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From the U.S. Capitol riot to COP26, CBC correspondents on 2021’s biggest international news stories

It was a year that seemed to be dominated by news about the COVID-19 epidemic.

But from the attack on the US Capital to the protests of Indian farmers, 2021 was the year of big stories from around the world.

CBC foreign correspondents Chris Brown, Susan Ormiston and Salimah Shivaji join Cross country checkup Ian Hanomansingh hosted on Sunday to reflect some of the biggest stories of the year across the Canadian border.

US Capital Riot

On January 6, 2021, thousands of supporters of then-US President Donald Trump descended on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with the goal of overturning the election, where he was defeated by Joe Biden.

“It wasn’t a peaceful protest,” said Armiston, a senior reporter based in Washington. “It was either a revolt or a riot and it was violent.”

Protesters in support of Trump gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol, smashed windows and clashed with police officers. (John Cherry / Getty Images)

In the years since the attack, two major investigations have led to the arrest of hundreds of protesters and their role in the event. Congress is under investigation to find out what happened that day.

“What I’ve heard from the people who live here and I’ve talked to a lot of people is that a lot of people wish it was a shutdown … but in fact, it’s not over,” Ormiston said.

“Those who evaluate these things are concerned that the forces that gave rise to the attack on Capitol Hill are still campaigning in the United States,” he added, noting that experts believe the mid-November election could be a flashpoint for further violence.

COP26 and climate change

Delayed for a year due to the global epidemic, politicians and experts similarly gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, better known as COP26.

The Paris Agreement, signed six years ago, aims to intensify efforts to mitigate climate change.

“It was a year of very big climate disasters, climate-related disasters. We’ve seen a lot of them in Canada, but we also had an unprecedented amount of political focus in COP26 to try to do something about it,” Brown said in London.

Delegates speak at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on November 13, 2021. About 200 countries have signed an agreement aimed at mitigating climate change, but critics say it is not enough. (Yves Herman / Reuters)

“Of course only time will tell how it will work,” he said. “I heard an analyst suggest that it was like a marathon race where you put off a baton, almost like a relay race, and the baton is handed over to the next country, which is going to be Egypt.”

The conference was criticized for doing too little to tackle climate change. Although nearly 200 countries have signed a new climate agreement, critics say it has been ruined by the climate deal. Last-minute changes around the goal of phasing out global coal-fired power.

COP26 criticized for coal deal

After weeks of negotiations, the final COP26 deal compromises the promise of a phased reduction rather than a complete shutdown of coal power, which critics say could thwart the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Indian farmers protest

Almost throughout 2021, Indian farmers protested against three agricultural reform laws passed in 2020 without the advice of the Indian government.

These laws, they argued, would severely limit their ability to make a living from farming and would deplete small farms corporations. Thousands of farmers have left their farms to protest outside the Indian capital.

“It was a huge protest, really, because of its scale, but because of its length it was billed as the largest in the history of the world,” said Shivaji, CBC’s New India correspondent.

Farmers gather on the outskirts of Delhi on November 25, 2021, on the eve of the first anniversary of the protests at the Tikri border in India. Thousands of farmers in India protested against the agrarian reform law passed by the government. In November, those laws were repealed. (Anushree Fadnavis / Reuters)

Although the government insisted that the laws would benefit farmers, the protests ended in November after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced them.

“Ultimately, it sends the message that a country that is leaning – a government that is leaning – toward more authoritarian tendencies, still has the power to hold large-scale, large-scale peaceful protests to change the law,” he said.

US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan

The country in the Middle East is in turmoil after President Joe Biden announced last August that the United States was withdrawing from Afghanistan with allies, including Canada.

Earlier that month, the Taliban took control of the country. In the weeks that followed, countless Afghans fought to flee in fear of repressive regimes.

“We’ve seen that chaos,” said Ormiston, who has covered Afghanistan’s stories for the past two decades. “No one will forget the pictures of those people, the Afghan men, running behind the US transport plane from Kabul airport, hanging in the fuselage. Some died on the way out.”

The Afghans chased a U.S. Air Force plane in a desperate attempt to flee the country

Thousands of people are trying to flee Afghanistan as the Taliban tighten their grip on the country. Some people chased a U.S. Air Force plane off Tarmac, others tried to board a plane at Kabul airport.

Afghans now face economic crisis, famine and human rights restrictions. Ormiston noted that the future of the country under Taliban rule is still unclear.

“I can’t underscore enough that we still don’t know how this will happen and whether the Taliban will be able to secure that country adequately to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS away. And if it can’t, it will affect all of us,” Ormiston said.

Russian authoritarianism

After spending half of 2021 as CBC’s Moscow correspondent, Brown said several big stories from that corner of the world indicated “Russia’s extremely difficult turn toward authoritarianism that happened very quickly.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined a video call during an investment forum in Moscow on November 30, 2021. Western allies have warned Putin against taking action in Ukraine amid concerns that Russian troops could invade the country. (Photo by Mikhail Metzel / Kremlin Pool / The Associated Press)

According to Brown, “This is the destruction of Russian civil society [President] Vladimir Putin “- the arrest of Putin’s opponent Alexei Navalny, the elimination of opposition parties and ongoing concerns about a possible invasion of Ukraine – have made headlines over the past year.

“Some may say what Vladimir Putin is trying to do [do is] Reorganize the Soviet Union, “he told Hanomansingh.

There are currently more than 100,000 Russian troops deployed on the Ukrainian border, including the establishment of mobile hospitals and other infrastructure. Western governments have warned against further action in Ukraine, with Biden warning of “serious consequences” if an aggression occurs last week.

“It’s very worrying because Putin has played a long game. We know that. They’ve really spent a lot of time rebuilding the Russian military, raising the population’s mindset for what’s next,” Brown said.


By Jason Vermes Produced by Ashley Fraser, Arshin Shamaila and Steve Zhang.


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