Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico. Street artists all over the world have ventured out into quiet streets and left behind thought-provoking art work on the crisis. Image Credit: AP

This year is coming to an end, and it is time to look back and reflect on the past 12 months. A year ago, when the world was entering 2021, there was big hope in the air. The finding of the vaccines against coronavirus had brought the optimism of soon the world winning the war against the pandemic. After Trump’s four tumultuous years at the White House, there was an anticipation that Joe Biden’s victory would bring some sanity and maturity to US politics and the global power table.

An experienced statesman like Joe Biden was expected to lead the free world in bringing countries together to arrest the backsliding of democracies and to wage a coordinated global fight against climate change. By the end of the year many hopes were belied. Undoubtedly, 2021 has been very disheartening. The cause of this disappointment is nothing but bad politics and policies.

Recent op-eds by Prof Ashok Swain

After a year-long fight against the coronavirus, scientists gave hope of recovery by inventing a vaccine by the end of 2020. At the beginning of 2021, the Covid-19 vaccines had started to be produced on a mass scale, and countries were also hoping to launch the largest-ever immunisation campaign.

The vaccination programme continued throughout the year, but the world has officially lost more than 3.5 million people to Covid-19 in 2021. Countries like India, Brazil, South Africa, and Russia witnessed massive deaths during the second wave of the pandemic.

Despite 9 billion vaccines administered globally this year, the Covid-19 continues to take 50,000 lives every week. The Omicron variant is dominant now. Wealthy industrialized countries, who had taken the large share of vaccines, are becoming vulnerable again. While more than 80% of the adult population in those countries are fully vaccinated, only 6% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have been given two doses.

A connected world 

This global vaccine apartheid has not only helped to prolong the pandemic worldwide, but it has also been the reason for producing new variants like Omicron. Thus, the wealthy countries’ ‘we first’ policy has not helped them as the pandemic is global in nature, and these countries can’t seal themselves forever.

While in the world, due to faulty global vaccination policy, both the rich and poor countries continue to suffer, economies continue to plummet, people continue to die, and pandemics refuse to disappear.

In 2021, the world has not only squandered its chances to recover from the once-a-century pandemic, the hope of revival of democracies from the clutches of the right-wing populists after Biden’s election as the US President has also ebbed.

The year 2021, instead of becoming a year for the resurgence of democracies, has become a year of coups. Besides the unsuccessful attempt of a political coup by the Trump supporters on 6 January, there have been as many as six military moves to capture power this year worldwide, a record number in the last two decades.

Biden had a campaign promise to work for promoting democracy globally. Unfortunately for him, while the democracy in the US is still to emerge from Trump’s brand of populism, the backsliding of democracy is taking place in many places around the world.

Climate crisis and politics 

Biden hosted a Summit for Democracy in early December in which more than one hundred countries took part digitally. Though officially the summit was seeking to promote human rights, it was, in all practical purposes, only a show of strength.

Biden is primarily occupied to build an alliance against a rising China. Whether that strategy has been successful or not might be debatable, but one thing is for sure that it has brought China and Russia closer.

This has put a question mark on the hopes of building a unified global policy to face the climate crisis. The world is as divided as before, if not more, on framing a common strategy to confront climate change.

Despite the urgent ‘code red’ action needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C, the Glasgow Climate Change Summit in November failed big in committing to phase out fossil fuels and providing funds to compensate developing countries for their climate change-induced loss and damages.

Only a few days for 2021 to go, but the Covid-19 pandemic continues to gain strength with a new virus variant. Travel bans and restrictions on gatherings are back again in many parts of the world; the uncertainty over the pandemic lingers.

Civil wars and starvation are causing a greater number of deaths. For all practical purposes, the world has not been successful at Glasgow to honour its commitment under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. No doubt, 2021 has turned out to be a very disappointing year. The world badly needs a better 2022.