2013 has been a year rife with political changes, social upheaval, natural disasters, and of course conflict. A snapshot of some key events of the last year may offer grim prospects for 2014, or alternatively a sense of hope for changes we may yet see and the progress that has been made.
Syria was arguably the most popular news story of 2014. From a regime that was once predicted a matter of weeks before collapse, the tables have now seemingly turned and there may yet be a place for Bashar al-Assad at the table amongst the humanitarian disaster. The shocking increase of foreign fighters have brought a Western face to the conflict, and returning fighters who were once more associated with Afghan jihadists fighting Soviet invaders are now returning to our own backyards. As Iraq reaches heights of violence not seen in the last five years, it risks becoming a forgotten land overshadowed by other focus in the region.
The Westgate attack in Nairobi underscored the danger that al-Shabaab poses well outside Somalia’s borders and served as a reminder of the many groups that have perhaps received less attention than they should, and leave us wondering where the next threat will originate from. The increased attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria remain a challenging group to fully understand from those outside the border, but a very real threat to those it affects. Coupled with an active al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib (AQIM) which had been terrorizing swaths of Northern Mali and many neighbouring countries, destabilizing groups challenge the progress of some of Africa’s most fragile states. Small successes such as the peace agreement signed between the M23 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its government may lead the way to ending one of Africa’s cruellest conflicts, while ethnic killings in South Sudan may offer a new one.
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines left millions homeless and challenged a government’s response to the needs of its people. Events such as Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse served as a reminder of the growing interconnectedness of us all when labels often found on our own backs were showing up alongside the victims. India’s horrific rape epidemic dominated the news cycle as a country’s women challenged the public space which they felt endangered in and their determination to take it back. Edward Snowden’s release of thousands of classified documents showed how our space is not as private and sacred as we once thought and made us question how far we are willing to allow our own privacy to be sacrificed in the name of security.
The election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has opened doors where distrust often lied and may lead to a new kind of relationship between Iran and the West than that of stand-offs and ideological clashes. The removal of democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt show how many countries swept up in the Arab Spring are still trying to carve out their own internal relationships and identity, and exhibit the clashes this process is fraught with.
The passing of some of the political leaders of our time leave us reflecting on how an idea, or a will, can have so great an impact on the world around us. Nelson Mandela showed how peaceful transition is possible in a country built on inequality. Britain’s Iron Lady and first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher changed the face of modern Britain and approach to free market. The oft controversial Hugo Chavez was a figure both praised and loathed by his people and the role he envisioned for Venezuala will continue to impact the future of the country for many years to come.
For Strife Blog, it has been a year full of growth and expansion. A new committee has taken the reigns from the founders and is finding its place amongst a new generation of King’s and other international scholars. Strife has solidified its place in the academic landscape with the publication of its second journal, and increased its views to an average of 50,000/year from 150 countries. We have also seen our authors picked up by international news media and broadcast around the world. As our world continues to change, and the political events of the day ebb and peak, we look forward to growing and continuing to provide thoughtful, unique insights on how we view and address conflict in our world, in all its shapes and forms.
From all of us at Strife, we wish you peace and prosperity in 2014. Keep questioning, keep analysing and most importantly, keep writing.