“What is the state of the world?” my colleague asks as we enter 2022. I’m still not sure whether to count my answer as optimistic or pessimistic.
While the years from 2015 to 2019 were marked by a distinct worsening in world security – which I traced each year in the Introduction to the annual SIPRI Yearbook – it was different in 2020. That was the year when things didn’t get worse.
All right – now, how to characterise 2021? That was the year when things didn’t get better.
Histories of 2020 will start with the Covid-19 pandemic and there will probably be a lot about the US presidential election. Both the pandemic and the election have big implications for peace and security in 2021 and further ahead. Despite Covid, on the security horizon, 2020 was different from the three preceding years: at last, things didn’t get worse. It doesn’t sound like much but given how badly global security had deteriorated, it was an important, refreshing and much needed change.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better either. But read on.
So if you say progress is real and still possible, and it needs to change so we don’t pay the same high price for it in environmental harm and rising inequality, then there’s a question: what could it – should it – look like?
Pondering this, I found myself turning to the obvious – at least, obvious to people in my kind of work – the UN’s Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Agreed in 2015, the headline goals break down into 169 targets to achieve by 2030.
The SDGs represent a view of human progress as it could be, towards a better world that is not just imaginable but practicable. They are the aids we need to navigate a safe route on the journey of human progress.
The 10th edition of my book, The State of the World Atlas, is just out. In this short film I describe its contents and some of the big conclusions I draw not just from this edition but from the comparison with its predecessor, number 9 in 2013.
On 8 October the 10th edition of my State of the World Atlas is published. It’s a big picture book with graphic presentation of statistics and trends worldwide. And the biggest of the big picture questions is, “Is progress real?” Short answer: yes.
Yes, I know. Look outside and it’s not pretty. During the last five years we have seen global geopolitics go from sour to toxic, unravelling nuclear arms control, and reducing the appetite for international cooperation to address problems that can only be solved by working together.The number of armed conflicts is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War 30 years ago. Global military spending and the trade in major weapons are both at 30-year highs as well. The impact of climate change is increasing and increasingly dangerous. And on top of that there is the pandemic with its human, social, cultural and economic consequences. Can we still believe in progress? Really?
Consider some problems: climate change, the challenges of new technologies, the crisis in nuclear arms control, inequalities, freedom of navigation in the Gulf, increasing hunger and food insecurity, demographic pressures, the greater number of armed conflicts in this decade than the previous one, discrimination and repression on the basis of gender or faith or sexual preference, plastic pollution, pandemics, the sixth mass extinction and more. What conclusions can we draw? Continue reading →
There we are, another year, full of puzzlement and uncertainty. Some things moving forward (détente on the Korean peninsula, peace talks at last about Yemen), others regressing (world hunger on the rise, arms control crumbling, impacts of climate change unfolding), and other things hard to interpret. In this short film, the closing one of 2018 in SIPRI’s Peace Points series, I give my view. in the first one of 2019, I will take a look ahead at hopes for the coming year.
For 2018, I don’t really have a total on the bottom line of the balance sheet. The question that gets put at the beginning is, are we moving towards or away from midnight on the Doomsday clock? And my answer is a cross between ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Neither’ (i.e., no movement for either good or bad).
Happy (and PEACEFUL) New Year greetings to everyone!
As we wait for the summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to unfold on Sentosa Island in Singapore, everyone is in waiting mode and there are few takers for the challenge of forecasting the outcome. There is a widespread sense of a precarious balance between the epoch-shaping risks and opportunities available, uncertainty about what two unpredictable leaders would achieve together or, indeed, wreck. The uncertainty was only deepened by the US President’s rejection of the agreed communiqué at the G7 summit in a Quebec village three days earlier.
2017: it’s been some year, eh? It was the first year of the Trump presidency. All UN members bar one were signed up to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was open for signature and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. North Korea carried out more missile tests and one nuclear test and moved closer to having a nuclear ICBM capable of hitting targets in the continental US. The Iran nuclear deal came under severe pressure despite Iran implementing it fully. The people of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya continued to suffer the ravages of violent conflict. Elsewhere in the region and outside it, people faced the threat of random terrorist attacks. Arms spending and arms trading continued to rise. In SIPRI’s Peace Pointsseries of short films, I set out some views on these events and trends as they unfolded.