5 Stories That Are Driving The Global Agenda This Year

1. Creating the Sustainable Development Goals (STD's)

This year, the Millennium Development Goals will expire and the Sustainable Development Goals will be born. What exactly these goals will include and how they will get implemented will be discussed at the United Nations over the course of this year. What is ultimately decided will have profound impact on international development and on the 7 billion people that inhabit our planet. A working draft of the proposed SDGs includes 17 goals. Some of these goals include:
-ending the AIDS epidemic
-reducing inequalities around the world
-eradicating extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 per day) by 2030
-ensuring access to sustainable and affordable energy sources
-ensuring access to quality sanitation
-providing universal access to modern contraception
-ending the gender gap in educational opportunities
-conservation of land, sea, and air

2. Paris Climate Talk

The Paris Climate talk will be our last hope to come together as an international community and make a plan in reducing the harmful effects of climate change and create common solutions to slow emissions, help countries adapt to the damage already done by climate change, and create new pathways for developing countries to grow their economies in environmentally sustainable ways.

3. Elections and People Power in Africa

2014 was a year of political protests and demonstrations all around the world, especially in Africa. We all remember the protests that began in Sudan in 2011, the protestors in Nigeria that demanded the government (and continue to do so) to take action and rescue the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by militant group Boko Haram, and the protests in Burkina Faso over changes to the constitution that would have allowed the president to extend his 27-year rule. The focus of protest this year will likely be over diffusion of political power and resources, and protest against autocratic rule that benefits the elite at the expense of the people, according to scholars Zachariah Mampilly and Adam Branch.

In 2015, voters in almost half of the countries on the African continent will be casting ballots. Twenty countries will be holding elections, including presidential elections in at least twelve countries (Zambia, Nigeria, Egypt, Togo, Tanzania, Mali, Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Chad, Cape Verde, Libya, Niger, Seychelles.) We already witnessed Nigeria’s presidential election in April 2015 where Muhammadu Buhari took victory. The international community will be paying close attention to these election (particularly to ones where people have been in power for far too long) looking for "increased freedom and political space for candidates, activists and voters to make their voices heard, in open, transparent and inclusive elections", according to Undispatch

4. The humanitarian crisis in Syria

The crises in Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic and South Sudan collectively account for 70% of the world’s humanitarian needs and there is not enough funding to support each crisis. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, issued a humanitarian appeal for $16.4 billion to provide for the basic humanitarian needs of 55 million people affected by manmade and natural disasters. Syria alone accounts for $8.5 billion of the $16.4. As of now, there was still no plausible plan for a solution to the Syrian crisis which means that humanitarian needs will continue to increase. In December 2014, the World Food Program ran out of funds for its Syria program and had to rely on crowd funding to resume food deliveries. This is only a glimpse into what is to come for other agencies that provide humanitarian relief in emergencies. 

5. The Ebola Crisis

At the end of 2014, the World Health Organization was reporting 20,000 ebola cases. Too many health workers were also killed in countries that didn't have any doctors and nurses to spare. So far, the outbreak has been contained to just three countries in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and luckily outbreaks seem to be on the decline, but still far too many cases are being reported. A key challenge in 2015 will be to end the outbreak in these three countries, repair the health systems that were broken by ebola and to do what needs to be done to prevent another outbreak of the sort. 

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