All views expressed are entirely my own.
The past year has been a rollercoaster of international stories, some of them with long-term serious implications. Others, which have grabbed media headlines around the world, may turn out to be much less important, at least in the long-term.
What international issues and stories can we expect to see developing as the new year unfolds?
CANADA AND THE WORLD
Don’t expect to see any major changes in 2013 for Canada in the international arena. In recent years Canada has lost some international prestige, particularly within the UN, as we were always considered to be scrupulously fair in our dealings with international issues and political players. We distanced ourselves just enough from the US and UK to show that we were not going to blindly follow everyone else’s hardline policy (e.g. invading Iraq). At the same time we championed issues where we could show our political balance (e.g. the Palestinian issue) or where we could make a difference for large numbers of people (e.g. the anti-personnel mine ban).
Current Canadian policies are currently viewed with some suspicion by many who would like to see more of our traditional fairness. While it would be great to be proven wrong, Canada will likely continue to distance itself from the UN through 2013.
The big stories in Africa will be those which have so far, only gained minimum media coverage, at least in North America. The complete takeover of the northern half of the massive territory of Mali by a pro-Al-Qaeda Islamist group over the last year is a serious cause for concern which could eventually have consequences for western nations. While the numbers of rebels in northern Mali is relatively small, the huge geographic area, and the almost non-existence of the central government means that there is no resistance.
Another serious rebellion has quietly been occurring, ignored by the mainstream media, in the Central African Republic. Negotiations between anti-government rebels who feel they are being ignored, and the central government, are taking place, brokered by the African Union (AU). These negotiations are on-going but short to medium term future economic development in the CAR, as well as human rights and good governance are seriously under threat.
In Mali, the former colonial power, France is working with the regional power, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to put together an army which might be able to wrest back control of Northern Mali. While all NATO nations, including Canada, have denied that they will participate in any way in this action, it is unlikely that any ECOWAS force could succeed without outside support. US support to ECOWAS could come from outside the NATO umbrella through AFRICOM (Africa Command) and through the provision of intelligence from unmanned drones.
Check my next post for commentary on the Middle East, Asia and the United States.