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The World in 2021: Prospects and Challenges

The World in 2021: Prospects and Challenges

Al-Etihad, UAE, December 30

There is no doubt that 2020 was one of the most difficult years humanity faced in decades. It is the year in which the world suffered from the worst health crisis it ever faced, causing fundamental transformations in all areas of life and revealing the lack of international cooperation. While there is a state of optimism that this pandemic will soon end given the several vaccines developed, the emergence of new and more contagious strains of the virus have sparked a state of anxiety and fear around the world, forcing many countries to return to complete lockdowns. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over the nature of the challenges and risks facing the world during 2020, which centered around conflict between major powers, especially the US, Russia and China. Further, the difficult economic and social conditions resulting from the repercussions of COVID-19, especially in conflict areas, provided an opportunity for extremist organizations to regroup and resume their terrorist activities, taking advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the virus. These challenges and risks are likely to continue in the year 2021. The coronavirus, as is evident from the developments of the past days, is spreading at an accelerating rate in many countries around the world. Given the fact that most countries will not receive the vaccine in upcoming months, the pandemic is here to stay even in 2021. Economically, forecasts issued by international financial institutions indicate that many countries of the world will continue to deal with a crisis next year, as well — especially given the decline in global economic growth rates and the potential exacerbation of problems like food security, poverty, and unemployment in many countries of the world. In light of these conditions, the stalemate in the status of many regional and international crises and conflicts may continue to persist in 2021, due to the international community’s preoccupation with confronting the pandemic. This will be true especially in the Middle East. Although most future scenarios indicate that 2021 will not differ much from 2020, both in terms of risks and challenges, there are some expectations that predict that the new year may bring about some positive opportunities, especially after the swearing-in of the Biden Administration. These opportunities include returning to a multilateral approach in managing international crises and conflicts, strengthening the role of international organizations, reducing tension between the United States, Russia, and China, and international cooperation in producing vaccines. As 2020 comes to an end, one can only hope that 2021 will bring about positive change: that security, peace and stability will prevail throughout the world in the new year; that conflicts and wars between countries will disappear; that tendencies of fanaticism, extremism, hatred and selfishness will end. Above all, that the coronavirus will finally disappear from our lives and allow us to return to dealing with other problems we’ve neglected for too long. –Youssef Al-Hadad (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


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