests, perhaps even foreign, are said to be trying to interfere with the electoral process in the U.S. and European Union members. Senior government officials glibly endorse what they themselves call “alternative facts” and even openly describe the media as their enemy.
Basic rights always need champions, and that’s truer today than it ought to be as around the world we see an unwelcome pattern of reaction to modern complexities ranging from globalization and automation to austerity and dwindling wages. One alarming example is how the agenda of promoting women’s rights, so far from completion, is being pushed back rather than forward.