2014: What’s Ahead for the World

newspapers covers01In a much-faster changing world, reaching a conclusion to events has become more elusive. As we tire ourselves with 24/7 information, instant gratification, shorter attention spans, and the more pervasive blurring of agenda-driven spread of information (whether it is about cherry-picking which part of an event needs more weigh or the spreading of subtle but dumbing social media gossips and biases), we can only expect the year ahead to be more complex and unpredictable. Nevertheless, much like inquiry into the sciences, collating observations and hypothesis of the previous year will help us anticipate things to come, and that is the key to making an informed prediction.

This year’s forecast format is different from last year’s style in that it focuses on  a per-country reportage and expectations: a good reassessment on geography, just in case you too feel the certain fuzziness of the inexorable globalization of events which continue to transcend borders, economies, culture, nationality and even alliances.

In the United States, the so-called economic recovery, a ghost phrase invented since the end of the Bush Jr. era, will continue to limit what the government can achieve for its people. On a broader scale, this will have an effect on its economic policies abroad as well, and we all know Washington’s foreign policy stems from its economic policies. On that front, America will continue to confuse its allies, especially in light of the Snowden leaks and the surprise optimism brought about by Russia’s brokering of nuclear and chemical deals with Iran and Syria, respectively. Other major things to look forward to include the exit of New York city mayor Bloomberg, and the experimental legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which is a strong proof of America’s moral degradation.

On a lighter note, 2014 will bring major sporting (distraction) events, first with Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. As the games approaches (this coming February), Western media will continue to lambast Russia’s decision to ‘build a city from scratch’ and its release of political prisoners (publicized by the West as a way to ‘bring good news’ before the sporting events), which is a familiar story, much like how they portrayed the apparent waste and ‘scandals’ of the Beijing Olympics. Moscow will continue to matter more in global issues though as President Putin reaps the rewards of his diplomacy (and the award of the most powerful man in 2013 by Western media). The IMF predicts Russia to be among the biggest GDP gainers for 2014. Besides Sochi, Russia is also embarking on its own smart city in Tatarstan, a development that will soften Western energy-as-leverage pundits for a while.

Elsewhere in Europe, the UK will vote on a decision whether to keep (or let go) of Scotland as part of the entire United Kingdom; Germany will consolidate its soft power gains in the previous years by pursuing its goals through economic, diplomatic, and cultural means; events in Spain may finally see an independent Catalonia; Ukraine’s decision to be part of Europe or linked to Russia will be more and more influenced by major players outside the country; Romania’s and Bulgaria’s entry into the EU labor market; EU parliament elections this summer (an election with historically low turnout); and the exit of Catherine Ashton as EU foreign policy chief (hailed as the ‘unsung hero’ of European diplomacy).

In Asia, China’s foreign policy will be perceived as being more assertive as the US ensnares Japan into a trap that’s hard to extricate from: the establishment of a National Security Council and re-armament of the Japanese military. It also seems the Japanese leadership’s determination to be more independent of America’s stance toward China is well received by its people, especially with the sense of renewed possibility in Japan’s economy. Construction of a new Beijing international airport commences this year and is hailed to be among the biggest and busiest airports in the world once completed. In Australia, ambitious politicians will be playing the American card more keenly this time, where calls for ‘updating Australia’s diplomatic footprint’ are gaining traction among Australians. Afghanistan will by this year need to tackle and decide on whether to allow American soldiers to be on the ground for another ten years, and a new presidential election may or may not destabilize the country anew.

In Latin America, Brazil will be (hopefully) seeing a break from its riots, hosting the much anticipated World Cup this year. 2014 will also see the construction of the Nicaragua Canal, said to be about three times longer than the Panama Canal. Latin American artists will continue to experience an art boom around the world.

This year will also see the completion of the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The last one, in 2007, saw a clearer and grimmer outlook for the Earth’s climate, and for this new report (as per the September 2013 summary for policymakers document), it shows yet more evidence of human’s impact on the climate, and hinting more about further uncertainties in climate modeling as well as adaptation measures to climate change.

Of course, the year 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I and this will last until 2018. For the duration of the event, countries will be planning official commemorative ceremonies and themes. This momentous time in human history is, by now, replete with lessons that ought to be learned. Indeed, with this year’s events and approximate trajectories, we hope history does not repeat itself.

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UN Vote Upgrades Palestine to “non-member state” Status

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The Big News

While alarmists warn that abrupt changes equate to instability and uncertainty, some developments just keep defying the status quo. Palestine last week has successfully been granted a “non-member” observer State status at the United Nations General Assembly.

The 193-member assembly adopted a vote that saw 138 in favor and 9 against the resolution. Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this is a significant step in achieving Palestine’s independence as well as brings it closer to rectifying “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

Unsurprisingly, the upgrade has been met with condemnation in Israel. Just as the vote concluded, Israel announced it will go ahead with new settlements in occupied territory including a high-profile construction plan near Jerusalem. Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev said that this development will further withdraw constructive dialogue and that “its going to hurt peace.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will withhold badly-needed tax transfers to Palestinians and that his government “rejects the U.N General Assembly decision.”

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice also openly denounced the resolution, echoing her Israeli allies saying that her government does not support a measure that undermines direct talks and that the November 22 decision did “not establish Palestine as a state.” She also added that the decision will not advance peace in the Middle East. With Washington’s backing, Israel lobbied voting nations to oppose the measure, but failed miserably. Israel’s position was so unpopular that even its traditional allies/sympathizers either abstained or voted for the Palestinians.

On the other hand, the Israeli and American statements were met with concern by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, expressing that such “would represent any almost fatal blow to remaining chances for securing a two-state solution.” Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief was quoted as saying “the European Union has repeatedly stated that all settlement construction is illegal under international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace.”

The Big Repercussions

Finally in its modern period, Palestine now has the capacity for self determination, especially before an international criminal court. It can now claim rights to independent development, free of Israel. This means that Palestine now can  independently control its borders, or assert its own security and pursue its own trade with the world.

There can be no denying that the Palestinian upgrade to statehood can mean only good things for its people and its future. Abbas was jubilant and optimistic for his people, saying “we now have a state…the world has said loudly, ‘Yes to the state of Palestine.”

But as these developments seal a better self-determination for Palestine, Israel is met with a new set of problems of its own. For one, with the upgrade to non-member observer state status, Palestine can now be a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, similar to Switzerland’s accession in 1946 when the General Assembly accepted it as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations. As such, Palestine now can file complaints against Israel in the world court. Palestine now also has the choice to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and file a complaint against Israel on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly even genocide.

Can the US (and Israel) block complaints by Palestine? Unfortunately for them, they cannot, since they are not signatories of the Rome treaty. Much like how they arrogantly behaved at the recent Assembly, the US  announced back in 2002 that “the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty,” and that, “[a]ccordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature.” On the other hand, Israel’s indifference and naive behavior betrays not only international trust but also its very existence — it does not recognize the resolution that permitted the Palestinian upgrade to non-member observer state status and yet it forgets the fact that its very own existence was a result of 1948 UN resolution which permitted its right to self determination and independent existence.