2022 Review: Ten Major World Events

Ten events that marked 2022 in the world

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the protest movement in Iran, the questioning of the right to abortion in the United States: here are ten events that marked 2022 in the world, as recorded by Agence France-Presse.

Putin invades Ukraine

On February 24, Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine, plunging the world into a crisis not seen since the end of the Cold War. Against NATO member countries declaring their support for Ukraine, the Russian president is raising the threat of using a nuclear weapon, saying he is ready to use "all means" in his arsenal.

The war is causing the most significant influx of refugees into Europe since the end of World War II and costing the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.

Putin - who says he wants to "de-Naziize" Ukraine - is very isolated diplomatically. The West imposes economic sanctions on Russia, which become more and more severe as time goes by, while at the same time delivering weapons to Ukraine, which also acquires the status of a candidate country to join the European Union.

Testimonies abound accusing the Russian military of abuses, including the killing of civilians, torture and rape.

Russian troops are abandoning their bid early in the invasion to encircle the capital Kyiv, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been appealing to world leaders daily for their support.

The war also raises the threat of a global food crisis due to Russia's naval blockade of the Black Sea. An agreement, reached in July, allows Ukraine to gradually resume exporting its grain.

In September, Putin calls up some 300.000 reservists and announces the annexation of four Ukrainian-occupied regions after holding "referendums" as the Russian military piles up defeats on the ground.

After abandoning the Kharkov region (its first major conquest), Moscow orders the withdrawal of its forces from Kherson (south) in early November. Russia is launching hundreds of strikes against Ukrainian energy grids, plunging millions of Ukrainians into darkness as winter approaches.

Inflation as a consequence of the energy crisis

The surge in prices, which began in 2021 due to the disruption of supply chains combined with strong demand for essential goods and services as economies restarted post-Covid, is accelerating in 2022 to reach levels not seen since the 1970s and 1980. Inflation reaches 10,1% in November in the Eurozone. It is expected to reach 8% in the fourth quarter in the G20 countries, affecting global growth by increasing business production costs.

Inflation is fueled by the war in Ukraine which is plunging Europe into a deep energy crisis. Russia, under the influence of Western sanctions, is multiplying its retaliations until it hits the sensitive point of the EU: its dependence on Russian gas. Russian gas exports, mainly through heavily dependent Germany and Italy, are in freefall.

"The global economy is experiencing the biggest energy crisis since the 1970s," the OECD underlines.

The war also causes a rise in the prices of grain and consequently of fodder.

Due to the persistent health restrictions associated with Covid-19, shortages of electronic chips, most of which are made in Taiwan, are also slowing down many sectors.

In order to tame inflation, the US central bank (Fed) has been aggressively raising interest rates since March, making borrowing increasingly expensive, with the European Central Bank following suit.

Overturning Abortion Rights in the United States

In June, the United States Supreme Court gives each state the freedom to ban abortion on its own soil, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade” of 1973. Since that reversal, about 20 states have outright banned or deeply restricted the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy, and the issue is among the issues dominating the midterm election campaign.

In November, the midterm elections did not result in a conservative red "wave", as supporters of former President Donald Trump had hoped. The Democrats maintain control of the Senate (in December they also take the seat of Georgia) and the Republicans secure a slim majority in the House of Representatives.

Donald Trump nevertheless announces his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. The battle for the Republican nomination is expected to be fierce, with many other potential candidates, including Florida Governor Ron DeSandis, a rising star of the American hard right.

The former president's candidacy could also be threatened by possible prosecutions, as a special prosecutor is appointed in November for two of the many investigations targeting him.

Political instability in Britain

After a succession of scandals and a flurry of cabinet resignations, Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down in July. Liz Truss is officially named as his successor in Downing Street by Queen Elizabeth II, two days before the Queen's death on October 8 after 70 years on the throne. On September 10, Charles III is proclaimed king.

The most short-lived prime minister in the country's modern history, Liz Truss only lasted 44 days in office before resigning in turn, having in the meantime caused a political and economic crisis with her 'radical' economic programme.

Rishi Sunak comes to power at the end of October, in a period of unprecedented uncertainty for Britain. He is the fifth Prime Minister in Britain since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Enormous challenges await the 42-year-old former banker and finance minister: inflation above 10%, a deteriorating health system... The end of the year is accompanied by a succession of strikes.

Extreme weather conditions

In 2022, disasters linked to climate warming have multiplied.

The summer is the hottest ever recorded in Europe, record temperatures and heatwaves are causing drought and forest fires (at least 6.600.000 hectares of forest are reduced to ash from January to mid-August in the EU, a record). Alpine glaciers record record ice mass losses.

At least 15.000 deaths are directly linked to the heat in Geria Epirus, according to the World Health Organization.

China is also breaking heat records in August and drought is threatening the Horn of Africa with famine.

Fires and deforestation are breaking new records in the Brazilian Amazon.

In Pakistan, historic floods linked to an unusual monsoon have killed 1.700 people and displaced eight million others, leaving a third of the country under water.

If this year's predictions are confirmed, the years from 2015 to 2022 will be the warmest on record, the World Meteorological Organization warns.

