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16 Things You Need To Know About The World In 2016

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    You’ve said it before. This year, you’re going to be more informed about what’s around the world. But with so much happening all over the globe, not to mention close to home, it can be hard to keep up.

    Fear not, Refinery29’s World News team has you covered. We’ve compiled a cheat sheet with some of the top stories and topics we know you’ll want to be watching in 2016, complete with up-to-the-minute information from reputable sources who know what’s happening on the ground now and what’s likely to develop in the months ahead.

    We already know you’ll be watching the presidential election and other big stories here at home. Ahead, check out 16 news stories with major implications for your life that are unfolding outside the U.S. And as always, check back with Refinery29’s World News team for compelling content from around the globe that will inspire — and inform — you.

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    Sure, the world will be watching to see if the United States elects its first female president. But another post of global consequence is ready for its glass-ceiling-shattering moment: There’s a good chance a woman will be elected to the top job at the United Nations for the first time in the international organization’s 70-year history when current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends next December. In 2015, the U.N. formally kicked off the process by encouraging female candidates to apply.

    “At this point, it would be really surprising if a woman wasn’t selected,” Antonia Kirkland, legal advisor to EqualityNow, which has been part of the campaign to elect a female secretary general, told Refinery29.

    Possible contenders:
    Bulgaria's Irina Bokova, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic; and former New Zealand Prime Minster Helen Clark.

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    Will 2016 be the year the world defeats public enemy No. 1? ISIS, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq, now has a presence in at least a dozen countries total. Add to that other major terror cells who have aligned themselves with the group’s aims of achieving a global caliphate, or religious state, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the scope of the growing threat becomes obvious. But how to disable ISIS and prevent further attacks? That debate will rage on in 2016 — including over whether more bombs is the answer.

    As the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Saudia Arabia continue to attack ISIS from the air, some experts warn that the strategy isn't enough to eradicate a terror network whose members are hellbent on destroying the secular society at all costs — if anything, airstrikes might help it recruit more fighters. Keeping ISIS from establishing a bigger foothold in Afghanistan and blocking its influence and reach across social media and other forms of online communication, which it uses for everything from recruitment to coordination, will also be key.

    Obviously, the need for a plan that works is pressing: The Islamic State wrought terror across the globe in 2015, claiming to plan or influence the deadly attacks in Paris, mass killings in a busy Beirut market, the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt, and even the shootings at a developmental center in San Bernardino, CA.

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    Mother Teresa is getting a new name next fall: Saint Teresa. The Nobel laureate nun, who died in 1997, is set to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in September. Pope Francis made the decision after attributing a second miracle to the woman who gained a worldwide following for her work with some of India’s poorest people. It’s all part of what Francis has declared the church’s Holy Year of Mercy — 356 days of compassion and forgiveness. The 79-year-old pontiff, meanwhile, will continue his jet-setting ways in the new year, with travel plans for Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Poland, and Armenia.

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    Speaking of travel, will Havana play host to a very high-profile guest in 2016? President Barack Obama has signaled that he could visit the island nation in the last year of his presidency, but he told Yahoo News that he’ll only go to Cuba if he sees real signs that the government making progress on improving human rights.

    “Now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that’s been made, but also maybe [go] there to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction,” he said. A trip would further cement the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba as a major part of Obama’s legacy and no doubt enrage some Cuban-American opponents of that policy.

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    Also in Cuba, the year ahead gives Obama one last shot at making good on his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison there before he leaves office. He recently suggested he might try to shut down the notorious detention center via executive action if Congress fails to act. A closure could signal a major shift in how the U.S. treats enemy combatants in the war on terror; nearly 100 prisoners remain at the detention facility on a U.S. naval base, where many prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to protest their incarceration and treatment.