The New Year is usually an emotional time. For some, the idea that another year has passed is depressing. For others, it’s a fresh start, although keeping it up can prove challenging. A UK study found that only 26 percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions in 2020 kept them.
Will those who promise to make the Middle East a better place in 2022 keep theirs? After a tough year, there is great skepticism.
The past week brought more memories of the hurdles ahead. In Lebanon, where politicians are particularly bad at keeping promises and the national debt is close to $ 100 billion, President Michel Aoun has said that it will take the country six to seven years to get out of the current crisis. Deadly sectarian clashes broke out in mid-October after weeks of Hezbollah allegations that its investigation into the incident was biased after society’s remarkably impartial response to the 2020 explosion in the port of Beirut, which killed 219 people . Yesterday, The national reported on the booming arms market in Lebanon as people rush to defend themselves in the crumbling state. The fruits of the country are also affected by the crisis. This year, shipments abroad that were replete with the illegal drug Captagon were found several times.
In Sudan, where hope had increased in 2019 following the overthrow of the country’s dictator, Omar Al Bashir, clashes between the military and the civilian government erupted. Both appear helpless in the face of growing hunger, the economic crisis and renewed mass protests.
The year ends in Libya with the failure of the planned elections. The country and the international community must return to the basics of state building and cooperation after the pre-election vote has turned into a farce with illegitimate candidates and local loyalties once again standing in the way of national unity.
Palestine, Yemen and Syria continue to suffer from years of political failure.
And outside the region, one of the most important challenges will be decided in Vienna, as the world powers are negotiating with Iran to revive some kind of agreement to contain its nuclear program. Without being present at the talks, much of the Arab world looks on with skepticism, as some of the most momentous problems for the region are not addressed, such as Iran‘s use of regional proxies and the ballistic missile program.
Perhaps worst of all, Covid-19 has killed nearly 200,000 people in the Middle East to date and cost its economy nearly $ 230 billion. It won’t be going anywhere in 2022.
But there is room for hope.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman yesterday encouraged Iran to abandon its policy of destabilization and choose dialogue instead. Much remains to be done in this regard, but in November top Iranian nuclear weapons negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani visited the United Arab Emirates where he met Dr. Anwar Gargash, Diplomatic Advisor to President Sheikh Khalifa, and Minister of State Khalifa Al Marar. Another diplomatic victory for the region came when Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, also traveled to Turkey in November for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These are remarkable achievements for regional diplomacy. And at the multilateral level, the United Arab Emirates are about to begin their two-year term on the UN Security Council.
Beyond politics, optimism is growing on a personal level in the region. The ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey found that six out of ten young Arabs believe their best days are ahead of them. This includes growth in the most competitive countries in the region such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This is remarkable after a year in which one in three under 25s in the Middle East lost their job or lost a family member to Covid-19. And in another recent survey, 90 percent of the region’s workforce surveyed are optimistic about 2022 as job prospects and economic growth improve.
At home too, the UAE will remember 2021 as one of their biggest celebrations: their 50th birthday. The country’s development has been at an almost unprecedented rate and a real sign that the Middle East can be a place of hope. The region definitely needs them, and if they learn from the many tough lessons of 2021, it could get some in 2022.
Published: December 31, 2021, 3:00 am