Politics The World In Review

March 2021: World In Review

In this series of articles, our political editor Colin McGinness provides a concise roundup of the biggest geopolitical events from the past month.


A massive fire has torn through a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, displacing many inhabitants. This is the second large fire to hit the camp complex this year, adding further hardship to the nearly one million Rohingya refugees that have taken shelter there. Many of the residents fled neighbouring Myanmar after the military conducted a brutal crackdown in 2017. Reports of ethnic cleansing and genocide had led to international condemnation, but little has been done to support the displaced population. As the military has retaken control of the government, it is unlikely that any of them will return willingly to Myanmar and risk further persecution. 

The leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States met virtually this month as part of an expanded Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The focus of the talks were mostly related to Covid-19 responses in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as joint commitments to limit the damages caused by global warming. The subtext of the group however was not lost on observers, as the four large democracies all have a vested interest in creating a united front opposed to rising Chinese influence.

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Middle East and North Africa

International trade through the Suez canal has ground to a halt after a container ship ran aground, essentially blocking all passage through. Forcing the bulk of trade to redirect around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, delays in the global supply chain are expected to last several weeks until the stuck vessel can be removed from the canal. 

Pope Francis made a historic visit to Iraq this month, marking the first Papal visit to the country. In an address made upon arrival, the pope described Iraq’s religious and ethnic diversity as a ‘blessing’ and something to be cherished. In the spirit of crossfaith dialogue, Pope Francis met with the Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf and further emphasised the need for cooperation with all religious groups in the country.


The President of Tanzania, John Magufuli has died due to complications regarding a heart condition. He had not been seen for over two weeks by the time the announcement was made, and opposition leaders have claimed that he had contracted Covid-19 which has since been denied by the government. President Magufuli had consistently downplayed the threat posed by Covid-19, and resisted installing lockdown measures across the country. 

The crisis in the northern region of Tigray in Ethiopia continues to unfold, as humanitarian groups still struggle to assess the damage done. The government offensive launched several months ago to quell an uprising by a regional leftist party has dragged on, and thousands have been killed in the fighting. More than two million people have been displaced by the conflict, and further reprisals are feared. 


Countries across Europe have marked a surge in Covid-19 cases as many of them are still trying to kick-start their vaccination campaigns in earnest. Increased lockdown measures have spurred further protests as well, leading to a significant police response in Germany. As the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is reintroduced into the process, leaders are hoping that this will speed up the process of returning to some semblance of normalcy. 

The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by an off duty police officer in the UK has caused an outpouring of anger and frustation across the world. Citing the staggeringly high rate of assault and harassment faced by women everywhere, protests and vigils were held to demand action. A vigil in London was then disrupted by police with several arrests of activists further inflaming tensions. 

Latin America

 The Brazilian Supreme Court has annulled the corruption charges of former president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, leading many to suspect a political comeback of the popular leftwing leader. Having been caught up in the Lava Jato corruption case that shook Latin American politics, Lula has always professed his innocence. Now out of prison, a return to the political spotlight is certainly likely. 

North America

The Biden administration has come under fire for continuing the Trump policy of maintaining child detention facilities for minors caught cross the border into the United States. Having campaigned on a return to moral consensus, critics of Biden on both the left and right wing have pointed out the inherent hypocrisies between campaign promises and actual policy.

Colin McGinness is The International’s deputy editor.