Lifting hope of peace, cooperation and development

Tuesday, 2017-01-31 23:02:16
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Two Iraqi children stand beside the line waiting to receive UN aid at Zahra District, east of Mosul. (Credit: Reuters)
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NDO—2016 saw a multitude of dramatic changes in the situation of the world, challenging forecasts by policymakers and the public with increases in instability, violence, conflict, terrorism, the spread of extremist nationalism and the risk of confrontation between the major world powers. As we enter 2017, international highlights are expected to contribute to preserving world peace, stability, cooperation and development.

Conflict, disagreements and “political shocks”

Europe has experienced a year of great challenges and a series of terrorist attacks. Just over a month after the massacre in Paris, France, more innocents suffered in a bombing in Turkey. Three months later, more were killed in terrorist bombings in Brussels, Belgium, the site of the headquarters of the European Union (EU).

Terrorism in Germany, the country that has welcomed nearly a million migrants, has made Europe increasingly aggressive in the fight to prevent the flow of migrants. The connection between the series of bloody attacks and migrant influxes has led to decisions that have divided and changed the face of European politics.

Terrorist forces, especially the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), have sought to increase their strength and influence. The IS’s arms have extended to Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, with bloody attacks that raise serious concerns about the risk posed by this terrorist organisation as it sets up new operating areas in the region.

The multi-polar world order has become clearer, coupled with a sudden shift in profound disagreement and a lack of compromise between concerned parties in their efforts to find a peaceful solution for North Africa and the Middle East. As the repercussions of the Arab Spring have not ended, contradictions have emerged amidst efforts to solve the issues in the eastern Ukraine, making the risk of a Russia-US confrontation more worrying.

In Asia, geopolitical tensions have increased despite high-level talks and calls for détente by the international community. The controversy regarding sovereignty in the East China Sea and the East Sea of Vietnam has heated public opinion.

The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean relations have not been fully resolved, though the two have strengthened steps to calm the situation and reached a number of agreements aimed at “defusing a war.” In the last weeks of the year, the world witnessed a serious political crisis in the Republic of Korea that saw President Park Geun-hye suspended from the presidency.

In 2016, the world saw a series of “political shocks.” The information leakage scandal entitled “Panama Papers” was considered a “political bomb,” revealing secrets hidden in 11.5 million records stored by Panama’s Mossack Fonseca related to activities of tax evasion and money laundering by hundreds of thousands of companies, exposing the existence of a “global underground economy” over the last 40 years.

Brexit has made significant changes to the global situation. (Credit: Reuters)

The UK’s vote on whether to “stay with” or “divorce” the EU (Brexit) and its decision to stand separately on the regional chessboard shocked the international community, while immediately negatively impacting the economy, political situation and military in the UK, the EU and the world.

Regarding military affairs, the UK’s staying in NATO without staying in the EU has aroused internal divisions about the choice of this bloc on concentrating forces to resolve tensions on the other side of the Mediterranean, or encroaching into the Eurasian geopolitical power play by the US.

Politically, Brexit can be considered a failure of the “power in unity” dream of the EU, posing new challenges to the alliance’s efforts to “progress eastwards” and the rise of Euroscepticism.

Economically, in the short term, Brexit caused an immediate response from the world economy, with trillions of US dollars evaporating on the stock market, while creating a “shock” to free trade agreements with the argument that international commitments undermine national interests and sovereignty.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the US presidential election brought victory to the Republican candidate Donald Trump, the President-elect considered the largest “unknown” in US history. This event, together with Brexit, sent the world into a precarious situation, with bilateral, multilateral and economic or defence relations needing to be reconsidered.

Populism has been pushed to its highest level in recent years, accompanied by anti-globalisation phenomena that directly threaten free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Kindling hope in the new year

Many unpredictable events are over; positive signals for peace, cooperation and development are still evident in many places, kindling hope for the world as it enters the new year 2017.

That the US and other Western countries have lifted sanctions against Iran has opened a new period of development for the country after a decade of missing beats on the global playing field. Iran, one of the countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, joining the market has contributed to stabilising global oil prices.

Despite a year that was not very prosperous, the world economy partly avoided continuous shocks from international political issues. It can be seen that only a short time after Brexit or the US presidential election, the global market was able to regain its positive recovery momentum.

Positive growth in the global economy has created favourable conditions for attracting investment to developing countries, including Vietnam. (Credit: NDO)

Many countries, including Vietnam, issued statements supporting the judgment by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the lawsuit by the Philippines against China concerning disputes in the East Sea, expressing the desire that related parties obeying international law to maintain peace and stability in the region. This ruling is of great significance, contributing to affirming the role of international law, the spirit of the rule of law and equality before the law among all countries.

The quick ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change by many countries affirmed the efforts and determination of the international community while kindling hopes to limit the common risk from climate change and build a world of peace with sustainable development and prosperity.

The situation in the region and around the world in 2017 is forecast to continue in complicated and unpredictable developments. The stinging problems in the past year continue to be a challenge to humanity.

The international political situation remains complicated, with conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, plus maritime disputes in East Asia. Adjustments in US foreign policy will entail changes in the foreign policies of other countries around the world. Terrorism remains the greatest danger threatening the world’s security. However, with efforts from the international community, terrorist forces are more likely to be weakened, but they might not be eliminated completely just yet.

In addition, the world still faces hidden risks from continuous arms races and nuclear weapons tests. The risks of geopolitical miscalculations by big countries and those owning nuclear weapons can make the world situation more unpredictable. However, military challenges in territorial disputes around the world, especially in Asia, are expected to ease, thanks to solidarity and common interests against terrorism for stability and cooperation for mutual benefits.

The world economy has many opportunities for positive growth, especially in Southeast Asia. There are favourable conditions for attracting investment in developing countries, including Vietnam. However, oil prices will likely increase due to the decision to cut oil production.

Despite reactions against globalisation, free trade, migration and global connectivity, scientific and technological advances will take the world forward. Youngsters can join leading universities around the globe through online courses; businesses can still export to other markets with the Internet; and people worldwide can still share information and chat on social media platforms.

2017 is still unknown, but the trend of peace, cooperation and development will be the driving force to bring the whole of humanity towards a better, more prosperous world.

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