2011 – What Did It Bring?

| by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

( December 14, Montreal, Sri Lanka Guardian) Somewhere in the early part of January 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “2011 – What Will It Bring?” which was published in the Sunday Leader. Here is part of what I said:
by Devign Elements
“The world will continue its efforts at eradicating cyber terrorism in the face of the frightening prospect of the human and economic toll if the computer systems that control air traffic, nuclear power plants or major dams were brought down or thrown into confusion by cyber-terrorists.
The stimulus driven economy of 2010 both in the United States and some big borrowing countries of Europe which accepted handouts from the European Union will see severe austerity measures in 2011. The economies of Britain, France Germany (which is doing well at present) and the United States may slacken in the process of the recovery. China and India will flourish economically, and The Economist predicts that India’s economy will grow even faster than that of China, although China will remain bigger, stronger and richer. The journal calls this “slowing dragon; crouching tiger”. Australia will continue to shudder under a shaky political framework and a tipsy government although its terms of trade will improve. New Zealand will consolidate its trade in export markets particularly to Asia and increase its economic growth. NATO, American and allied forces may still be in Afghanistan, and although the war is ended in Iraq, the bitter animosity and rivalry among the Sunnis and Shias will continue to cause death, injury and untold suffering to its civilian population.
In the Middle east, where 2011 is dubbed “the year of peace”, sustained efforts will be made by the United States, Israel and Palestine to cobble an understanding, if not an agreement of sorts that would at least suspend hostilities. Iran would remain “touch and go” in the economic front where, if as planned, subsidies are reduced and compensation offered to the poor to make amends, there could be civil unrest.
The way it is headed currently, South America could develop as a wealthy region, with countries such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina leading the way. The region will improve its trade and political relations with China. Elsewhere in Asia, internal political strife will probably weaken Japan’s government structure and deflation will stultify economic growth. South Korea will increase its GDP in 2011 and there will be numerous political reforms in Singapore. Thailand, which has an inflation rate of 2% will continue to have rumblings and divisions in its society.
Countries in Sub Saharan Africa will further strengthen their trade ties with China and India and grow as a result. Fuelled by information technology and rapidly developing urbanization, investments will grow. Nigeria could do well to elect a more assertive and effective government when it holds general elections in early 2011. The future of Africa will lie in the outcome of elections in 2011 in Uganda, Madagascar, Benin, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo Gabon, Liberia and Chad. West Africa, spearheaded by growing economies and balanced democracies such as Ghana will become the showcase of Africa. Manufacturing, retailing, banking and telecommunications will be the main tools of this African resurgence”.
Whether my predictions were correct or not can be ascertained easily through a retrospective look at the events of 2011. I recall also saying in the beginning of my article: “someone once said predicting the future is easy; it’s trying to figure out what is going on now that is hard. In the case of the year ahead, it is the present that will determine the future”. At least I was correct on that one.
We all know what happened. A few weeks before I came up with my predictions for 2011 an act of self immolation on 17 December 2010 by Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old man trying to support his family by selling fruits and vegetables in the central town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, led to massive protests in the country, resulting in the overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s President on 14 January 2011. On 25 January 2011, protests, at least partly inspired by the toppling of the authoritarian government in Tunisia, erupted in Egypt and grew increasingly worse. As a result, Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, was deposed within weeks of a virulent peoples’ uprising. Contemporaneous protests went on other States such as in Algeria, Yemen, and Bahrain, the last of which held a “day of rage” on February 14, instigated by youths, and inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia. Later on, there was acute unrest in Libya as a result of mass civil unrest and clashes between protesters and the government forces, leading to the assassination of the Libyan leader by his people. In the last instance, the United Nations had to step in with a Security Council Resolution to protect the Libyan people from being attacked by their own armed forces.
At the present time, Syria is going through its own version of Arab Spring and the Libyan crisis. The United Nations has again raised its voice on human rights violations in that country. Sections of the public in the Russian Federation have taken to the streets protesting against the recent elections. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement which originally started in New York spread to other parts of the United States, into Canada and beyond. Peoples movements, which started against genocidal maniacs who had their ongoing agenda’s for power, greed and control extended themselves to protestations against corporate greed. Women in Libya and Egypt clamored for more recognition and autonomy.
So, what did 2011 bring? Peoples’ Power. For the most part the year ushered in a deep rooted consciousness among people of their own collective power against evil and greed. The year also paved the way for a catharsis of outrage against totalitarianism and inequality.
Ousting tyrants is one thing; but rebuilding nations on an entrenched foundation of peace is another. A nation’s concept of peace is essentially influenced by the cultural ethos of its people. People of different cultures sometimes disagree about the meaning of the word, and so do people within any given culture. Peace is not a symbol, peace is a mindset. A culture of peace would entail different features for different nations, depending on their own cultural history and attitudes of racial, religious and gender tolerance. However, there are some basics that would incontrovertibly apply to any given situation. or instance. Firstly, the issue would be to what extent are people educated and sensitized to perceive themselves as part of a peaceful society who would follow rules of conduct leading to dialogue and negotiation instead of taking to the use of force. Peace education should bring to bear the compelling need for a tolerance and non-violence based culture. Some issues that would bear on a culture of peace would be: To what extent are women given equality and a say in governance as well as in day to day living?; To what extent are children and their nurturance valued?; what roles do understanding, tolerance, solidarity and mutual obligation play in a given society? How far does a State adhere to democratic participation and how much credence and reliance is placed on open communication, transparency and accountability?
Perhaps the most significant indicator of a cohesive peace culture is the extent to which a government encourages and facilitates the practice of human rights. A corollary to this is the government’s initiatives and attempts to include all diverse components and groups of a society in its agenda.
The international obligations of a government and its society also play a significant part in the culture of peace in a country. How far are UN resolutions on peace initiatives adopted and adhered to? How much does a State participate in joint programs to eradicate global terrorism? For example, to what extent would a State participate in the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, on 9 December 1999, aimed at enhancing international co-operation among States in devising and adopting effective measures for the prevention of the financing of terrorism, as well as for its suppression through the prosecution and punishment of its perpetrators?
If the tumultuous events of 2011 paves the way for a new year during which nations old and new address the issues discussed above, we should be well content.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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