by Jesmond Saliba
This year started on the doorstep of change. Historic developments towards the end of 2020 meant that events that had become part of our lives, whether for one year, like the coronavirus pandemic, four years, like the Trump administration, or 47 years, like Britain’s EU membership, were coming to an end.
These three unrelated changes looked set to fundamentally alter world affairs for better or for worse, but it is safe to say that most people were happy to move on from 2020. Three in four respondents in a global study by Ipsos said they expected the new year to be better for them with only Japan registering a share of optimism below 50 per cent of its population.
As 2021 hit its hundredth day, countries are slowly administering Covid-19 vaccines and reopening their economies; Joe Biden has virtually appointed a full Cabinet and is stamping his authority on Washington D.C.; businesses across the English Channel have found ways to trade while Brussels and London engage in diplomatic cooperation.
But not everything has been on the up and up. January began with a home-grown violent assault on the American Congress that shook the democratic foundations of the nation and elsewhere. Myanmar’s military turned the country into a bloodbath right when the promise of institutional transformation seemed within touching distance. Global supply chains, already stretched thin, suffered another blow when a mega containership ran aground in the Suez Canal. Cyclone Seroja killed scores of people in Indonesia and East Timor and devastated entire towns in Western Australia. Tensions keep rising in the Donbas region after Russia deployed thousands of troops to the border with Ukraine.
A quarter certainly does not make a year, but the hundred-day milestone, popularised by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, has become shorthand for a general analysis of an evolving situation. Change, however, is a fluid motion of multiple factors as they find new equilibrium.
Going by that yardstick, events this year have indeed justified some of the optimism that dawned with the beginning of 2021. A hundred days later, and despite the undesirable developments that have come to pass, hope for a better year is not only warranted but necessary.
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