Covid-induced economic crisis
Hardly any country has been spared the brunt of the covid pandemic. Over 77 million people worldwide have been infected, and the number of deaths has crossed 1.7 million.
The economic impact of the pandemic will take a long to mitigate.
According to an estimate by ILO, an equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs were lost worldwide. The income of workers had fallen 10 percent by September 2020, equivalent to a loss of over $3.5 trillion.
Global stock markets saw their fastest decline in history in February-March, with the worst sessions seeing 12-13% falls.
Overall, this is the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.2
Biden trumps Trump
The US presidential election of 2020 will be remembered, among other things, for the ugly slugfest between the Republican and Democratic camps.
Covid, economy, a divided society... Trump has ensured that Biden has his hands full when he moves into the Oval office.
On the diplomatic front, Biden needs to rebuild a few burnt bridges, and also check Beijing's growing clout in a multi-polar world.
His announcements of taking the US back into WHO and the Paris climate accord are reassuring, especially at a time when global bodies are stretched for funds.3
West Asia peace initiatives
Israel and some Arab states set aside their historical baggage of intolerance and took a few baby steps toward normalizing relations.
Israel signed on a peace agreement with UAE brokered by the US, and followed up with similar deals with Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.
Saudi Arabia too is believed to have opened back-channel diplomacy to ease tensions with Tel Aviv.
That, seen in a larger geopolitical perspective of the region, leaves Iran out in the cold. Tehran has not softened its rhetoric towards Israel, and will keenly observe the next moves of countries in its neighbourhood4
Black Lives Matter
The anti-racism Black Lives Matter movement has existed in the US since 2013. But the Minneapolis George Floyd incident of May 25 imparted momentum like never before.
US witnessed more than 4,700 demonstrations, on an average of 140 per day, during the month following the incident.
Protests peaked on June 6, when half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. By some estimates, the participants better that during the civil rights marches of the 1960s.5
UK exits EU
Britain formally withdraws from the European Union on 11 pm GMT on Jan 31. But it wasn't until Christmas that the two sides could arrive at a trade agreement.
Studies have shown that UK's GDP might drop up to 4.5%, and per capita income up to 10%.
Some financial firms have already moved parts of their business out of UK to avoid possible post-Brexit disruptions6
All work(ed up) and no play
Blockbuster sports rivalries, normally played out before choc-a bloc stands, being staged in empty arenas! Yes, 2020 saw that happen too.
Limited sporting activities resumed with strict Covid protocols after a (presumed) thaw in the virus spread, but spectators, barred from the grounds, were the biggest losers.
Or were they? It was no better for the players themselves, so used to being appreciated with a thunderous roar from the galleries for every moment of on-field brilliance.
The Summer Olympics stand deferred for the first time since World War II, Wimbledon canceled, and IPL was forced to find a temporary home in UAE.7
Australia's worst natural disaster
While Australia is no stranger to summer bushfires, quite nothing compares to the ones in the 2019-20 season. With estimated damage of over $103 billion, this was Australia's worst-ever natural disaster.
Nearly 186,000 sq km area was burnt and over a billion wild animals killed in the fires that raged from July 2019 to March 2020. Nearly 25,000 koalas on Kangaroo Island, a major wildlife conservatory in South Australia, are believed to have perished.
New South Wales was the worst affected province, with 26 fatalities.8
A huge explosion shook Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people. Nearly 2,750 tonnes of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate exploded at a storehouse near Beirut port.
The blast was felt in Turkey, Syria, Israel, parts of Europe, and was heard in Cyprus, more than 240 km away.
It was detected by the US Geological Survey as a seismic event of magnitude 3.3, and is being called one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history.9
Iran downs civilian plane
On January 8, a Ukrainian passenger plane flying to Kyiv was shot down shortly after take off from Tehran airport by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. All 176 passengers on the plane were killed.
Initially, Iran denied responsibility for the incident. However, it later admitted that its forces shot down the civilian plane, mistaking it for a hostile object.
The incident happened amidst a standoff between Washington and Tehran.