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5 globally significant events to watch in 2022

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December 31, 2021

Between a new president taking office and COVID-19 variants causing a resurgence in the pandemic, 2021 has been a year of challenges and changes. (See, for example, “10 significant international human rights events of 2021.”) Whether 2022 will be as tumultuous remains to be seen. But there are already numerous events that are expected to have significant effects on the world in the coming year. Here are five to watch in 2022. 

Supreme Court to rule in Dobbs case

During the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the most significant pro-life cases in a generation. The court will decide if individual states can replace the current “viability standard” (i.e., restrictions only allowed after a child can live outside the womb) with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The result could be an overturning of Roe v. Wade or a broadening of restrictions on abortions in the early stages of pregnancy.  

Beijing Olympics brings scrutiny to China’s human rights abuses

China will be hosting both the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the 2022 Summer Olympic Games in their capital city of Beijing. Hosting the events puts a worldwide spotlight on their human rights violations, including the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people. The United States and several allies, including Australia, Britain, and Japan, have imposed a “diplomatic boycott” of the games and will not be sending high-level official spectators. However, some groups such as the World Uyghur Congress want Olympic athletes to use the games to raise awareness about the persecution of Uyghurs and other groups within China.

2022 midterm elections could lead to shift in partisan power

Midterm elections are the national elections in the U.S. that occur at the two-year midpoint of a president’s four-year term. Because members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms and U.S. Senators for six-year terms, all 435 House seats and one-third of Senate seats are decided at the midterm. Additionally, in 2022, the election will decide 36 state governorships and three U.S. territory governorships.

The party of the incumbent president tends to lose seats in Congress during such elections. Over the past century there have been 26 midterm elections. Of those, the incumbent president’s party has lost an average of 29 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate. If these historical averages occur next November, Republicans stand to gain full control of the Legislative Branch. The president’s party gained seats in both houses only two times: Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 and George W. Bush in 2002.

Russia troop build-up on Ukrainian border could lead to European war

Russia has deployed between 120,000–150,000 troops to their border with Ukraine. The move has been perceived as a possible precursor to an invasion of the eastern region of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concerns about Ukraine’s increasing reliance on the West, and how the country might host NATO offensive weapons systems if it becomes a NATO member. Allowing Ukraine to join NATO is deemed to be an unacceptable threat to Russia’s security, which may prompt a preemptive invasion. U.S. and Russian officials have agreed to sit down for security talks on Jan. 10. 

France and Brazil to hold presidential elections

France will hold its presidential election in April. Since Britain left the European Union, France has become the alliance’s second largest economy (after Germany) and the main military power. The result of the election, especially if incumbent President Emmanuel Macron is ousted, could have reverberations throughout Europe and the international community. 

Brazil, the largest economy in South America, is also having a general election in October. Current President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly indicated that he will not accept the results of the vote if he loses. This could be a threat to democratic rule in a nation that only became a democracy in 1985 after two decades of military dictatorship.