The European project is increasingly in crisis and many Western countries are struggling to remain faithful to the values that distinguish them on paper by oligarchs and dictatorial regimes. The ongoing conflicts not only continues unabated as in Syria but is rising in different areas as in Yemen and in other regions, the situation is likely to precipitate as in Kashmir and in the South China Sea. Tensions between Russia and the West have virtually reached cold war levels with Moscow, which is using every strategic and diplomatic chicanery to split NATO countries and bring many nations under its wing.
In addition, the number of attacks and victims caused by these are growing exponentially, a trend that obviously also continued in 2016. Europe was the theater of bloody attacks with that of Brussels and Nice. The chaos in the Middle East, as well as the dramatic social situations in various countries in Africa, pushed thousands of people to flee from their land.
The fight against climate change, which should be the shared priority of all nations and of all the inhabitants of the planet, makes negligible strides when compared to the actual size of the problem.
In 2016, then, we have had a number of signals which are not too good and cannot make us look to the future with optimism. Below is a list of what we believe are the most dramatic events of 2016.
NUCLEAR TESTS OF NORTH KOREA
2016 opens with a nuclear test on January 6 carried out by North Korea, the fourth by the nation led by Kim Jong-un. The North Korean regime said it had tested a hydrogen bomb, but analysts have pointed out that there could have been a nuclear fission bomb. Later, on September 9, North Korea carried out the fifth nuclear test in its history, the most powerful ever built by the Pyongyang regime, further unnerving the international community. The North Korean government has claimed that day that it is now able to build nuclear bombs small enough to be placed on a ballistic missile.
During the year, North Korea has carried out several missile tests, saying most of the time to be scientific programs for the launch of satellites around Earth's orbit. Tests have angered the international community and alerted the nearby Japan.
ATTACKS ON THE RISE WORLDWIDE
The attacks have continued to hit the Old Continent. On March 22, the capital of Belgium becomes the scene of two attacks in one at the airport of Brussels and the other at Maelbeek. Because of the attacks, claimed by Daesh, 32 people have died.
In Nice on July 14, a 31 year old man in a truck with dual Tunisian and French nationality, managed to overcome the safety barriers of the Promenades des Anglais, for about a kilometer and a half by shooting out the window. The crazy act has cost the lives of 86 people, including the bomber, and caused more than 300 injured.
The number of attacks is increasing a bit all over the world. From 2009 to 2015, in Africa the deaths caused by the attacks have increased over 750%. The affected areas of the Middle East, have also infected neighboring Turkey, the country that has become the scene of violent attacks that have caused several hundred deaths. The Islamist-motivated attacks are intended to expand to the South and South-East Asia. Now more than 30 thousand people die every year because of the attacks. Five years ago there were just over 3 thousand.
DEMOCRACY CONTINUES TO BE MISSED SHOTS
2016 was a year to forget for the Western democracies. On June 23, citizens of the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union in the referendum on Brexit, wanted by former Prime Minister David Cameron. The populist movements and far-right are strongly increasing in almost all EU countries and in 2017, countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands are likely to end up in the hands of the ultra right.
On November 8, at the end of a tough election campaign, the US presidential elections were held, from which Donald Trump emerged the populist winner. The elections have divided the country.
In Turkey, following a coup attempt on July 15 by government forces, President Erdogan began a purge that led to the arrest of thousands of people and as many layoffs, including security forces, judges, teachers, governors, and many people who support the main opposition parties. Turkey is becoming increasingly difficult for the opposition forces to be able to make policy and to bring their message to Turkish nationals, with the incumbent president trying to consolidate power and try to make reality his dream of a sultanate.
CONFLICTS IN THE WORLD
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have never been so strong as now and have never controlled a wide territory since 2001, when the regime was overwhelmed by the US-led coalition. Government forces are struggling to contain the expansion of the Islamist group, which relies on flourishing revenues from opium market.
Iraq continues to be torn apart by a civil war which sees mainly the confrontation between the forces of jihadist Daesh, the government and Iraqi Kurds. In July, during the month of Ramadan, there was the worst attack since the US-led invasion, causing over 200 deaths and other human rights violations against the citizens and ethnic minorities, such as the Yazidi. From October the Iraqi government forces, backed by US forces and the Iraqi Kurds, are besieging Mosul, attempting to wrest the city from the hands of the Daesh. Besides the battle of Mosul, as well as the other cities to be torn from the hands of Daesh, remains the political and ethnic confusion that makes any prediction very complicated. Peace within the country seems anything but close.
