The best thing about 2021 was that, despite trying, it could not beat 2020 as the worst year in living memory. That alone is a testament to the grim times we live in.
Nevertheless, 2021 witnessed many major events that will decidedly shape the future of mankind. Here is a look back at 11 major global events that we witnessed in 2021 as the year draws to a close.
US Capitol Hill riots (January)
Following former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 US Presidential Elections, his supporters laid siege to the Capitol building in Washington DC in the hopes of overturning the mandate.
During the riot, a joint session of the US Congress was underway inside the building to count the electoral votes to formalize the victory of then President-elect Joe Biden.
Five people died in the ensuing violence which the FBI dubbed as ‘domestic terrorism’. The aftermath of the riots saw Donald Trump becoming the first US President to be impeached twice.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle give up Royal status (January)
On 8 January, 2021, Duke of Sussex Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle announced their decision to give up their status as senior members of the British Royal Family.
The move, dubbed as ‘Megxit’ by the British press, triggered ripples across the United Kingdom.
Following their announcement, Queen Elizabeth II ordered Harry and Meghan to relinquish their honorary titles and patronages. The couple had moved to the United states the previous year.
Joe Biden assumes office as US President (January)
Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 306 electoral votes in the 2020 US Presidential Elections. His inauguration on 20 January began the transition of the rhetoric ‘America First’ to ‘America is Back’.
Biden swiftly brought the US back in the fold of the Paris Climate Agreement and the World health Organisation.
While Biden has faced criticism from some quarters of the press for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, polls continue to show improvement in the US image outside of the country, a stark change from what it was under former President Trump.
Myanmar coup (February)
In what was a complete shock to the world, Myanmar’s powerful military, known as ‘Tatmadaw’, deposed the ruling government in a coup d’etat and took control of the South Asian country.
The new military junta declared Aung Suu Kyi’s party National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in the 2020 elections as invalid. ‘Tatmadaw’ chief General Min Aung Hlaing announced a year-long emergency before announcing himself as prime minister of the country.
Several ministers including Suu Kyi were detained by the junta which sparked nationwide protests, resulting in the deaths of over 700 people.
Suu Kyi was later sentenced to two years in prison.
Suez Canal crisis (March)
In March 2021, international trade got a jolt from a very unlikely source. A 400-metre-long cargo ship called Ever Given got wedged in the narrow Suez Canal in Egypt.
The Ever Given could not be moved for six days, resulting in the hold up of trade worth USD 9.6 billion.
Besides international trade, the Suez Canal itself reportedly lost USD 14-15 million in revenue.
The new ‘space race’ (July)
In July 2021, Richard Branson became the first private citizen to reach space aboard his own rocket ship.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic space-tourism company launched him and five crew mates to an altitude of 88 kilometres above the New Mexico desert before safely landing back on Earth.
The 71-year-old Branson beat rival Jeff Bezos who also ventured into space aboard his Blue Origin rocket nine days after Branson did.
Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with the Elon Musk helmed SpaceX, plan to send paying customers into space by 2022.
Pegasus scandal (July)
The world woke up on July 19 to a shocking scandal involving the Israeli firm NSO’s spyware called Pegasus.
A non-profit Paris-based media house Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, in collaboration with a handful of media companies, including the Washington Post, Delhi-based The Wire, Guardian and le Monde, among others, uncovered the sensational surveillance of thousands of journalists, activists, politicians and bureaucrats.
According to the findings, the surveillance list contained 50,000 telephone numbers of potential targets via Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021. The list contained names of 189 journalists, 85 human rights activists and over 600 politicians and government officials.
Vaccines available for everyone (August)
The speed at which the coronavirus vaccines were developed is a watershed moment for the global medical community. The quickest a vaccine was made previously was the mumps vaccine which took four years in the making.
In comparison, the Covid-19 vaccine was made available within one and a half years of the pandemic.
Big pharmaceutical companies like Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca rolled out their vaccines as early as August 2021.
A staggering 8.89 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally so far.
Taliban return to power in Afghanistan (August)
The end of US’ war in Afghanistan gave way for Taliban to seize control of the country. In 2020, former US President Donald Trump had agreed a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 1 May, 2021.
Two weeks before that deadline, new President Joe Biden ordered the complete withdrawal of US soldiers from the country by no later than 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attacks.
As the US soldiers left Afghanistan, the country’s national army collapsed like a house of cards, paving the way for Taliban forces to once again takeover the nation.
The AUKUS deal (September)
A historic trilateral security partnership named AUKUS was jointly announced on 15 September, 2021 by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The AUKUS deal will see the US provide Australia with the technology to build eight nuclear-powered submarines.
The United Kingdom was the only country to receive similar access to American technology.
Pandora Papers (October)
On 3 October, 2021, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began publishing 11.9 million leaked documents, 2.9 terabytes in size, exposing secret offshore bank accounts of at least 35 world leaders, over 100 billionaires and celebrities.
It is the biggest expose on financial secrecy since 2016’s Panama Papers leak. The ICIJ refused to divulge the source of the documents. It is estimated that the total sum of money held offshore range from USD 5.6 trillion to USD 32 trillion.