2021 Yearender: World on the threshold

Ezzat Ibrahim , Friday 31 Dec 2021

The ambiguous nature of political, economic, and technological developments over the past 12 months has compounded the burdens shouldered by citizens around the world, and will continue to do so into 2022 and beyond.

Save the Children
photo: Save the Children

Regardless of nationality, across the globe people share the same pressing concerns, the same obsessions and burdens, to an extent unimaginable in the past.

The latest mutation in Covid-19 has left scientists everywhere perplexed, and people wondering when, if ever, the world will be free of a disease whose causative agent seems able to adapt to, and overcome, whatever obstacles are thrown into the pathway of transmission.

The ongoing battle to defeat the virus is being waged simultaneously with the battle against climate change which threatens to annihilate humanity.

Yet in the face of these existential threats it is business as usual among the world’s great powers who continue to jockey for supremacy, regardless of the cost to others, and particularly to the developing world. Inequitable access to vaccines, and the way support to combat the impacts of climate change on Third World countries is being at best drip-fed by richer states who are primarily responsible for the changes, are just two egregious examples of the current status quo.

While the great powers pay lip service to notions of mutual dependence, the peoples of the developing world remain the chief victims of their conflicts. The states that control the international system continue to set the rules of the game and change them according to their own geostrategic goals.

The global repercussions of an economic recession have failed to prevent the US and China from clashing over trade, and the Indo-Pacific region is now caught up in a new arms race, shifting alliances and sharp polarisation.

The Arab region is still prey to the same contradictions and destructive divisions that have for years been pushing its peoples close to the edge of the abyss.

Those who hold the keys to the region’s conflicts every day open new fronts that do not offer solutions, but rather increase the suffering of people. If you are Lebanese, Yemeni, Iraqi or Sudanese, the chances are 2021 will have been a far more miserable year for you than 2020 was.

Meanwhile, Libyans and Tunisians oscillate between hopes for acceptable solutions, and fear of drifting down a more painful path.

The Middle East has remained a critical problem for international security for more than two decades. It has now been joined by the Pacific Basin and by East Africa, where the deteriorating situation has been lent impetus by the intensification of the Ethiopian Civil War.

The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan signalled a shift in the balance of power in South Asia, and has left the world wondering what will happen to the devasted country now the Taliban are once more in control. Will Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban, again become a haven for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda? And if it does, will a new round in the war on terrorism be launched?

Pandemic, climate change, and terrorism: to defeat the imminent dangers of this destructive triad requires collective action. But can the world summon the necessary political will before it is too late?

*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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