2015 is almost coming to an end so let’s review what events have made international headlines.
7 January, Charlie Hebdo Shootings, Paris
Gunmen stormed into the satirical magazine’s offices and murdered 10 journalists, and killed two policemen during their escape. The attacks were in response to the magazine’s latest depiction of the Prophet Mohammad, which were deemed as blasphemous to Muslims. Witnesses heard the assailants shouting: “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.” The shootings attracted international outrage – particularly Western democracies because it is seen as an attack on freedom of expression.
8 January, Baga Massacre, Nigeria
Boko Haram launched an aggressive attack against the town of Baga in the Borno State. The insurgency started on 3 January when the terrorists stormed into the Multinational Joint Task Force headquarters and pushed thousands of locals out of their villages. The death toll is still unverfied but it is estimated to be from dozens to 2000.
12 February, cease fire in Eastern Ukraine
Leaders from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France reached an agreement at the Minsk Summit Talks to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The agreements include: withdrawal of heavy weapons, prisoner exchange, secession of foreign troops and weapons, and Ukraine allowed to continue normal life in rebel-held areas.
23 May, Ireland legalises same-sex marriage
Ireland has made history in becoming the first country to legalise same-sex marriage through popular vote. The results were 62% in favour of same-sex marriage, with more than 3 million voters turning up to the polls.
14 July, Iran’s nuclear program
After marathon negotiations since 2002, Iran finally settled on a deal with the P5+1 group which consist of the US, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany. Tehran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile by 98 percent to 300kg for 15 years in exchange for economic sanctions relief that has crippled the country’s economy.
28 September, water discovered in Mars
Nasa made a ground-breaking discovery of liquid water on Mars. This leads to new hopes that humans may be able to survive on the red planet. The discovery also solved the mystery of the “recurring slope linae” which scientists had dubbed when they found dark streaks on the planet’s slopes a decade ago.
30 September, Russia intervenes in Syria
President Vladimir Putin drew worldwide criticism when he announced Russia would intervene in the Syrian Crisis. The conflict started in 2012 and has left more than 220,000 dead.
Moscow found the opportune moment to enter the war as world leaders have become desperate and overwhelmed with the influx of refugees making their way to Europe. Russia claims to fight the Islamic State but reports have suggested the Russian military is targeting Syrian rebels instead. Western powers like the US and NATO accused Moscow of continuing its support for Assad and reaffirming its powerbase in Syria.
5 October, Trans-pacific partnership agreement
The US-led deal finally came in effect after seven years’ of negotiation. The TPP deal is the largest regional trade deal in history, with a total of 12 members: the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Brunei, Chile, Peru and Mexico. The trade claims to:
“Promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.”
However, the deal is controversial as critics argue small businesses will be impacted, large corporations gaining more power, and the US will benefit the most from this deal. Economists also state this regional trade is a veiled attempt to challenge the growing Chinese market and economy.
27 October, China building man-made islands
China-US relations soured once again when Washington sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Spratly Islands on the South China Sea. The US’ move was in response to China’s constructing two lighthouses on Johnston South Reef and Cuarteron Reef on the Spratlys. Washington alleged Beijing had, in fact, installed telecommunications and military infrastructure on the islands. The US, along with other contestants of the South China Sea like the Philippines and Vietnam, are alarmed by Beijing’s growing assertiveness and dominance in the Asian region.
7 November, China-Taiwan talks
Chinese and Taiwanese leaders met for the first time since 1949 when the KMT government escaped to Taiwan after its dismal defeat by the Communist Party. Leaders Xi Jinping and Ma Yingjeou met in Singapore, and agreed to improve cross strait relations through trade and increased telecommunications. China-Taiwan relations are pivotal to China’s desire to reunify with the island and China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific area.
13 November, Paris attacks
The world stood in solidarity when the Islamic State launched a series of shootings and bombings on the global city. The attacks killed 129 people and left more than 200 injured. After the shootings, national security was heightened across the world, and global leaders have agreed to work more closely to clamp down on terrorism. The attacks also mark the Islamic State’s change of strategy as the extremist group had never launched an attack on western soil until now.
16 November, Myanmar Elections
Myanmar’s landmark elections paved way for the National League for Democracy party to secure political power in parliament. The party is led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who pledged to tackle widespread poverty and improve the country’s shattered economy. The elections were also momentous as the military junta did not make any attempts to sabotage it.
24 November Turkey downing Russian jet
Tensions flared when Turkey shot down the Russian jet SU-24 which flew across the Turkish-Syrian border. Ankara contested the plane was on Turkish border while Russia denied the claims. The incident threatened to jeopardise the mission to eliminate the Islamic State in Syria and Putin angrily said the incident was a “stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists”. Moscow imposed economic sanctions and cancelled major business projects with Turkey to show what the consequences are for offending Russia.
30 November 2015 – 12 December, Paris climate change talks
Countries reached a historical agreement at the COP21 to limit global warming to 1.5C. Other key agreements include: solar power will replace fossil fuels, developed nations to supplement $US100bn a year from 20202 to developing nations, and nations will end the use of oil, gas and coal for energy.
December 2015, Europe’s migrant crisis
On December, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has recorded more than 1 million refugees journeying to Europe via land and sea. The refugees, mainly from Syria, and other countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Pakistan and Kosovo, have escaped conflict and persecution from their own countries.
The crisis has set off tensions in the EU as countries debated on how to settle the vast numbers. Frustration has come from countries like Hungary, Greece and Italy who are shouldering more of the burden. The Hungarian government resorted to drastic measures like shutting its borders and granting its army powers to use non-lethal methods to control the flow of asylum seekers. In September, EU ministers voted and agreed to relocate 120,000 across the EU. Thus far, Germany has received more than 315,000 new asylum applications – the highest number in the EU by the end of October.