Two events generated significant interest and global solidarity in the final days of December 2020. A court in Saudi Arabia handed down a five years and eight months sentence to activist Loujain Al-Hathloul
for publicly supporting women’s right to drive. Nicholas Opiyo, Ugandan human rights lawyer and defender of persecuted members of the LGBTQI community and political opponents of the president was arbitrarily detained on trumped up charges of ‘money laundering.’ Nicholas Opiyo was granted bail
on 30 December following an outpouring of global support for his activism for justice. In handing out the verdict to Loujain Al-Hathloul, the court partly suspended her sentence raising hope that she might be released from prison in a couple of months due to time already served.
A year into the COVID-19 crisis, countries across the globe continue to face alarming levels of pressure on their health and social services. Education and other essential rights, such as water and sanitation, have been severely compromised.
In July 1921, a French infant became the first person to receive
an experimental vaccine against tuberculosis (TB), after the mother had died from the disease. The vaccine, known as Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), is the same one still used today.
Countries are moving fast toward creating digital currencies. Or, so we hear from various surveys
showing an increasing number of central banks making substantial progress towards having an official digital currency.
2021 is going to be critical, not only for curbing the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, but also for meeting the climate challenge.
But as Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) was clear to point out, the climate challenge is essentially an energy challenge. And as large polluters continue to commit to targets of net zero emissions by 2050, the world could -- in theory -- potentially address the climate challenge.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity and disrupted food systems and food supply chains in developed and developing countries alike. In the United States, millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table
. Around the world, according to the United Nations over 270 million are hungry
, and this is expected to continue to increase.
African countries opened their markets on 1st January under the continental free trade agreement and duty-free trading of goods and services across borders is now underway despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other teething problems.
In December 2020, Fiji was pounded by Pacific Cyclone Yasa
, the years’ second category 5 storm
which destroyed hundreds of buildings and caused about $1.4 billion in damage to health facilities, homes, schools, agriculture and infrastructure
French President Emmanuel Macron convened the 4th edition of the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity
with a concession – that after a decade, the world has failed to take the action needed to stem global biodiversity loss. The Jan. 10 event, hosted virtually by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, focused on four areas for urgent action; protecting land and maritime species, promoting agroecology, mobilising finance for biodiversity and protecting tropical forests, species and human health.
The United Nations has been one of the most vociferous advocates of gender empowerment and a persistent critic of gender discrimination worldwide.
The incoming Biden administration is under tremendous pressure to demonstrate better US economic management. Trade negotiations normally take years to conclude, if at all. Unsurprisingly, lobbyists are already urging the next US administration to quickly embrace and deliver a new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The peoples of the world are unanimous - access to basic services such as universal healthcare must become a priority going forward. So too should global solidarity, helping those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the climate change emergency.
For 2021, Italy has been given chairmanship of the Group of 20, which brings together the world’s 20 most important countries. On paper, they represent 60% of the world’s population and 80% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the shaky Italian government will somehow perform this task (in the general indifference of the political system), the fact remains that this apparently prestigious position is in fact very deceiving: the G20 is now a very weak institution that brings no kudos to the rotating chairman. Besides, it is actually the institution which bears the greatest part of responsibility for the decline of the UN as the body responsible for global governance, a task that the G20 has very seldom been able to face up to.
The new year has arrived, but the situation is worse than in the last months of 2020. The pandemic is still unleashed: the end of the year holidays, the official permissiveness, and the slowness of the distribution of vaccines seem to announce that the disease will continue to wreak havoc for several months in most of the world, particularly in America, Europe, and parts of Asia like India. It has therefore been required to redouble preventive measures: a new lockdown and the disruption of almost all economic and school activities. Therefore, the recovery looks still uncertain and distant.
Between now and January 20,2021, the President of the United States has almost run out of arenas in which to impose his will. His reelection has soured in infamy. His concern for the COVID-19 pandemic faded long ago. There is only one last pursuit available to him to demonstrate that he is the most powerful man on earth, i.e. using the nuclear weapons at his disposal.
The storming of Capitol Hill in Washington DC by an unruly mob is reminiscent of an insurrection in a “banana republic” --as hilariously portrayed in the 1971 Woody Allen comedy “Bananas” spoofing a revolt in a fictional Latin American country.
The currently available Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized for ‘emergency use ‘in Europe and North America. This is due to an apparent spike in Covid-19 flu cases in the northern hemisphere as winter advances. Highly advertised vaccines are being produced and rolled out at ‘warped speed’ by powerful pharmaceutical and bio-technology companies headquartered in Euro-America although their efficacy including how long their immunity lasts is not clear.
If the coronavirus is not deemed a biological weapon, is the heavily-publicized Covid-19 vaccine in danger of being weaponized when over 159,000 Palestinians who have tested positive in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are being denied treatment during a deadly pandemic?
Oh, Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So, oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Janis Joplin, 1970
COVID-19 has made several of us aware of the frailty of our bodies, the certainty of death and how valuable health, companionship and compassion are. Such insights are not uncommon in poor societies where a person’s main and perhaps only asset is her/his body and what s/he is able to do with her/his hands. However, wealthy and privileged people are surrounded by, dependent on, and even integrated with an ever more sophisticated technology, which increasingly, for better or worse, is separating us from what human existence has been for thousands of years.
Most people around the world were glad to see the back of 2020: From the devastating bushfires in Australia to the plagues of locusts through East Africa stretching across Arabia to Pakistan, extreme weather, melting ice sheets at the poles, and Covid-19 that still engulfs the globe.
Sir Brian Urquhart, who died on January 2 at the age of 101, served the United Nations in high posts for four decades, beginning in the organization’s earliest days.