The World in 2008: A year of extremes (Yearender-8)

December 26th, 2008 - 12:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Dec 26 (DPA) The year 2008 can be called a year of extremes: it saw huge trauma, beginning in the shadow of the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto just days earlier and ending with a global market crisis that has brought despair to millions across the world. Yet the worst is still to come.The final months of the year were marred by attacks, with hundreds dead in India’s bustling commercial metropolis Mumbai, chaos in Thailand, pirates in the Gulf of Aden and continuing violence in the world’s top conflict regions, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Middle East is still far from a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians, or indeed between Palestinians and Palestinians.

Russia and Georgia erupted into a war just as the world was watching the glittery opening of the skilfully staged Olympics in China.

In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is again prime minister.

In Zimbabwe, expectations for better government were withering even faster than President Robert Mugabe’s regime could print ever higher dollar bills to stem inflation.

The risks of global warming are worse than ever as concerns about the world climate were drowned out by concerns about the world economy.

The death toll in the five-year war in Congo has passed the five-million mark and continues to be largely neglected by the international community.

Yet in the midst of all the bad news of 2008, there was also reason for hope, and indeed some genuinely good news.

Worry over the world’s tumbling markets brought leaders across the world racing to one table at previously unheard of speed to search for ways out of the crisis.

The European Union, usually a prime example of snail-speed diplomacy, managed to broker at least a ceasefire in Georgia and a return to - although still difficult - diplomacy between Russia and its Western neighbours.

After years of half-hearted pursuit, former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic is finally being brought to trial over war crimes.

Serious progress has been made in research on illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, which have seen millions dead especially in Africa.

Even the fiercest critics agree that Iraq has seen some genuine security improvements and is now inching towards a reduction in US troops.

Coming up to Christmas, the year ended with the appearance of what many cast as a political messiah: Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the US.

The world - desperate for a change after eight years of George W. Bush calamities - celebrated the news not just in the US, but also in Africa, European capitals and in the Arab world.

The incoming US president is inheriting a global financial crisis, two wars and a whole series of international relations in tatters.

As heavy as Obama’s new presidential burden is, problems like the global market crisis have brought the focus of the world’s leading players back to the need for pragmatic talk, listening and the need for multilateral conflict resolution.

There may not be stardom for anybody, but there is certainly hope in that.

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