2018: A year in waiting

Ezzat Ibrahim , Monday 31 Dec 2018

Gaza Children
Gaza Children (Photo: AFP)

The great challenge now facing the world is to maintain the values of the open society while simultaneously fighting the forces of extremism, be they political, religious or ethnic.

2018 marked the centenary of the end of the Great War, an anniversary that resonated in the media throughout the year, offering a timely reminder that the global system is perfectly capable of sleepwalking into the most horrific nightmare.

Tellingly, in the last 12 months, rather than being resolved or even moving towards resolution, ongoing crises have become ever more convoluted. In many parts of the world rabid forms of nationalism have increasingly bared their teeth.

The glaring inequality in the distribution of the fruits of globalism is one reason this has happened. Governments around the globe have shown themselves peculiarly inept at cushioning the poorer members of their societies from bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of structural change.

In many ways the outgoing year has felt like a year in waiting during which the world held its breath, waiting to see what might happen.

The leading sponsor of the global order, the United States, is in domestic crisis, and the challenge to its leadership, from China and Russia, is growing.

The Middle East, a region of profound instability, failed to achieve a single settlement of its numerous crises in the last 12 months.

From Yemen to Syria, Libya to Iraq, the resolution to conflicts has again been deferred, rolling over to the New Year where they will once again top the regional agenda.

The one glimmer of light has been the near demise of Islamic State, but any optimism this might engender must be weighed against signs that Al-Qaeda is once again gathering its forces.

The usual conferences were convened and talks held but they failed to end any of the political rivalries and armed conflicts raging in the Middle East, though on the domestic front Egypt made significant progress in uprooting terrorism from Sinai.

The successes of Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 have been notable: the capabilities of terrorist organisations on the peninsula have been seriously depleted, and the process will continue into 2019.

Internationally, free trade, illegal migration, climate change, border disputes and ethnic and sectarian clashes will continue to make headlines in the coming year. Indeed, they are likely to intensify as the biggest national players and regional blocs on the world stage jockey for position.

Washington, under Donald Trump, clearly has a different view of multilateral cooperation than previous administrations.

The world economy will continue to face challenges that threaten more turbulences as citizens who are already paying the price of reform and restructuring programmes increasingly vent their anger and frustrations, in the most developed Western societies as well as the countries of the Third World.

The great test of the coming year will be to transform that anger and frustration into hope rather than despair.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 December, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: 2018: A year in waiting

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