Brazil’s President-elect Lula with indigenous activists at COP27 (Image by COP27 Press Pool)
With wars raging in Ukraine, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, Roe v. Wade overturned and our resources being wasted on militarism instead of addressing the climate crisis, it can be hard to remember the hard-won progress being made. As we end a difficult year, let’s pause to remind ourselves of some of the positive changes that happened in 2022 that should inspire us to do more in the year to come. While some are only partial gains, they are all steps towards a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
By Medea Benjamin
1. The growth of Latin America’s “Pink Tide.”
Continuing the wave of progressive wins in 2021, Latin America saw two new critical electoral victories: Gustavo Petro in Colombia and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil. When President Biden’s June Summit of the Americas excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, several Latin American leaders declined to attend, while others used the opportunity to push the United States to respect the sovereignty of the countries in the region. (Stay tuned for CODEPINK’s spring forum “In Search of a New U.S. Policy for a New Latin America.”)
2. The U.S. labor movement caught fire.
In 2022 we witnessed the brilliant organizing of Chris Smalls and the Amazon workers, Starbucks reached nearly 7,000 unionized workers and close to 300 unionized stores. Requests to the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections were up 58% in the first eight months of 2022. Labor is back and fighting the good fight.
3. Despite assaults on our elections, people fought back and gained some notable wins.
Voters delivered victories for progressives in districts across the country, including in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii, California, Pennsylvania and Vermont, and Democrats kept control of the Senate. Young people showed up at the polls in record numbers—one out of eight voters in the midterms was under the age of 30. Abortion rights won in states where it was on the ballot (California, Michigan and Vermont) and in the “red” state of Kentucky, voters rejected a proposed amendment to the Kentucky constitution that would declare there is no constitutional right to an abortion. Another plus: Every election denier running to oversee state elections lost.
4. Peace comes to Ethiopia.
After a devastating two-year civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced and facing starvation, the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace treaty on November 2, 2022. The surprise deal came out of peace talks convened by the African Union. So far, the fighting has ceased, and both parties vowed that they are determined to make the peace deal last.
5. Mainstream media finally did right by Julian Assange, as his international support grew.
The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel–the media outlets that published WikiLeaks’ revelations 12 years ago—finally called on President Biden to free Assange. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Assange is an Australian citizen) also finally said he has personally urged the U.S. government to end its pursuit of Assange. More enthusiastic has been his support in Latin America, with calls for his release coming from President Gustavo Petro in Colombia, Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, and Brazil’s President-elect Lula da Silva.
6. Indigenous and Global South voices were finally heard at the largest climate summit, COP27.
Thanks to the relentless work of Indigenous peoples and organizers from the Global South, marginalized communities not only got into COP27 this year but their voices were finally heard and a historic loss and damage fund was established to help vulnerable countries cope with the destructive impacts of climate change. The development marks an important achievement for civil society and collective action in the Global South that has been nearly three decades in the making. Now we have to push the wealthier countries to come through with the funds, and to finally get serious about our own transition to clean energy before it is too late to avoid global catastrophe.
7. Some 200 countries (minus the U.S. and the Vatican) commit to stemming the loss of nature worldwide.
Another critical environmental gathering, the COP15 Biodiversity Summit in Canada, reached a watershed agreement pledging to protect nearly one-third of Earth’s land and oceans as a refuge for the planet’s remaining wild plants and animals by 2030–dubbed “30 by 30.” This agreement is critical to stemming the massive loss of diversity—about a million species are at risk of disappearing forever. But it will take constant grassroots pressure, and significant resources from the wealthier countries, to put this 30 by 30 goal into practice.
8. The passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015 but the court’s June decision overturning a right to abortion at the federal level raised concerns that federal protections for same-sex marriage might be in jeopardy. The Respect for Marriage Act was passed to address this by guaranteeing federal recognition of any marriage between two individuals if the union was valid in the state where it was performed. It won’t force states to issue same-sex marriage licenses should nationwide marriage equality be overturned by the Supreme Court but it will extend equality under the law to all same-sex couples, no matter which state they got married in. It also protects interracial marriages.
9. The World Cup put the spotlight on Palestine.
The World Cup was a spectacular event that created a sense of global solidarity and joy, with Argentina’s win lifting up all of Latin America. But the fans, especially from Muslim and Arab countries, put the spotlight on another place in the world: Palestine. Palestinian flags and chants popped up everywhere–on the field, in the bleachers, on the streets, while videos showing Israeli journalists being ostracized went viral. At least for the month of these games, the call to “Free Palestine” went global.
10. A multi-polar world is here.
China’s enormously ambitious Belt and Road Initiative now encompasses over 80 countries. And with the U.S. abusing its economic power by imposing extraterritorial sanctions against countries all over the globe, the push for alternatives to the dollar has exploded. Over a dozen countries have asked to join BRICS (the alliance of the powerful economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), whose countries account for 40 percent of the global population and 25 percent of the world’s GDP. BRICS members are already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies. And new or strengthened non-aligned movements have emerged in Latin America and Africa. A multi-polar world is already a reality for much of the world, and this is actually better for people everywhere–even for Americans–than one where the U.S. keeps using war, militarism and coercive financial sanctions to try to prolong its post-Cold War unipolar moment into our new century.
Perhaps what we should be most thankful about in 2022 is that we are still alive, even as the conflict raging in Ukraine has brought the U.S. and Russia to the very brink of nuclear war. The civilians of Ukraine, the soldiers on both sides, and people all around the world are suffering from this brutal conflict, which is–in President Biden’s words–putting the world at risk of a nuclear Armageddon. Where there is life, there is hope, but if we hope to celebrate another holiday season in 2023, we had better find a way to bring all sides to the negotiating table. May peace prevail in 2023!
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of CODEPINK and co-author of the book, “War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict.”