2014 was a difficult year for those of us who like to take the optimist's view of life. Airplanes disappeared, a killer disease spread across West Africa, barrel bombs exploded in market squares and men of violence chose beheadings over diplomacy. During the year we saw the deliberate starvation of civilians as well as assaults on UN-run hospitals and aid convoys. Not since the end of the Second World War have there been so many refugees and displaced people in the world.
In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon: "Across the world, the fragility of States and institutions has never been more apparent. Some have been hollowed out by corruption; others have pursued policies of exclusion that drive the victims towards anger, despair and violence."
The glass, however, is more than half full.
2014 was also the year that a 16 year old girl from Pakistan showed us what personal courage means. It was the year in which many African health workers volunteered to travel to Liberia and Sierra Leone to help fight the Ebola outbreak. And it was the year in which the UN showed us the statistics to prove that never before were so many primary school-aged kids in school, and were humans so healthy. In the past year, the world passed major milestones in defeating malaria and polio. Global poverty, child mortality rates and maternal deaths have been cut in half.
And this year, in 2015, we will have the chance to strengthen these positive trends. During the year, the UN is hosting a number of high level summit meetings, to formulate new approaches to the way we live, work and interact with the planet.
In September, the UN will agree new goals - a new "Sustainable Development Framework" - to tackle poverty, disease, inequality and environmental destruction, and in December, the Climate Change summit in Paris will set new climate action targets, to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Here at home, the Government will publish a new foreign policy statement in January, and present its plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Together, these events provide us with an opportunity to reflect and reshape our priorities, and to re-think our place in the world. They provide us with a framework, and a reminder that our efforts to build a better Ireland will not succeed unless we strengthen the way we work together across borders.
Our world is connected like never before. From international bank debts to the spread of infectious diseases, what happens in one part of the world matters to us all.
In 2015, hopefully we can come to terms with the extent to which local challenges are global challenges, and how we need greater international cooperation to find solutions to many of the world's most pressing problems.Suggest a correction