2023 Wasn’t All Bad News for Human Security

2023 Wasn’t All Bad News for Human Security
A health worker vaccinates a child against malaria in Homabay County, western Kenya, Sept.13, 2019 (AP photo by Joseph Oduor).

As 2023 drew to a close, it was easy to feel like the world was trending in the wrong direction. Climate change is getting worse, and world governments have done precious little to stop it. Refugee crises have proliferated, even as unfounded distrust of foreigners is also on the rise. Authoritarianism is on the march, with freedom indicators continuing to slide, while reproductive health is facing a global backlash and trust in political institutions is dangerously low. The war in Ukraine is rumbling on, while the outbreak of war in Gaza has taken such a human toll that Christmas in Bethlehem—seen as the birthplace of Jesus by the Christian faithful—was canceled entirely this year.

Nonetheless, behind these “bad news” headlines are a number of other “good news” stories that didn’t get as much press coverage last year. So to usher in 2024, I thought I’d offer some things we can celebrate, some reasons for hope and some cause to expect history to continue bending in the direction of justice in the New Year ahead.

Despite high-profile wars, interstate conflict dynamics remain at historic lows. With Russia marauding across Ukraine, Israel pummeling Gaza and new wars breaking out in Sudan and Ethiopia, it is easy to overlook that other wars are winding down, that civil wars are on the decline generally and that interstate conflict remains at historic lows. Whether or not this trend will continue is a matter of debate, and there are reasons to worry. But according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index, it is primarily internationalized intrastate conflicts that account for the rise in conflict indicators since 2009. By contrast, territorial conquest between states remains largely a thing of the past.

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