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Last Sunday Summary of 2023: looking back

It’s that time of the year again. Restarting after the holidays, coming back from skiing or other destinations to your usual repetitive day of work and responsibility. As people reminisce and reflect on their best and worst moments of the past year, 2023 recaps and their carefully compiled aesthetic videos flood social media.


When it comes to world news, a few lines wouldn’t be enough to touch on all of the most impactful events of 2023. In a nutshell, democracy and human rights around the world were seriously threatened. Wars have been raging in Gaza and Israel, in Ukraine, in Sudan, and in many other places internationally. These have unfortunately been accompanied by a multitude of violations of international humanitarian law. 2023 was also characterised by international political unrest, with coups occurring in Gabon and Niger, for instance, and the French taking to the streets to voice their disagreement with the Pension Reform. As far as the climate is concerned, an unfortunately large number of natural disasters occurred in all regions of the world in 2023, with the deadliest probably being the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, which claimed the lives of more than 55,000 people.


Looking back at all these tragic events, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Yet, if it may not seem like it, 2023 has known its fair share of good news, however discrete. For instance, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 was not a global health emergency anymore in May, officially slowly but surely leaving this depressing period behind. Yet more hopeful news: deforestation in the Amazon forest is significantly decreasing and hit a five-year low in 2023. This came as a sign of hope, confirming that the steps taken by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is committed to achieving an ambitious target of zero deforestation by 2030, can reverse the trends seen under President Bolsonaro. Regarding oceans this time: a landmark legally binding treaty, the High Seas Treaty, was adopted by the United Nations in June. The treaty aims, among other ambitions, to safeguard biodiversity in high seas, those maritime areas that don’t fall under the jurisdiction of any country, and protect 30% of international oceans by 2030. To put this in perspective, only 1% of the high seas is currently protected.


Now let's take a look at some of the more recent events around the world. In last week’s Sunday Summary, we talked about Gérard Depardieu and his scandalous statements. As a reminder: the French actor is currently accused of rape and sexual assault and caused outrage with his attitude in a documentary for the magazine “Complément d’enquête”, in which he is seen sexualizing a young girl riding a horse and making shocking remarks about women in front of the cameras. On December 25, a few days after President Emmanuel Macron affirmed his support for Depardieu on television channel France 5, Le Figaro published an open letter titled “Don’t erase Gérard Depardieu” signed by 56 artists, defending the actor. The letter calls to let the actor continue to play and claims that “Gérard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors. […] When you attack Gérard Depardieu like this, it is art you are attacking”. It stirred up even more controversy and some of the signatories have since distanced themselves from the text and expressed their regret. In response to the public support for the actor, 600 artists voiced their disagreement by signing a counter-letter published on December 29, which calls people not to normalise comments and acts such as those of Gérard Depardieu. The counter-letter seeks to break “the law of silence”, as well as the “echo of impunity”.


In the Gaza strip, living conditions remain extremely critical: the lack of healthcare, infectious diseases, famine, and overcrowding represent just some of the many serious threats facing people in Gaza. Last week, on December 22, the United Nations Security Council adopted a major resolution calling, among other demands, for humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. However, getting this humanitarian assistance into Gaza has become more difficult as fighting intensifies. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “intensified hostilities, insecurity, blocked roads, scarcity of fuel, and extremely limited communications” have hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid. On X (former Twitter), UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths denounced the numerous challenges faced by aid workers trying to help the people of Gaza, including humanitarian aid convoys being shot at, and aid workers themselves being displaced or killed.


One thing is for sure: the start of a new year is undoubtedly the ideal time to reflect on the past year, whether on a personal or global level. Yet soon the time for reflection and looking back will make way for a time of good resolutions and turning to the future. While we can't predict what 2024 will bring, we can only hope for the best. On that note, I hope you are enjoying the festive season with your loved ones as much as you can, and I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

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