Another year goes by as we mark the beginning of a new year. For some people, 2016 may have been one of their best years to date, while for some, unfortunately, it may have been one of their worst. From a more global perspective, I am sure you all will agree with me in marking 2016 as one of the most action-packed years the world has lived to see. From many iconic figures parting from the world to groundbreaking political shifts, quite a number of events made the headlines in the past 365 days.
The year 2016 kicked off with the death of the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ British musical icon David Bowie, who left behind a legacy of pop music, and the death of the British actor Alan Rickman, more popularly known as Professor Snape, leaving millions of Harry Potter fans in tears, in the month of January. Harper Lee, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, met her fate in the month that followed, while the World Heavyweight Champion boxing legend and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali’s battle with Parkinson’s disease ended a few months later. Best known for his song ‘Hallelujah’ that has been sung by about 200 artists, the Canadian poet, novelist and songwriter Leonard Cohen’s musical career ended with his own death in November. In the same month, the Cuban revolutionary and former President, Fidel Castro died, who is remembered as one of the key players of the Cold War. What left the world shocked near the end of the year was the tragic death of the Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher followed by the death of her mother and the star of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, Debbie Reynolds, only a day later.
A series of major political events shook the world throughout the year, and had (and is still having) wide-spread implications for not only renowned figures around the world but for the common people as well. The first political breakthrough occurred in April, when 11.5 million confidential documents were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, through an anonymous source. Known as the Panama Papers, these were to become history’s biggest data leak. These papers revealed the financial information of wealthy individuals including international politicians, celebrities and businessmen who used off shore bank accounts and offshore shell companies as tax havens. As a consequence, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, and Spanish Industry Minister, Jose Manuel Soria, resigned soon after the leak due to political pressure.
The next major blow was Brexit, when the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union in a referendum in June. This caused British Prime Minister David Cameron to resign and the British pound to hit its lowest in decades, with other economic and
financial effects on the UK that are yet to be seen. With the growing tension amidst election campaigns in the United States of America, the year ended with the ex-TV show host of The Apprentice and the Republican Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election. Like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings in one part of the world with a far-reaching ripple effect in the rest of the world, Trump’s victory and the protests that followed against it instantly sent shocks to the global financial market and we have yet to see its impact on the world in the next few years.
Following the attacks in Paris in 2015, Europe’s security concerns tightened as terrorist attacks gripped the continent, from the three suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and metro station, to the ones targeting Germany and France. Alongside thousands of lives being lost and even more people becoming homeless, Aleppo became the main center of the Syrian crisis war in the past year. Marked by the heart-wrenching picture of a five-year old boy sitting in an ambulance right after being rescued following an airstrike in Aleppo, the city was constantly hit by bombs and several unsuccessful ceasefires took place. We can only hope that the New Year leads to an end of the Syrian crisis that started off as a civil war in 2011, to become a proxy war drawing in international powers. Unfortunately, 2016 also witnessed around 21 tragic flight incidents including the EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, the LaMia Airlines flight carrying the Brazilian football team, and the more recent, Pakistan International Airlines flight that crashed into a mountain in Havelian, due to which hundreds of passengers and their families have suffered.
Having said all of the above, the world also witnessed great developments in the year 2016. Despite the announcement of the deadly Zika virus to be ‘spreading explosively’ at the beginning of the year by the World Health Organization (WHO), by and large, the health sector thrived as precision treatments for cancer hit clinical trials that seem to be working, and could save millions of lives. The Ebola virus disease was declared to no longer constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO, followed by the Republic of Guinea and Liberia officially being announced to be clear of the disease. Since 2000, deaths due to malaria have declined by 60% around the world up to date, while measles were also completely eliminated from the Americas within the same year.
A great breakthrough occurred at the climatic front, as two great world powers, the United States and China, who also happen to be the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, ratified the Paris climate change agreement, strengthening the global response to the threats posed by climate change. Alongside numerous efforts by both countries to rebuild diplomatic relations since 2014, the first visit of a U.S leader to Cuba after 88 long years in March 2016 has managed to lead to a thaw in US-Cuba relations. Not only that, the US also bagged the most medals at the 16 day long 2016 Olympics in Rio this August, where records were broken by 10,000 athletes representing 207 nations in the world; a remarkable event that kept everyone off their seats this year.
To top it all off, social and economic milestones have been achieved in many parts of the world during the year 2016; world hunger has reached its lowest in a span of 25 years, child marriage was banned in Tanzania and Gambia, female genital mutilation was banned continent wide in Africa, transgender discrimination was banned in Canada, and Pakistan welcomed the Anti-Honour Killing bill, thus moving towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals on a global level.
Here’s to hoping that the year 2017, and the years to come bring the world peace and progress on every front!
Zara studied the BSc (Hons) Economics at a recognised teaching institution, University College of Islamabad (UCI), in Islamabad, Pakistan