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evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo

’Tis the season to be optimistic

As we close this year, and being Christmas, it’s worth focusing on the positive, because, ultimately, 2016 has been a good year

evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo
4 January 2017, 8:05am
We’ve seen an incredible push during the year in the protection of endangered species
We’ve seen an incredible push during the year in the protection of endangered species
If you want your Christmas spirit dashed all you need do is turn on a news channel. From the Philippines to Syria, atrocities and killings are the order of the day. As populism and extremism are on the rise, we are facing a world where even going to a Christmas market in a European city is a risk. 

2016 has been quite a colourful year in politics as well, with Brexit and the Trump victory in America among the unexpected highlights. 

Social media plays a big part in these world events, with the fighting during the attempted coup d’etat in Turkey being transmitted live on Facebook and Twitter – a first. Across the board, such direct access has changed perspectives on how we absorb the news and consume media. 

You may think (and feel) that doomsday is upon us but the truth is that there has been an increase in exposure of such negative events, not necessarily an increase in them. In many areas, this has been a great year with improvements in many aspects of our lives.

Environmental issues, including climate change, have moved up the global agenda, especially among important players such as China and India. This year, India planted 50 million trees in one day, and these countries are becoming leaders in protecting the environment.

A whopping 93% of children around the world learned to read and write this year, making it the highest proportion in human history. Just as important, the gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed during this year. World hunger reached its lowest point in the modern age while incarceration rates fell across the western world, including the United States.

Civil rights, in the form of same-sex unions, have spread across the western world. Italy is the latest in a string of European nations to jump on board while Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage during 2016. Child marriage is also slowly becoming a thing of the past, with countries such as The Gambia and Tanzania becoming the latest nations to ban this inhuman practice.

In Europe, teenage pregnancy rates have dropped yet again while the number of cigarette users is down too. In addition, charitable donations have never been higher across the globe. This is also due to the global economy’s growth continuing strongly this year, and the spread is quite balanced across continents.

Conflict, crime and violence are never off the news. Exposure to it certainly has increased. But conflict has decreased across the world. Places prone to violence, such as Colombia, Honduras and Mexico, have reported substantial decreases this year while crime rates in Malta, and most of Europe, have declined. 

We’ve seen an incredible push during the year in the protection of endangered species. In this year’s CITES conference, 183 countries signed up for substantial legislative protections for endangered animals and actual improvement is being noted by NGOs in the field.

Of course, there are lots of things wrong in our world. We have all seen the pictures coming from Aleppo, or ISIS-controlled areas. Such atrocities have always existed, yet we never had such exposure to them as now. Sadly, injustices and inhumanity are still a part of the human fabric. However, as we close this year, and being Christmas, it’s worth focusing on the positive, because, ultimately, 2016 has been a good year. 

All the best for the festive season and a Happy New Year to all.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister of Education and Employment

DealToday
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