After difficult negotiations, the UN climate conference (COP27) ends on November 20 in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) with a compromise on aid to poor countries affected by climate change, but also a failure to appoint new ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In mid-December, more than 190 nations adopt a historic agreement in Montreal in an effort to halt the destruction of biodiversity and its natural resources. The agreement foresees a road map with the main goal of protecting 30% of the planet by the year 2030.

Anti-headscarf revolt, violent crackdown in Iran

On September 16, Mahsha Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, dies in hospital, three days after she was arrested by morality police who accuse her of violating the Islamic Republic's strict dress code for women.

Her death has sparked a wave of protests across Iran, unprecedented since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Young women are at the forefront of the protest movement, with some taking off and burning their headscarves in defiance of authorities, videos show.

Demonstrations for women's freedom are gradually turning into a wider movement against the Islamic regime, taking the streets, universities and even schools, despite the crackdown. Authorities say at least 300 deaths (as of 5/12), with a Norway-based NGO listing at least 469.

In early December, the authorities make a gesture to the protesters, announcing the disbandment of the morality police. However, soon after Iran executes by hanging two young men who have been convicted of offenses related to the protests.

China: Xi re-elected — 'zero Covid' policy challenged

Chinese President Xi Jinping is re-elected head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the 20th CCP Congress in October, surrounded by loyal allies to become the most powerful leader in modern China.

During his ten years at the helm of the country, Xi Jinping has demonstrated a desire for control, interfering with almost all of the country's mechanisms and drawing international criticism for the country's human rights record.

It also maintains a worsening rivalry with the United States.

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait are at their highest level in years after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the autonomous island in early August.

China is retaliating by conducting land and naval drills of an unprecedented scale since the mid-1990s. And US President Joe Biden has declared that US troops will defend Taiwan if the island is invaded by China.

The country's "zero Covid" strategy, which leads to the lockdown of entire districts or cities when outbreaks appear, provokes in late November the biggest protests in decades.

The authorities respond with a crackdown and then, in December, a general relaxation of health rules to calm popular anger and shore up the faltering economy. At the end of December, China finally announces that on January 8th it will end the mandatory quarantine when someone arrives in the country, the last remnant of the strict "zero Covid" health policy.

After this relaxation, the cases of Covid are experiencing an explosion in the country, as a result of which hospitals are under great pressure, while a shortage of anti-fever and anti-flu drugs affects pharmacies.

Wins and losses for the far right

After four years in power, Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was narrowly defeated by leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the Oct. 30 presidential election after a toxic campaign.

Lula, who was imprisoned for corruption (2018-2019) before his conviction was overturned, will officially return as Brazil's head of state on January 1, 2023. His success seems to mark the return of the left in Latin America.

In Europe, by contrast, ultra-conservatives are recording resounding victories in parliamentary elections in several countries, starting in April with the fourth consecutive victory of Hungarian nationalist party leader Viktor Orbán.

In France, Marine Le Pen's National Alarm (far right) recorded a historic victory in June, becoming the first opposition party in the National Assembly, where head of state Emmanuel Macron lost an absolute majority.

The nationalist and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) party is the big winner in September's election, becoming the second largest political force in the country.

In Italy, Giorgia Meloni wins a historic victory in September with the post-fascist Adelphia party of Italy and is appointed prime minister in October.

Hope for peace in Ethiopia

After two years of conflict, Ethiopia's federal government and rebel authorities in the northern province of Tigray signed a "cease-of-hostilities" agreement in Pretoria on November 2, which aims to end a war that non-governmental organizations described as " one of the deadliest in the world." After a five-month ceasefire, fighting had resumed in late August.

The conflict, which has been pitted since November between Ethiopia, which is supported mainly by forces from neighboring Eritrea, and Tigray rebel authorities, has been marked by possible crimes against humanity committed by "all parties" according to the UN, and led to the displacement of at least two million Ethiopians.

As well as disarming the rebels, the peace deal is expected to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Tigray, which has been virtually cut off from the rest of the world and its six million people have been without food and medicine for more than a year. The first aid convoy since late August arrives on 16 November.

Qatar, controversial host of the 2022 World Cup

The hosting of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – from November 20 to December 18 – is causing a barrage of criticism for the small Gulf state.

The first Arab country to host the soccer world cup is criticized for its treatment of foreign workers, LGBTI+ people and women, or even for using air conditioning in its stadiums amid climate change.

The treatment of migrant workers - essential in a country where Qataris make up just 10% of a population of three million - is particularly criticised. Some media outlets report thousands of deaths at the construction sites, an account denied by Doha.

Icing on the cake, the Greek MEP Eva Kaili is accused in the context of a high-profile corruption scandal, in which Qatar is involved.

After the threat of sporting sanctions from FIFA, soccer's world governing body, no national team captain can wear the 'One Love' anti-homophobia armband when the tournament begins. Those who disagree are expressed in various symbolic gestures (German players mimic the gag, European ministers wear the rainbow armband when they ascend the official stand) while the kick-off is given.

On December 18, after a 36-year wait, 120 minutes of play and a penalty shoot-out, Argentina wins its third World Cup by defeating title holders France.

Source: RES-EAP