It’s no secret that the foreign-policy community is anxious about the coming Trump presidency, if only for the uncertainty. In many quarters the mood is, in a word, grim. But however the Trump administration plays out, there is much to feel positive about in global affairs these days. Despite the disasters in Syria and Venezuela, many things have gone well in the past 12 months. Here, in no particular order, is a short but certainly not exhaustive list of the bright spots for global politics.
Colombia. Yes, a failed vote on a peace deal this fall gave the country a case of the Brexits. But the cease-fire between rebels and the government has been extended, and the country's current and former presidents are working toward a new deal.
Cyprus. Another one in the almost-peace category: The two sides of the decades-divided island are within reach of a peace and reunification deal, according to the UN secretary-general. Despite the Turkish coup attempt—Ankara is the main backer of the isolated north—Cypriots on both sides have been pushing talks forward with an eye to a deal in 2016.
Antarctic Marine Area. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting the Antarctic this week (what did he know?!) to celebrate the conclusion of a deal to designate a special marine reserve in the Ross Sea. Sounds like the type of thing Trump would rip up, right? Maybe, but the deal has a key backer: Russia, which vetoed it five times before deciding to make it happen this year.
African Continental Free Trade Area. Free trade is dead! For America, perhaps, but the rest of the world is still negotiating away. This summer, leaders from the African Union pushed ahead with negotiations for a continent-wide deal that they're hoping to close in 2017. States will continue to find their own growth paths, with or without Washington.
Brazil. The downfall of impeached former President Dilma Rousseff was one of the most stunning global events of 2016. But while the decision to oust Rousseff was highly political, the roots of the country’s crisis lie in a deep network of corruption that has pervaded the state. Rousseff’s ouster was arguably the crisis the country needed to get back on track. Under Michel Temer, Rousseff’s replacement, economists are forecasting a recovery early next year.
IMF Reform. It may have lacked the political fireworks of a presidential transition, but the U.S. Congress’s decision to finally allow emerging markets a greater say in the affairs of the International Monetary Fund will have long-lasting consequences. As Trump knows all too well, the prime mover in the global economy these days is China; better to have Beijing working within the system than working around it.
Argentina. Also in the boring but big category, Argentina finally rejoined the international economic community in April when it at last issued international bonds. Under the previous political dynasty, Argentina had been essentially at war with its creditors over its 2002 debt default. Making clear that the problem was primarily political, not technical, the government of President Mauricio Macri managed to clear up the issue within just months of taking office.
Japan. America’s highest glass ceiling may remain unscathed, but Japan’s got at least one more crack this year. In July, Tokyo elected former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike its governor, the first time a woman has held the job. That’s solid progress for a nation that is ranked 101st out of 145 states on gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.
Burma. Earlier this year, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi ended 26 years in the political desert when she finally joined the government that she had been banished from by a military junta decades before. Burma's transition leaves much to be desired, but at least the change is finally underway. And if the country can survive two-plus decades of military junta, America can take a few years of a democratically elected president. Just breathe.
This article has been adapted from Matt Peterson’s weekly newsletter for Eurasia Group, Signal.