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Goodbye 2022: Lessons to be learnt from a year of challenges

From the coronavirus pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the immense challenges of 2022 inform hopes and fears for the future

2022 focus Reuter/Pavel Mikheyev
At the start of 2022, the coronavirus pandemic still dominated lives and economic forecasts

This year really has been one-of-a-kind. The sheer scale of changes and challenges in 2022 has been overwhelming. Yet, at the same time, things could have been worse. 

It’s easy to forget but back in January the coronavirus pandemic was still the issue dominating our lives and economic forecasts.

For most countries life has returned to normal for many, with face masks no longer worn and few people isolating. Yet countries like China still impose severe restrictions, only in December has it loosened up its zero Covid approach.

One wonders if the lessons have been learnt. Only time will tell if states and health authorities cooperate more closely and react faster when outbreaks occur; whether a vaccine roll out will be more equitable vis a vis the rich and poor parts of the world; whether vaccine production capacity has been improved to ensure swifter distribution.

If the coronavirus is slowly receding, it was Ukraine and Russia that developed into the fresh new crisis. The impact of the Russian invasion of its neighbour will live with us for years.

A sovereign state invaded by another upended all the feelings of security. With a war in Europe and European refugees, defence remains vital.

Ukraine also showed how such a state could impact the entire global economy. Energy prices spiked, as did the price of grain. Many economies have fallen into recession, or are on the cusp of it, and the poorest have suffered the most. 

The conflict may be one that both sides just have to grow tired of in 2023. The Ukrainian leadership is determined to eject Russian forces, and it has made progress with help from its allies. But President Putin will do anything to avoid humiliation. 

Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have global repercussions. Picture: Reuters

The Middle East has been quieter than some other areas of the world. Few major conflicts broke out but few were resolved either. The situation in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Palestine remains tense.

The incoming Israeli coalition is likely to have an impact one way or another, so expect Israel-Palestine to be a news story of 2023. The nuclear talks with Iran did not achieve a breakthrough, but neither did they break down. The sides may still somehow achieve an agreement.  

Iranian women have impressed many people with their courage as they confront restrictions imposed by theocratic authorities. The possibility of further protests in 2023 is a reasonable bet given the levels of disenchantment. 

Elsewhere key relations are under strain. The US-Saudi relationship remains tense even after the ‘fist pump’ summit with President Biden and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

The mood seemed warmer when President Xi of China visited Saudi this December.

High oil and gas prices have boosted the budget lines of the hydrocarbon powerhouses of the region. But investments in alternative energy sources and the commitments to cut carbon emissions means continued challenges for these states. 

The uncertainties and variables for 2023 remain significant. One way or another the world could do with a more mundane year with less high-octane drama.  

Chris Doyle is director of the Council of Arab British Understanding