There is the ongoing Syrian war, a humanitarian crisis as desperate migrants try to cross the mediterranean, there is a war in the Yemen, unrest in Iran, instability in the EU, Brexit, attacks in Nice, Turkey, Orlando and Germany, the continuing rise of the Islamic State, the election of Trump, clowns got creepy, a long list of celebrities who died this year, and to cap it off the word of the year is “post-truth“. The Olympics usually cheer everyone up but even that had its moments with the diving pool changing colour, sexist coverage, and a certain US swimmer having his own “post-truth” moment.
The old news adage “if it bleeds it leads” is true, and the news cycle is so short and so global it feels like there’s blood all over my screen some days. Add to that the contentious comments generated on social media by much of the news and it has been pretty hard to read at times.
But did anything GOOD happen in 2016?
In 2014/2015 there were a series of Ebola outbreaks in east Africa with almost 30,000 cases reported and more than 10,000 deaths. This debilitating deadly disease now has a vaccination and the epidemic was declared over by WHO in June to little fanfare. Kudos to the scientists that quietly got on with developing the vaccine, and the bureaucrats who did their job to get it into the field. The medical teams – made up local and international experts – that stayed and treated the patients knowing that not much could be done and that a third would die are heroes.
Columbia at Peace
After 50 years of war, deaths of 220,000 and 6M displaced people there is a peace accord signed between the Columbian state and the FARC rebels. It’s now ratified by the parliament, and the President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with a citation that includes “The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process.”
World Poverty Declined
By 58%, 74% or 5.6% depending on the measure used. The big difference in the numbers is due to differences in methodologies, the first two look only at income, the last at a more multi-dimensional view of poverty. Which ever is used millions of people are no longer living in poverty – which is good news. Of course this took more than just 2016, but the announcement was 2016. Small warning – if climate change continues this measure of progress will be reversed.
There’s a saying that when the going gets tough the tough get going, in 2016 some of the people who got going have achieved amazing things here are a few of my heroes for 2016.
MSF; this year and every year. They continue to provide emergency healthcare to people in the most vulnerable parts of the world. This year their difficulties have included bombing of their hospital in Yemen. Their work continues in 2017, you can support them.
Ebola doctors & nurses; as above
Proactiva Open Arms; in 2015 a bunch of Spanish life savers decided to use their skills to rescue those flying Syria and trying to cross the Mediterranean and find safety in Greece. Since then they’ve expanded their operations to large boats and more areas and rescued thousands. They’re not the only group doing this, while governments stand by, and all those making the ocean rescues are heroes. You can support them.
We usually think of heroes in terms of those putting their lives at risk but there are thousands of people who have opened their hearts, and their homes, to support others in more need.
I’ve gone on about the refugee crisis because it’s the biggest and most immediate humanitarian challenge we face. But there are other candidates…
Geena Davis, for establishing the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and continuing to work on the visibility of women in the media using the strap-line “If she can see it she can be it”.
The writer of the powerful victim statement in a rape case in the US, showing the insanity of the criminal process that still favours the rapist, especially when the rapist is a young white man with a bright future ahead of him. On the same note Lady Gaga for her haunting performance at the Oscars, and everyone involved in the making of “The Hunting Ground” exposing rape culture on campuses in the US.
On a lighter note; big thanks to all the people behind the Joebama memes, providing a light-hearted release during the US election insanity.
So there’s the good news and the heroes from 2016. Welcome to 2017.