.
S

ince the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by one annus horribilis after another, can the world turn the tide in 2022? There is reason for guarded optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given the comparatively high transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its comparatively low severity for the vaccinated, may mark a shift from the pandemic phase of the crisis to the endemic phase—with a dark and difficult winter ahead. What it will leave behind however and whether all the sacrifices will improve global public health and preparedness for the next pandemic, depends on whether frayed multilateralism can also be mended.

Aside from pandemic shock, 2021, like the last two decades, has been marked by other severe and deeply interconnected anthropogenic risks. Indeed, as we rounded out the year, a knife-edge great power conflict by proxy may be brewing between Russia and the Ukraine, which risks dragging in NATO and Western Allies. With approximately 100,000 Russian troops and material amassed at the Ukrainian border, great power brinkmanship and the specter of conflagration calls for firm and urgent diplomacy to deescalate what may be the New Year’s first conflict, and perhaps its most severe. With constant optimism, it is also diplomacy’s first chance to shine in the New Year.

Other global challenges requiring renewed action and focus include unchecked climate change and the fact that yet again 2021 marked a record setting year as climate extremes showed how few communities and countries are spared. Ending 2021 with a rare and rapid onset winter fires in Colorado that in the span of hours destroyed more than 600 homes and triggered evacuations affecting more than 30,000 people, was but a sad punctuation mark, in a year marked by climate change related risks. How the world mounts a society wide response to climate change, especially following renewed commitments to the COP26 agenda, can borrow lessons from the speed with which effective COVID-19 remedies have been identified and mobilized—even in the face of deleterious vaccine nationalism and strained supply chains. Science and medicine have done their parts, society and politics were the weak links. The same, sadly, is holding true with mounting a concerted whole of society response to climate change, but it does not have to be this way. Indeed, funding climate resilience after the fact is not only foolhardy, it is a terrible public-private investment strategy against a risk with so much mathematical certainty.

2021 was also marked as another year of unchecked cyber risk and cyber dependency, especially as much of the world continued its anxious ambivalent work, learn and govern from home experiment—at least for those so fortunate to be inside the perimeter of a functional internet. If anything, two years of pandemic life has underscored the essential—nay, central—nature of technology for any semblance of household, business, political, and economic continuity. It also laid bare the hidden perils of connecting every device and facet of our lives to the internet, including the growing specter of ransomware and cyber warfare, which continued their inexorable march forward. With so many people outside of the firewalls and the perceived safety of corporate cybersecurity perimeters (where things that were once considered perquisites such as bring your own device to work (BYOD) or work from home, are now de rigueur) cybersecurity whack-a-mole now includes new battle lines. Keeping what few air gaps remain between critical infrastructure, information, technologies and know-how, and the internet may be one of the hardest societal choices to make as perceived convenience trumps security.

Add to this list of anthropogenic threats—risks caused by and exacerbated by our species that often enjoy agency—the continuing backsliding of socio-political cohesion, including in once staunch democracies, and it is clear the world has much to do in 2022. In the U.S. the beginning of last year was marked by infection, impeachment, and insurrection. The end of the year is marked by inflation. Each of these challenges on their own would require the type of political consensus and nonpartisanship we have not seen in the U.S. in far too long. Addressing the confluence of all of these challenges on their own, especially in a world darkened by two years of pandemic clouds, national retrenchment and the resurgence of old animosities and flashpoints, requires U.S. leadership and democratic and institutional mobilization.

There is reason to believe, with guarded optimism, that 2022 can shift from an annus horribilis to an annus mirabilis, or at least offer us a glimmer of what a new normal might look like. Our greatest debt of gratitude in these grim times goes to science, medicine, technology and societal will. We shall overcome and with the prospects of COVID-19 shifting to an endemic phase, where the common cold (once a pandemic-level rhinovirus) or seasonal flu (similarly born from a global public health scourge), we can prepare for a new, better global chapter.

Hope springs eternal, as much as fortune favors the prepared.

About
Dante A. Disparte
:
Dante A. Disparte serves as the Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Global Policy for Circle. He is a member of FEMA’s National Advisory Council and serves on the World Economic Forum’s Digital Currency Governance Consortium. He is also a member of Diplomatic Courier’s editorial advisory board.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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The World Has Much to Do In 2022

Image via Adobe Stock.

