The Syrian conflict has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, Ebola is killing thousands in West Africa, human traffickers are preying on victims of poverty and displacement, and climate change is impacting lives globally.
The editorial team at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, that covers under-reported stories related to humanitarian crises, human rights, climate change, and corruption, highlight the top 12 issues on the radar for 2015.
1- Syrian refugee crisis – How much worse will it get?: More than three years of conflict has seen 3.3 million people flee Syria, with 7.2 million people uprooted in the country. Many remain trapped by Islamic State militants and face no escape as neighbouring countries cut back on the number of Syrians they take in. With no sign of peace, how will governments and humanitarians respond? How will the vast refugee diaspora live?
2- The fallout from the Ebola outbreak: The Ebola virus has killed more than 7,500 people in the past year. Ebola has forced hospitals and schools to close in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and hunger looms as farmers have been unable to tend to their land. A new vaccine may defeat the virus in 2015 but how long will these impoverished countries take to rebuild?
3- The curse of trafficking and slavery: The crime of human trafficking is spreading globally, from exploiting Nepalese for their kidneys, to duping young women from India into sexual slavery, to forcing Bangladesh’s children to work on farms and conning eastern Europeans into manual jobs for little to no pay. Traffickers continue to operate with impunity so how can authorities in 2015 bring those responsible to justice and what can be done to help victims and protect vulnerable communities?
4- Finally, a climate deal?: The most recent effort to sign a global deal to curb climate change and deal with its worsening impacts ended in failure at Copenhagen in 2009. In Paris in late 2015, negotiators will try again – but this time the aim is a less-ambitious agreement based on voluntary national efforts. It should get signed but will it be enough, and fast enough?
5- Shifting powers in Southeast Asia: Myanmar is under pressure to hold credible elections next year while Thailand has again fallen under military rule. How will this impact investment, labour migration and human rights in the region? Will ordinary citizens see any benefits? How will Myanmar’s election affect Asia’s two big rising powers – India and China?
6- Colombia – An end to 50 years of war?: Will two-year-old peace talks between the FARC rebels and Colombian government finally result in a peace deal and end Latin America’s longest running insurgency? If so, will Colombians agree to any peace deal in a referendum? How will the country foster reconciliation between seven million war victims and their aggressors?
7- Insurgency in Northern Nigeria: Violence is escalating in northern Nigeria as Boko Haram grows in confidence, epitomised by the kidnapping of around 200 school girls from Chibok. The country is more polarized than ever and a drop in oil prices has hit the budget. Will 2015 general elections help ensure a safe, stable and indivisible Nigeria or will the violence continue?
8- From Millennium to Sustainable Development Goals: The Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015 and the United Nations will approve a new set of targets, this time intended to apply to all nations and not just to help developing countries get their citizens out of poverty. These new goals will aim to promote a model for prosperity but will there be agreements on targets that are universal, manageable and measurable?
9- Rise of the super-bugs: From artemisinin-resistant malaria in south-east Asia to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in eastern Europe, patients are struggling to come terms with the grim fact that drugs to fight some of the world’s oldest diseases no longer work. What does this mean for the world’s poorest and most marginalized people, who struggle at the best of times to access basic health care?
10- LGBT in flux?: Over the last five years, there has been major progress in the advancement of gay rights but the battle is far from over. What shifts will there be in 2015 to ensure gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, and transgender people receive equal rights and are accepted in societies globally?
11- Clean energy tipping point?: Fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal are the way most of us get our energy and with good reason – they’ve been the cheapest and most reliable source of power. But cleaner energy, particularly solar power, is getting progressively cheaper. As climate change intensifies, and as more and more countries and companies commit to cut their fossil fuel use, is a clean energy tipping point drawing near?
12- Human rights in China: China has faced global criticism for its record on human rights and its citizens are becoming increasingly prepared to challenge authorities over issues such as land seizures, justice, discrimination and economic inequality. What progress, if any, will be made in 2015 to improve the lives of citizens in the world’s second biggest economy as China seeks to tighten economic ties globally?