By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As 2016 draws to a close with news dominated by bloodshed, disasters and disease from the Middle East to Africa and Latin America, it may seem there wasn’t much to be happy about this year.
Despite continued violence in Syria and Yemen, severe drought in Africa and the outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America, there have been events worth celebrating in 2016.
Here are five of them that you might have missed in the last 12 months:
1. PEACE COMES TO COLOMBIA
In November, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono signed a modified peace deal, cobbled together after the first version was rejected in a public vote in October, to end 52 years of war.
For his efforts to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict, Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
The conflict killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions more in the Andean nation.
2. CLIMATE ACTION
A landmark global accord to combat climate change officially entered into force on Nov. 4, putting pressure on nearly 200 countries to start executing plans to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement, agreed in December 2015, seeks to wean the world economy off fossil fuels in the second half of the century, limiting the rise in average world temperatures to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial times.
3. INDIA’S QUEST TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
In May, India’s minister for women and children unveiled a draft of the country’s first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law, which would treat survivors as victims in need of assistance and protection rather than as criminals.
South Asia, with India at its center, is the fastest-growing region for human trafficking in the world, says the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime.
4. WEST AFRICA BATTLES FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
More than 300 communities across four West African countries with some of the world’s highest rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) are declaring themselves free of the practice in public ceremonies this month.
FGM affects an estimated 140 million girls and women across a swathe of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia, and is seen as a gateway to marriage and a way of preserving purity.
The ritual involves the removal of the external genitalia and causes numerous health problems that can be fatal.
5. U.N. APPOINTS FIRST LGBT RIGHTS INVESTIGATOR
In September, the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed its first independent investigator to help protect gay and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.
Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, will have a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)