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2021: Year in Numbers

Karin Larson and John Larsen
Confetti on the ground after the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration

With the holiday celebrations behind us, here is a quick recap of some of the stats that defined the past twelve months of programming at the Council.

With over 100 programs in 2021, the Council covered everything from Chinese cryptocurrency and the emerging civilian space economy to the importance of food identity and the fallout from America’s war in Afghanistan.

1st For the first time, Juneteenth was officially celebrated and recognized at the federal level.

In June, President Joe Biden added the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.

In honor of Juneteenth, activists Alicia Garza and Liz Dozier joined us to discuss how empowering Black communities through civic and policy engagement is essential to addressing inequalities and systemic racism.

1% of global vaccines are manufactured on the African continent.

This statistic was provided by Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong.

In an April 2021 Council program, Nkengasong underlined the need to “collectively work on reversing that, so that in about 20 years the continent begins to manufacture at least half of its vaccines […] not just for Africa but for the collective health security interests of the world.” He joined an expert panel examining how global cooperation and multilateral engagement can support equitable vaccine distribution and accelerate access globally.

20 After nearly 20 years of armed conflict, the war in Afghanistan formally ended on August 30.

The war was the longest in US history, surpassing the Vietnam War by five months. The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was a definitive and divisive point in President Biden's first year in office.

As America withdrew its military operations from Afghanistan, experts Elliot Ackerman, Nora Bensahel, and Douglas Lute assessed the war on terror's impact on US foreign and defense policy with the Council’s Elizabeth Shackelford. In a related program to mark the tenth anniversary of the raid that killed Usama bin Laden, the Council also convened former White House Chief of Staff William Daley and former National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon to reflect on their experiences in the situation room as Operation Neptune Spear unfolded.

29% of Russians were confident in President Vladimir Putin's leadership.

In a March 2021 Council program, Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza referenced a public opinion survey showing that only 29 percent of Russians polled were confident in President Vladimir Putin's leadership.

"[I]f you take the younger bracket of respondents, people between the ages of 18 and 39, the figures of public confidence in Putin are even lower, and the clear majority do not want Putin to stay on in power after 2024—after his current and final term," said Kara-Murza during a panel alongside investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov and CNN’s Nathan Hodge.

Together, they discussed whether the latest wave of Russian protests following Alexei Navalny’s arrest and attempted murder represented a serious threat to President Putin’s prolonged grip on power. Decreasing public favor has been a clear factor in emerging protests across Russia, during which many have decried censorship and the perceived lack of free and fair elections.

78th Janet Yellen became the 78th Secretary of Treasury and the first woman to hold the position.

Yellen joined the Council for a speech on the United States' role in promoting an inclusive and sustainable global economic recovery.

In the speech, her first major address since her appointment, she discussed how COVID-19’s negative effect on the global economy has exacerbated existing inequalities and highlighted the importance of finding solutions through international cooperation.

On the program, Yellen made history by advocating for a global minimum tax rate "...that can stop the race to the bottom. Together, we can use a global minimum tax to make sure the global economy thrives based on a more level playing field in the taxation of multinational corporations," said Yellen.

80% of the Japanese public believed the 2020 Olympics should have been further postponed or cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number was referenced by Robin Kietlinski of LaGuardia Community College as she joined a panel of experts exploring the 2021's Tokyo Olympics' potential legacy.

In the lead-up to the much-anticipated Games, the Council brought together experts to discuss sports diplomacy’s role as a soft power tool for nations to further cultural understanding and address geopolitical challenges, and how sports can help promote a more equitable world. Athlete activists also joined the Council to discuss how they were taking action to promote the causes and issues they care about on the global stage.

93% of people in the United States are not dismissive of climate change.

Despite persistent political polarization surrounding the topic, 93 percent of people in the United States are not dismissive of climate change, according to renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

Ahead of the climate conference COP26, she joined Rachel Bronson of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to explain how science, faith, and human psychology fit into the narrative around climate change and why it is still possible to mobilize collective action despite our differences.

100 100 years of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Since the Council first convened 23 people (12 women and 11 men) nearly 100 years ago, the organization has grown from a worldly outpost in a provincial hotbed of isolationism to a major institution in a leading global city.

Last fall, the Council hosted a series of events reflecting on the Council's first century of global influence. Exploring the people and events that shaped the Council, and how the organization has shaped Chicago and the world, Distinguished Fellow Richard Longworth joined renowned reporter Carol Marin on the Council stage for a discussion on the institution’s history as well as the foreign policy battles and debates that paraded across the Council stage, described in Longworth’s recent book Chicago and the World.

183 countries have signed and ratified the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

This treaty banned the development and use of biological weapons.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted advanced societies’ vulnerability to biological pathogens and how those with malign intent could weaponize them. Expert Daniel Feakes joined journalist Elise Labott on a Council program explaining the true risks biological pathogens pose to society and whether bioweapon preparedness should become more of a priority for national security and military operations.

3 million jobs were lost by women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per Alisha Haridasani Gupta, New York Times' gender correspondent, the Department of Labor estimates women lost nearly three million jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These job losses, when coupled with increasing caregiving demands, cost women nearly $800 billion in just one year, underscoring the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. Gupta joined the White House's Jennifer Klein, the World Trade Organization's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, National Domestic Workers Alliance's Ai-jen Poo, and others to discuss why a sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic global economic recovery must center women and girls.

30 million vaccines have been shared around the world by United Airlines.

Joining the President of Microsoft, the Governor of Tokyo, and other civic and industry leaders from around the world to discuss the resilience of cities, Scott Kirby—CEO of United—shared that his airline had carried over 30 million vaccines around the world as of June 2021.

The pandemic continued to impact cities’ key functions as places of gathering, interaction, and exchange. As cities began to recover in 2021, the Pritzker Forum on Global Cities asked how cities can revive their social fabric and what policies, strategies, and innovations can rebuild urban life on more equitable and resilient footing.

2 billion dollars of trade is done between the United States and China daily.

This is substantially larger than the two billion dollars of trade per year conducted by the Cold War era United States and Soviet Union.

In a program examining the end of the Cold War and the world it created, Fareed Zakaria remarked that a major difference pointing to a "deeply economically intertwined and interdependent world" is that while the United States and the Soviet Union made two billion dollars of trade per year during the height of the Cold War, today the United States and China do two billion dollars of trade per day.

Zakaria was joined on the program by Anne Applebaum, Council President Ivo Daalder, and Robert B. Zoellick with special appearances from the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser and former US Secretary of State Jim Baker.

26 billion dollars in annual investment is needed to end global hunger by 2030.

This number comes from Claudia Sadoff of Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Sadoff spoke at the 2021 Global Food Security Symposium alongside esteemed guests including US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. Last year’s annual food symposium focused on game-changing innovations and high-impact solutions with the potential to radically transform the food system to be more sustainable, inclusive, nutritious, and resilient.

These excerpts are just a small portion of the programming we facilitated throughout 2021. All of our past public programming is available to watch on-demand. Be sure to tune in to our upcoming events for more global affairs content throughout our centennial year 2022.

About the Authors
Karin Larson
Former Assistant Director, Digital Programs
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Karin Larson joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2019 and served as assistant director of digital programs.
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John Larsen
Former Intern, Digital Programs