The start of any new year heralds hope that personal
circumstances will be better than in the year just past.
Perhaps, for those celebrating in the middle of winter,
things may look grimmer than they should. But New Zealanders
have the luxury of bringing in each new year near the height
of summer (albeit perhaps with the threat of rain and stormy
weather to accompany the festivities).
This coming year, we all have to hope that not only our own
personal circumstances, and those of our friends and family,
improve, but also that the circumstances of those around us,
in New Zealand and around the world, also progress. What
happens globally can and does affect us, as can be seen by
just some of the events of 2012.
In Syria, thousands upon thousands of citizens were killed as
fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime
continues against rebel forces. The world continues to watch
aghast as every diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis
fails. Hope appears to lie with Russian intervention, but
Russia has been a staunch supporter of al-Assad during the
conflict and hope is fading on that front. In Egypt,
President Mohammed Morsie enacted a newly-passed divisive
constitution even as he attempted to reach out to opponents
in his most conciliatory remarks since voters began
considering the document. Opponents rejected his call for
talks, and said he could not be trusted.
Egypt was one of the shining stars of the Arab Spring when
the Middle East erupted with protests as citizens rose to rid
themselves of tyrants and dictators. The spring in many of
those countries turned to winter, by-passing a summer of
Back in the United States, the death of 20 school children
and some of their teachers caused a renewed and growing swell
of anger against those people who feel the Second Amendment
gives them the right to own automatic weapons. The National
Rifle Association continued to chant cliches such as ''the
only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with
a gun'' and even called for armed guards at every school.
This coming year will be a watershed year for gun laws in the
US. If President Obama does not make progress in clamping
down on gun ownership in 2013, no-one is ever likely to
complete that task.
Africa remained a trouble spot, with the United Nations
ordering non-essential staff and families of its other
workers to leave the Central African Republic because of
fears of unrest triggered by a rebel advance.
North Korea upset its immediate neighbours - South Korea,
Japan and China - with the launch of a satellite into space.
The move was seen as an aggressive sign that North Korea was
planning to increase its nuclear arms programme. Any thoughts
that leader Kim Jong-un would become more conciliatory
towards the West, and particularly South Korea, have started
There were some encouraging signs in Burma, or Myanmar, as
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to
parliament, met global leaders at home and spoke to
parliamentarians in Westminster Hall. There are still reports
of persecution of the Christian minority in the north of the
country, but the eyes of the Western world are now in place
in the secretive country.
At home, disturbing figures on child poverty, homelessness
and despair came to light late in the year. Many find it hard
to believe there are poor in a country such as New Zealand.
This coming year will give politicians and the wider
community a chance to address those issues.
New Zealand escaped the worst of the world's financial crises
and has much to be thankful for. But there is much to be
done. All New Zealanders must first take care of themselves
and their family, then aim to grow that achievement into the
community. Volunteers have become an integral part of our
community. Thankfully, we do not have the problems
experienced by many other countries around the globe - and we
do have plenty to hope for as the new year starts.