In Libya, the difficulty of establishing a single government accepted by the people seems never ending. Eliminated Colonel Gaddafi has triggered a civil war between different tribal forces, which mainly revolve around the so called Tobruk government elected in 2014. The civil war has become fertile ground for TransFlash expansion of jihadist groups, and in particular of Daesh forces, who recently (December 6th) has lost a major city like Sirte, but that remains a living and constant threat in other parts of the country as in the east of Benghazi. The internal outbreaks also concerned neighboring countries, such as Tunisia, who can rely on a precarious stability and run a contagion risk that should not be underestimated.
Syria remains the worst scene of conflict between those currently active. The number of victims each year is in the order of about 50-60 thousand, of which the majority are civilians, including women and children. The Russian intervention to support Assad's forces has further complicated the lives of civilians, who are being targeted with no scruples, and made the future of the country even more bleak.
In Yemen, the situation is plummeting. The conflict between Hadi and Houthi is causing thousands of deaths and creating a serious humanitarian crisis, with millions of people who are struggling to find food and water. Between the two sides, respectively, supported by Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries, the United States, France and the other side mainly from Iran, do not seem to be finding a lasting agreement and the conflict threatens to worsen.
Even in Kashmir tensions between Pakistan and India are reaching worrying levels. The two countries are separated by a historic rivalry. In late September, India has carried out an air raid on the border with Pakistan, over the so-called line of control. The risk of military escalation between the two nuclear powers is higher than imagined.
The guerrilla attacks in Ukraine in the Donbass region continues unabated between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces. The annexation of the Crimea to Russia has soured relations between Moscow and the West, also bringing the relations between Washington and the Kremlin to Cold War levels. Since then, Russia is trying to bring under its orbit as many countries as possible, especially those in Eastern Europe.
The disputes in the South China Sea between China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are bringing the countries concerned to increase their military presence. The United States is also present in the area, to ensure that the stretch of sea can remain open to all. This of course is leading to continuous skirmishes between Washington and Beijing. The situation is very complicated that may worsen rather than result in an agreement.
In many countries of extremist groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab continue to expand. And many countries, for example South Sudan and Burundi, are torn by civil strife or local rivalries. Libya remains one of the hottest fronts, with a civil war between the two rival governments that has become fertile ground for Islamist groups.
CRISIS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
With the conflicts that show no sign of decline and with so many repressive regimes that make civilian lives a hell on earth, there are many people who are fleeing persecution and bombs. The migration that is sweeping Europe as well as the refugee crisis at the global level is the highest since the Second World War. From 2014 nearly 300,000 refugees have reached the European Union countries, with many of them coming from Syria.
The refugee crisis has highlighted the problems of organization within the Union with countries that are struggling to find an agreement to manage the emergency and continue to exchange accusations. In 2016 the number of arrivals has continued to rise and in Greece alone 126,000 immigrants arrived in January and February, compared with 4,600 in the same period of 2015. A temporary embankment was placed with an agreement with Turkey in exchange for 2 billion Euros granted by the European Union. Ankara is responsible to manage and accommodate most of the migratory flow.
Crossings in the Mediterranean of course continue. The number of migrants who died at sea trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean reached the highest levels ever and in 2017 the numbers could be worse. In general, conflicts around the planet continues unabated and the number of refugees will continue to rise in the coming years, putting a strain on the organization of the neighboring countries and those countries which are the final destination and desired by those seeking a place to forget their past and start again.
THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR CONTINUE TO INCREASE
The divergence between rich and poor in the distribution of wealth has continued to rise even in 2016. The social malaise felt by the middle class is one reason which is now giving populist and extremist movements. And the disparities are so pronounced that in the richest country in the world, the United States, 10 percent of the most affluent class holds a wealth nine times higher than the other 90 percent put together. Now what is certain is that the situation is more serious than imagined and that the inequality has reached levels never before achieved by the 19th century to today.
As pointed out by NASA in the first half of 2016, each month was the hottest of the same month since 1880, the year in which they started to mark the temperatures to today.