March 2023 global news roundup: Diplomatic breakthroughs and geopolitical tensions; Bank runs and persistent threats; Nationwide anti-government demonstrations and electoral results; Human rights threats and progress

Mahia ocean waves, New Zealand (Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (March 2023).

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There were diplomatic breakthroughs. Globally, a legally binding treaty signed off by the United Nations will create a new governing body to protect ocean life. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, including the revival of a lapsed security cooperation agreement. Militarily, in a landmark agreement under the AUKUS defence pact, the United Kingdom (UK) will design and build a new submarine type for Australia, and the United States (US) will sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia in the 2030s.

However, geopolitical tensions between China, Russia, and US persisted. As Chinese president Xi Jinping – who secured an unprecedented third term as head of state – met with president Vladimir Putin in Russia, characterising both countries as “good neighbours and reliable partners,” a Russian jet fighter and US surveillance drone collided, in the most direct confrontation between the two countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Putin, on charges for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children.

Tragically too, globally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that global average temperatures are projected to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2035.

Bank runs and persistent threats

Silicon Valley Bank, the US’s 16th-largest bank, collapsed following a bank run and was taken over by regulators. It is the second-biggest bank failure since 2008. After the same weekend, a second bank, Signature Bank, collapsed. In Switzerland, following the collapse of a few small US lenders and after its largest investor Saudi National Bank said it would not provide more financial assistance, investment bank Credit Suisse experienced a bank run and a substantial fall of its share price.

Nationwide anti-government demonstrations and electoral results

Over increasing costs of living and political instability, anti-government protests were reported in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tunisia.

In Europe, France came to a standstill as workers mobilised against president Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. Neither side backed down, as trains were left idle, ports were closed, and schools emptied. President Emmanuel Macron then used a constitutional measure to enact the pension plan without a full vote in the National Assembly, and he later survived two no-confidence votes. A Greek train crash which killed 57 people led to street protests and train workers walking out of their jobs, calling for better train infrastructure. Staff of Germany’s transportation system also staged a 24-hour strike. And in the UK, thousands of junior doctors went on a three-day strike, demonstrating for better pay and work conditions.

In Israel, especially after the prime minister fired his defence minister, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against the government’s contentious overhaul of the judiciary. The judicial overhaul was later delayed.

Electorally, in Estonia, the prime minister’s party secured first place in the parliamentary elections. In Nigeria, ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of the presidential election with about 36 per cent of the vote, though the turnout of 27 per cent was the lowest in the country’s history.

In India, its opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was found guilty of defamation and expelled from parliament thereafter. And in Iran, at least 50 girls’ schools have been targeted by mysterious poisonings, with cases reported in two-thirds of the country’s provinces.

Human rights threats and progress

As one of 30 African countries which criminalise homosexuality, Uganda made it a crime to identify as LGBTQIA+. Severe punishments include life imprisonment for those engaging in gay sex and even the death penalty. Similarly, across US states, bills introduced with the ostensible goal of protecting and educating children have been criticised for risking the lives of trans students.

On the other hand, the Spanish parliament approved legislation which expanded abortion and trans rights.

In other news…

Somalia suffered its longest drought on record, leading to the deaths of over 43,000 people. There were other natural disasters: Storms and tornadoes (US), tropical cyclone (Malawi and Mozambique), as well as landsides and earthquakes (Ecuador and Peru).

After crossing the border into Mexico, four US citizens – two of whom were later found dead, and the other two alive – were kidnapped by unidentified armed men. There were other man-made disasters: A train crash (Greece), bus crash (Bangladesh), fire (Bangladesh Rohingya refugee camp, Indonesia, Mexico), suicide attack (Pakistan), killings in an Israeli raid (West Bank), militant attack (Central African Republic), explosion (Bangladesh), shootings (Germany, Thailand, US), migrant boat accident (US), and suspected massacre (Myanmar).

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