EconoMatters

2014 In The Rear View Mirror

Let’s close the books on 2014 with a degree of joy that the year is ending.

Credit: Dzianis www.shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • A last look at the trials and tribulations of 2014.
  • 2014 was a terrible year for the world’s children — 230 million kids live in regions rife with violence and conflict.
  • 2014 is a year that we should all be happy to wave goodbye to.
  • Happy New Year to all readers of The Globalist!

2014 was a year of some triumphs, but mostly tribulation for a world in a frenzied state of chaos and confusion.

On the good news front, the Sochi Olympics in February came off with only the Olympic flame torched. However, soon after Mr. Putin managed to rile everyone in the post-game Olympic season with his annexation of Crimea and de-stabilization of Ukraine.

Sanctions on Russia and a crackdown on press freedom by the Kremlin are likely to be the 2014 hangover from Putin’s continued game of Russian roulette and his bold adventures in what he evidently considers his neighborhood.

Europe had its share of celebrations — from the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to the centennial anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Royal babies kept some people focused on the United Kingdom, although the bigger news was that Scotland remained part of the UK.

The Middle East: The gift that keeps on giving

The Middle East and the Persian Gulf, which never fail to disappoint journalists, remained an epicenter of violence and humanitarian crises. Stranded Yazidis on Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain lured U.S. forces back to the region.

The rise of ISIS beckoned a coalition of strange bedfellows into the Syrian fray, where President Bashar Assad remains in power.

America’s Secretary of Defense stepped down, while U.S. troops were stepping up to combat a new terrorism threat in the Middle East. They apparently did this without “boots on the ground,” which in itself should be quite a trick.

Tragically, the world witnessed video beheadings and terrorist attacks, even in largely peaceful countries like Canada and Australia, while collectively wringing its hands over the power of social media to spread hate.

Israelis and Palestinians lobbed rockets at one another in 2014. As tunnels carried extremists into the Holy Land, religious shrines became objects of protest and violence.

A nuclear deal between Iran and the United States plus Europe failed to come about — with deadlines missed and extensions granted.

Mother Nature takes her revenge again

Mother Nature spilled record amounts of rain and snow on parts of the United States and Europe. A dangerous typhoon took thousands of lives in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, China continued its quasi-economic rise, with some reports saying it has outstripped the United States and others warning of its fiscal collapse.

The Chinese did sign a global climate deal with the U.S. that might reduce the carbon footprint, which is the largest thing looming in 2015 – along with a planet that is running low on food, water and clean air.

Ebola wreaked havoc on Africa, bringing Uganda, Sierra Leone and Liberia to a near standstill and challenging the myth that countries can afford to ignore global health.

America got a taste of Ebola — just enough to create national panic and a long overdue conversation about adequately funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The world will need to stay focused on Ebola, as well as other pandemic threats, in 2015 and beyond.

Afghanistan managed to elect a new president and Pakistan remained largely focused on itself. India went about figuring out how to feed millions of people and keep itself out of the news.

Just as it was focusing on increasing future tourism, Malaysia found itself in the center of yet another missing plane story whose end is yet to be written.

Race protests erupted in the United States over police behavior from Ferguson, Missouri, to Staten Island, New York. These events ignited demonstrations and “die-ins” that reminded people around the world that discrimination is alive and well in the United States, despite the civil rights movement well over 50 years ago. After Ferguson and Staaten Island, the tragic and vengeful murder of two policemen, ironically both from ethnic minorities, in New York City further divided the nation.

Politicians of both parties in the United States continue to score record low marks. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress witnessed a Republican sweep in recent elections.

Fence-jumpers scaled the White House, Obama Care — aka the Affordable Care Act — continues to generate controversy, and U.S. veterans say they are not getting enough health care.

The year ended for the United States government on a torturous note with the release of the Senate Intelligence report detailing harsh interrogation tactics used by the U.S. intelligence community in its treatment of suspected terrorists after 9/11.

The U.S. economy showed a rebound, with unemployment officially dipping below 6%. At the same time, the Obama Administration and the Congress saw fit to back step and erase a key provision of the financial reform legislation concerning derivatives that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis in the first place.

Five years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, labor markets around the world remain depressed, even though job creation is the top of the priority list for most countries.

A bright spot in Colombia

Lest you think it was all dismal in the Western Hemisphere, in June, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a historic and groundbreaking declaration of principles that might create a sustained peace.

But before you get too excited about Latin America, thousands of children have been caught this year trying to illegally cross the U.S. border after migrating from Central America, and the U.S. Congress persistently failed to act, making immigration a thorny and unresolved issue.

Just in case you are not thoroughly depressed by now, 2014 was a terrible year for the world’s children — among the worst. According to UNICEF, 230 million kids live in regions rife with violence and conflict.

If you want more uplifting news, you might have to go to outer space. Europe’s Rosetta mission pulled off an orbital miracle with the first-ever soft landing on a comet, and American astronauts made progress on the trek to Mars – a planet that, thus far, has no news of terrorism, humanitarian disasters or conflict.

What about 2015?

Perhaps 2015 will be the year that nations decide to focus on international problems like extremism — both extreme temperatures and extreme ideologies. At the very least, we might simply aim for something resembling peace.

And perhaps the bell tolled for everyone on December 17 as the Cold War died, in this case a good end to a 53 year-old standoff between the United States and its neighbor just 90 miles south, Cuba.

Culminating in an hour-long phone call between President Obama and President Raoul Castro, the first time the presidents of the two countries had talked together in over five decades, the change had required over 18 months of secret diplomacy.

Critical to diplomacy’s success were the efforts of the Canadians — the United States’ ever faithful friends — and Pope Francis, whose namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, penned the prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”

May 2015 bring us peace, or at least, a respite from bad news.

Happy New Year to all readers of The Globalist!

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About Tara Sonenshine

Tara Sonenshine is the former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is on the board of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group.

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