Despite the bleak headlines about Iraq, conflict in Lebanon, and nuclear confrontations with both North Korea and Iran, 2006 was a good year globally. GDP growth in developing nations surged forward at a 7% pace, while overall global economic growth remained high at close to 4%. Long term economic growth is the only available means to decrease absolute poverty; in India, growth around 7% per year reduced overall poverty by 10% over the last decade. To be sure, much of developing nations’ current growth is owed to rising commodity prices, but in many nations this influx of revenue is being harnessed more effectively than in the past.
2006 was not a great year when measured by the yardstick of global conflict. Conflicts flared or continued in Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia, Congo, Colombia, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and in numerous other regions. But progress towards stability was made in Nepal, where the king abdicated, leading to peace talks and the inclusion of Maoist rebels in government. Uganda is attempting to close an ugly chapter of its history with the disarmament of the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the more brutal paramilitary groups in Africa.
China took a first step forward in reforming its death penalty, by requiring that all death penalty be reviewed by its Supreme Court. As many as 80% of all state-sanctioned executions occur in China, and the government has been embarrassed by executions of inmates later proved innocent. Since roughly 1/6th of the world’s population lives in China, any improvement in Chinese human rights marks an improvement for the world as a whole.
Numerous dictators and former strongmen died or were deposed in 2006, including Saddam Hussein, Saparmurat Niyazov, and Augusto Pinochet. While former dictators are only rarely brought to justice, their passing often opens a window of opportunity for a nation. Chile, for instance, has been a Latin American success story after successfully transitioning to democracy after Pinochet.
Lastly, 2007 is predicted to be another good year for economic growth, as China, India, and other major developing economies continue to surge forward while the US moderates. Let’s hope 2007 was as good a year as 2006!