January 1, 2022

There is reason to believe, with guarded optimism, that 2022 can shift from an annus horribilis to an annus mirabilis, or at least offer us a glimmer of what a new normal might look like, writes Dante Disparte in the year’s first cover story.

S

ince the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by one annus horribilis after another, can the world turn the tide in 2022? There is reason for guarded optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given the comparatively high transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its comparatively low severity for the vaccinated, may mark a shift from the pandemic phase of the crisis to the endemic phase—with a dark and difficult winter ahead. What it will leave behind however and whether all the sacrifices will improve global public health and preparedness for the next pandemic, depends on whether frayed multilateralism can also be mended.

Aside from pandemic shock, 2021, like the last two decades, has been marked by other severe and deeply interconnected anthropogenic risks. Indeed, as we rounded out the year, a knife-edge great power conflict by proxy may be brewing between Russia and the Ukraine, which risks dragging in NATO and Western Allies. With approximately 100,000 Russian troops and material amassed at the Ukrainian border, great power brinkmanship and the specter of conflagration calls for firm and urgent diplomacy to deescalate what may be the New Year’s first conflict, and perhaps its most severe. With constant optimism, it is also diplomacy’s first chance to shine in the New Year.

Other global challenges requiring renewed action and focus include unchecked climate change and the fact that yet again 2021 marked a record setting year as climate extremes showed how few communities and countries are spared. Ending 2021 with a rare and rapid onset winter fires in Colorado that in the span of hours destroyed more than 600 homes and triggered evacuations affecting more than 30,000 people, was but a sad punctuation mark, in a year marked by climate change related risks. How the world mounts a society wide response to climate change, especially following renewed commitments to the COP26 agenda, can borrow lessons from the speed with which effective COVID-19 remedies have been identified and mobilized—even in the face of deleterious vaccine nationalism and strained supply chains. Science and medicine have done their parts, society and politics were the weak links. The same, sadly, is holding true with mounting a concerted whole of society response to climate change, but it does not have to be this way. Indeed, funding climate resilience after the fact is not only foolhardy, it is a terrible public-private investment strategy against a risk with so much mathematical certainty.

2021 was also marked as another year of unchecked cyber risk and cyber dependency, especially as much of the world continued its anxious ambivalent work, learn and govern from home experiment—at least for those so fortunate to be inside the perimeter of a functional internet. If anything, two years of pandemic life has underscored the essential—nay, central—nature of technology for any semblance of household, business, political, and economic continuity. It also laid bare the hidden perils of connecting every device and facet of our lives to the internet, including the growing specter of ransomware and cyber warfare, which continued their inexorable march forward. With so many people outside of the firewalls and the perceived safety of corporate cybersecurity perimeters (where things that were once considered perquisites such as bring your own device to work (BYOD) or work from home, are now de rigueur) cybersecurity whack-a-mole now includes new battle lines. Keeping what few air gaps remain between critical infrastructure, information, technologies and know-how, and the internet may be one of the hardest societal choices to make as perceived convenience trumps security.

Add to this list of anthropogenic threats—risks caused by and exacerbated by our species that often enjoy agency—the continuing backsliding of socio-political cohesion, including in once staunch democracies, and it is clear the world has much to do in 2022. In the U.S. the beginning of last year was marked by infection, impeachment, and insurrection. The end of the year is marked by inflation. Each of these challenges on their own would require the type of political consensus and nonpartisanship we have not seen in the U.S. in far too long. Addressing the confluence of all of these challenges on their own, especially in a world darkened by two years of pandemic clouds, national retrenchment and the resurgence of old animosities and flashpoints, requires U.S. leadership and democratic and institutional mobilization.

There is reason to believe, with guarded optimism, that 2022 can shift from an annus horribilis to an annus mirabilis, or at least offer us a glimmer of what a new normal might look like. Our greatest debt of gratitude in these grim times goes to science, medicine, technology and societal will. We shall overcome and with the prospects of COVID-19 shifting to an endemic phase, where the common cold (once a pandemic-level rhinovirus) or seasonal flu (similarly born from a global public health scourge), we can prepare for a new, better global chapter.

Hope springs eternal, as much as fortune favors the prepared.

About
Dante A. Disparte
:
Dante A. Disparte serves as the Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Global Policy for Circle. He is a member of FEMA’s National Advisory Council and serves on the World Economic Forum’s Digital Currency Governance Consortium. He is also a member of Diplomatic Courier’s editorial advisory board.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.