As we transition from one year to the next, please accept my best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year. I am inspired by the holiday greetings from friends and family that are always welcome this time of year. And I am inspired by the many reflections on the past and resolutions for the future that are also a part of this end-of-year ritual. This year, I find myself to be especially inspired to reflect on the past year for the signs of hope for a better world and thereby to set my personal agenda for 2023 by identifying where my actions in the year ahead can make a difference.
The eventful year of 2022 has been marked more by the crisis to the existing world order in the Russian invasion of Ukraine than anything else. Although we have had plenty of other crises to worry about, the horrific act by Vladimir Putin was a truly transmogrifying event for the world order. Add to that the worrisome threats to democracy itself, even in the standard bulwarks of democracies of countries like the United States and France, and we have a grim state of the world to contend with. But, as with the prevalence of the pandemic on our lives in 2020 and 2021, I believe we have signs of hope in the events of 2022.
This is also true with regard to the other major global issues that I have been following and writing about – the pandemic, workers’ rights, climate change, inflation and a looming recession, US/European relations (with an emphasis on Franco-US relations), and of course, the growing tensions between the US and China.
The effects of any of these issues might not be as immediately personalized as the lockdowns and shocking losses in the height of the pandemic in 2020 or the actual disruptions of coming down, as I did, with COVID-19 over the holidays in 2021. They are, nonetheless, the issues that I personally care about and choose to write about in the course of the year, especially on this website.
I have been following the drama of a determined Ukraine and a unified West against the Russian attack with hope for a peaceful (and just) resolution, just as I have been encouraged by the strength of democratic resistance to extremist populism in the 2022 elections, not only in the US and France, but also in places like Brazil. I was intrigued by the ramifications of “Qatargate” and the different perspectives on Qatar’s handling of workers’ rights (and gender-related) issues. I am, of course, disappointed by the declining support for a global response to the pandemic and the demise of the COVAX Facility. The craziness of mixed signals on dealing with climate change is less disturbing, in my opinion, because there is clearly momentum for both government action and business innovation. But the oddly named Inflation Reduction Act with its (perhaps) unintended effects on European automobile manufacturers does portend some turbulence in US/European trade relations.
Meanwhile, the inflationary effects of the stimulus packages enacted by governments during the pandemic and the surging of prices aggravated by supply chain shortages and other lockdown-related disruptions are hitting us with central banks raising interest rates. I am not as inclined to criticize the banks as others might be, but I do wonder about the likelihood of recessions and debt defaults. They put all the other issues into a worrisome context.
That even includes the growing tensions between the US and China. President Xi Jinping clearly maneuvered a repressive lockdown domestically to keep any opposition to his November 2022 election for a third term under wraps. The U-turn on that lockdown has led to the spreading of the pandemic in China and concerns about Chinese economy recovery. One can hope – and I do – that it won’t lead to a diversionary invasion of Taiwan. But there certainly is a lot of anxiety among China-watchers about the growing tensions between the US and China.
Having been initially filled with hope that a global response to the pandemic would be transformative, I have been deeply affected in my own world view by the pandemic. I was quite inspired by the upsurge of multi-stakeholder collaboration at the global level to respond to the pandemic, but I have mellowed. Yes, the governments displayed their vaccine nationalism across the board, but it seems that the pharmaceutical industry played out a duplicitous strategy of embracing a global response while selling their available vaccines to rich governments. And the NGOs refused to go along with the game. In retrospect, I guess, the NGOs were right. And we now have a different strategy to ensure equitable access – by diversifying the manufacturing base rather than creating a global vaccine pool.
Anyway, enough said for now. I will continue to write commentaries on these global topics – and search for better ways to stimulate the peace, love, gratitude and happiness that we all hope to realize in the year and years ahead. Happy New Year to all!