Five good foreign policy news for 2021

Two thousand and twenty-one will go down in the books as another tough year. But recounting all the bad things that happened in 2021 makes it easy to overlook the good things that happened. And good things happened. Here, in no particular order, are five good news stories related to foreign policy. You may want to read the following carefully. Several of these stories could bring more good news in 2022 and beyond.

Agreement reached on a global minimum tax. Global cooperation is often necessary and difficult to achieve. But sometimes countries overcome conflicting interests and agree on a common course of action. A typical example in 2021 was on taxes. For decades, countries have cut taxes in hopes of attracting businesses from other countries. Multinational corporations have eagerly used different tax rates and rules to minimize their tax bills, going so far as to create what critics call “shadow companies” that don’t exist to produce anything. , but simply to avoid taxes. Since 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has held talks on setting a minimum tax rate for large businesses, a move that would reduce tax rate purchases and level the playing field at worldwide. A breakthrough came in June when G7 finance ministers agreed to support a minimum global tax rate of 15%. They also agreed on rules for taxes on digital services that will force tech companies like Facebook and Google to pay taxes wherever they sell their products, even if they are not physically located there. Months of diplomacy followed to flesh out the details of the deal and persuade countries like Estonia and Ireland, which had led the race to lower corporate taxes, to join the pact. In early October, more than 130 countries signed the agreement, which the G20 summit endorsed at the end of the month. Now member countries, and in particular the United States, must rewrite their tax laws to match their commitments.

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2021 in review

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Marketing of space travel. Historians can think of 2021 as the year that ushered in the era of space tourism. In 2021 alone, twenty-two non-astronauts traveled to space using major space tourism companies: Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos, Virgin Galactic by Richard Branson, and SpaceX by Elon Musk. Among the civilians who have made it to space this year was the legendary Wally Funk flight trainer Star trek actor William Shatner, television personality Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard. None of these trips was the business of Star wars, Lost in space, Where The extent. The passengers spent only a few minutes in space before returning to earth. No one expects space travel to become widely available anytime soon. Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have not said what they will charge passengers in the future; costs are estimated to be between $ 125,000 and $ 60 million. If this prize is out of reach for you, you could be hitchhiking by winning a contest. However, big things start with small steps. No one at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903 probably imagined that the rickety craft the Wright brothers had built was the precursor to jets that could fly from Singapore to New York in just over eighteen hours. Likewise, the fleeting journeys of 2021 could lead to an era where more humans will visit space and possibly end up living there.

Zambia holds free and fair elections. The insurrection of January 6. Coups d’état against elected governments in Chad, Guinea, Mali, Myanmar and Sudan. The repression of protest movements in Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong and Russia. Overall, 2021 has not been a great year for democracy. Zambia was an exception to this trend. In August, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema defeated incumbent President Edgar Lungu. The money in the bet had been on a victory for Lungu. His government has increasingly banned political protests, shut down critical media and harassed opposition politicians. But when the votes were counted, Hichilema, who was making his sixth candidacy for the presidency of Zambia, won so decisively that he avoided an expected run-off. Lungu initially claimed that the election was “neither free nor fair”. Faced with considerable national setback and evidence to the contrary provided by international election observers, he ultimately conceded the race. One of the main reasons for Lungu’s defeat was Zambians’ frustration with the democratic decline, corruption and economic decline that Zambia had experienced since coming to power in 2015. A businessman by profession, Hichilema a strong chances of reversing the many misfortunes of his country. Zambia defaulted on its foreign bonds at the end of 2020 and its poverty rate stands at 58%, 17 points higher than in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Hichilema revealed when he took office that the country’s treasury was “literally empty”. He received good news in December when the International Monetary Fund tentatively agreed to extend credit to Zambia.

First malaria vaccine approved by WHO. In October, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the use of Mosquirix, the first-ever malaria vaccine for children. The development of a vaccine against malaria has been a long-standing scientific challenge. Mosquirix has been in development since 1987. The challenge is that malaria is not caused by a virus, as is the case with COVID-19, or a bacteria, such as cholera or typhoid, but by a parasite. whose ability to overcome the human immune system is not well understood. Vaccine trials have shown that Mosquirix, which was developed by GlaxoSmithKline, reduces the risk of severe cases of malaria by 50% in the first year, with its effectiveness dropping to almost zero by the fourth year. These numbers may seem unimpressive, especially compared to the best COVID-19 vaccines, which have efficacy rates of over 90 percent, at least against the pre-Omicron variants. But there are around 220 million cases of malaria each year and around half a million deaths. Preventing 30 percent of these cases would make a huge difference. It is therefore not surprising that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called Mosquirix “a breakthrough for science, children’s health and the fight against malaria”. The vaccine will have the greatest impact in Africa, where 95 percent of malaria cases occur. The challenges now lie in production, financing and distribution. COVID-19 vaccines are likely to claim most of the vaccine dollars nationally and internationally. Meanwhile, Mosquirix is ​​being administered in four doses over two years, posing obvious logistical challenges.

Global competitions and performances back. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of a multitude of high-profile events in 2020, from sports competitions and film festivals to exhibitions, which normally delight billions of people in the world. world. Fortunately, many of these events returned in 2021, albeit often in transformed circumstances. The flagship event was the Tokyo Olympics. The US team won the most medals (113) and gold (39), edging the Chinese team (88 and 38) for the highest honors. Highlights abounded. Host Japan beat the United States in gold medal games for baseball and softball, two games invented by America. Brazil extended its dominance in men’s soccer, while Canada won its first gold in women’s soccer. Speaking of football, the European Cup has produced a mind-boggling list of big matches. Host England lost a heart-wrenching penalty shootout to Italy, giving the Azzurri their first Euro Cup championship since 1968. Other sporting events that have returned in 2021 include Wimbledon, the Boston Marathons and of New York and Michigan-Ohio football. game, which the Wolverines won 42-27, making 2021 a glorious year for every Michigan alumnus. In the performing arts world, Broadway has reopened, as have the Lucerne Festival, the Salzburg Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival. Finally, Expo 2020 Dubai opened in October, with the official theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. Hopefully all of these events, and more, will happen again in 2022.

Other good news to note in 2021: On January 1, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement entered into force. On February 15, the World Trade Organization chose Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. In March, researchers at Brown University wirelessly connected a human brain to a computer, which could help people with paralysis. On April 20, NASA’s Perseverance rover first converted carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars. On May 25, Costa Rica became the 38th member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. On June 30, the WHO declared China malaria-free. On July 7, China announced that giant pandas were no longer considered endangered. In August, electric and plug-in hybrid cars topped diesel car sales for the first time in Europe. On September 24, China released two Canadians accused of espionage after two and a half years in detention. In October, surgeons successfully attached a pig kidney to a human patient, a breakthrough that could help thousands of people awaiting organ transplants. On November 28, Hondurans elected their first female president, Xiomara Castro. On December 6, United Airlines made the first passenger flight on 100% sustainable fuel.

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2021 in review

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Margaret Gach, Charlotte Peterson, and Anna Shortridge participated in the preparation of this article.

Other articles in this series:

Ten good foreign policy news for 2020