January 3 – North America: UNITED STATES
The Democracy Index 2016 by the Economist Intelligence Unit downgrades the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” and ranks it 21 out of 167 countries worldwide. The index is compiled by focusing on five categories—electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The demotion is based on low public confidence in political institutions in the U.S., as well as the role of big-money lobbying. Norway has been ranked as the best democracy in the world, the position it has occupied for the last six years.
A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit: Democracy Index 2016.
January 7 – Africa: GHANA
In a peaceful transition of power, Ghana swears in its new president, opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, who defeated incumbent John Mahama in last month’s presidential election. Akufo-Addo ran his campaign on promises to improve Ghana’s faltering economy. He promised to reduce taxes, as well as make high school education free. Ghana is a multi party democracy with free press. According to Freedom House, Ghana freedom score is 83 on the scale 0-100 with 100 being the highest score.
Map of freedom in the world in 2017 by Freedom House.
January 8 – Europe: POLAND
Poland’s authorities declare a smog alarm in the country’s capital, Warsaw, and offer free public transportation for a day to limit additional pollution from private cars. Freezing temperatures and a lack of wind contributed to air pollution levels breaking all records and exceeding the acceptable levels by three times. Poland relies heavily on burning coal for heating and has not invested alternative sources of energy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24 of the European Union’s 50 most polluted cities are in Poland (followed by Bulgaria with 12 most polluted cities).
January 19 – International Organizations / Europe / North America:
NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) / GERMANY / UNITED STATES
Germany announces it will raise military spending, which will reach $41.6 billion in 2017. However, this will amount to 1.22 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), which still will be way below the 2 percent NATO guideline. In 2006, NATO member countries agreed to spend a minimum of two percent of their (GDP) on defense as a commitment to the Alliance’s common defense. In 2016, only five out of 28 NATO members – the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Poland – met this target. During his presidential campaign and after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized NATO members for failing to meet the alliance’s 2-percent target and sparked concerns after calling NATO obsolete.
January 19 – Africa: THE GAMBIA
After The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the country’s December presidential election, refused to step down, his successor Adam Barrow flees to neighboring Senegal where he is inaugurated as president at the Gambian embassy. (January 21): After negotiations with leaders from the West African countries and the support of the West African coalition troops, Jammeh agrees to step down. He leaves the Gambia into exile to Equatorial Guinea, another country known for its brutal and corrupt regime. (January 26): Adama Barrow returns to the Gambia and assumes his position as the third President since the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. He promises to return The Gambia to its membership of the Commonwealth.
January 28 – Latin America: COLOMBIA
The Colombian government and the FARC rebels agree to a joint program to eradicate cocaine production by offering coca farmers incentives to grow other crops. Farmers will receive monthly payments, if they grow other produce such as fruit trees or cacao. FARC relied on coca production and dominated cocaine trafficking to fund its insurgency.
January 30 – East Asia: PHILIPPINES
The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suspends his controversial war on drugs program after the murder of a South Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo. In October of last year, Jee Ick-Joo was kidnapped from his residence outside Manila and killed, after which his kidnappers, asked for ransom from his family saying he was involved in the illegal drug trade. The kidnappers turned out to be members of the Philippine National Police. President Duterte says the anti-drug force will be dissolved and reestablished to root out corruption. So far, more than 6,200 people were killed in Duterte’s war on drugs. More than 4,000 of these were victims of extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings.