The year 2015 has been marked with some memorable, and many regrettable, events that have shaped modern life. And as we look towards 2016 with almost the same apprehension that we did in December 2014, 2015 will be best remembered by global events that can significantly change the way we are going to lead life in 2016 and beyond.
Climate Change Deal
Top of the list is the recently-concluded COP-21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December. The landmark accord showed 195 nations agreeing to reduce, however they can, their respective greenhouse gas emissions through careful planning, adequate and transparent reporting, and assistance by wealthier nations to developing countries to help curb global warming to significantly more favorable 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the accord can be fully operationalized, then significant changes in political and socioeconomic infrastructure will be the hallmark of 2016 as governments will have to find newer ways to promote the use of cleaner, more efficient, and more sustainable energy sources.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
To date, more than 1.5 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country in search of safer havens including the neighboring countries. A greater proportion of these refugees are seeking asylum in Germany and other European countries who are as reluctant as ever to accept as many as they possibly can. Even the United States has been criticized both at home and in the international arena for not doing its best in helping mitigate the plight of millions of displaced Syrians, especially the weak, children, and very old persons. Graphic images of children standing in the middle of the road and fathers breaking down while wrapping their arms around their child’s fragile bodies to provide the only warmth against the bitter cold have all been heart-wrenching. With the general perception that Islamic extremists can be anywhere among the millions of refugees, governments are becoming more and more reluctant to open their doors.
The Islamic State, contrary to what governments want you to believe, is alive and truly borderless. With the Paris attacks in the middle of November as well as the suicide bombing attack in July in Turkey, ISIS may be shown as seeking cover from airstrikes over Syria and Iraq. However, the truth of the matter is that more and more people are getting ‘motivated’ to join the ISIS cause. Looking at the San Bernardino CA shooting perpetrated by a couple who pledged allegiance to ISIS’ leader Al-Baghdadi, everyone can simply become an ISIS solitary cell ready to strike terror without provocation. While ISIS in Syria and Iraq may suffer loses in terms of materiel, they make up for it with the thousands of ‘unknown’ sympathizers. How can governments identify who is a sympathizer and who is not?
After decades of economic deprivation, Iran is already ready to enjoy the benefits of the lifting of economic sanctions in exchange for concessions in its nuclear program. While the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was heavily criticized, it nonetheless underscored the fact that with diplomacy, concessions can be made in order to ensure a brighter future for everyone concerned. In exchange for economic relief, Iran will only retain 3 percent of its enriched uranium and reduce the number of its centrifuges by 67 percent. Additionally, Iran has to agree to IAEA onsite inspections. For the price of greater economic opportunities, we can only guess that perhaps Iran is slowly showing concern for its people.
Russian Intervention in Syria
In what many consider a revival of Cold War-era tensions, the Soviet entry into the Syrian conflict in the guise of eradicating ISIS strongholds has been interpreted by many as a façade to the real Russian objective of keeping Assad in power. The Russian offensive where not coordinated with Allied activities against ISIS leading many to speculate on the true nature of Putin’s adventurism in Syria. Whether or not this will be the deciding factor on whether 2016 will be the turning point for the resumption of another Cold War era or not is something that anyone can only hope on a more positive note.
The year 2015 had been marked with violence and despair brought about by the events in the Middle East. However, 2016 should offer new hope in the COP-21 and the Iran deal where diplomacy and friendship can be relied on even in times of adversity.