Ten Problems for Politics in the 2020s

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Literature Review: Politics Problems for the 2020s

Some observers who assess that the United States under the Trump Administration has substantially changed the U.S. role in the world view the implications of that change as undesirable. They view the change as an unnecessary retreat from U.S. global leadership and a gratuitous discarding of long-held U.S. values, and judge it to be an unforced error of immense proportions—a needless and self-defeating squandering of something of great value to the United States that the United States had worked to build and maintain for 70 years [1].

Just as 2020 was overwhelmingly about healthcare responses to COVID-19 (and how much many governments got wrong), 2021 will overwhelmingly be about economic responses to COVID-19’s lingering symptoms and scar tissue (debt burdens and misaligned politics), even as vaccines roll out and the healthcare emergency fades [2]. As economic issues come to the fore, there is no global leadership on political models, trade standards, and international architecture to follow.

The European Parliamentary Research Service has asked a dozen of its policy analysts to identify ten issues to watch in 2021. The ten topics chosen include both issues that are at the very heart of the crisis – the vaccine race and economic recovery – and those that are starkly highlighted by it – such as access to food, discrimination, and the state of the performing arts – as well as some of the big background changes shaping the world we live in today – the digital, environmental and geo-political challenges ahead, from Europe’s borders to its transatlantic relationship [3].

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the African continent at a point when the positive advances in democracy witnessed since 1975 were starting to weaken. The key challenges to democracy brought about by the pandemic involve the management of elections, restrictions on civil liberties (especially freedom of expression), worsening gender equality, deepening social and economic inequalities, a disruption to education, deterioration of media integrity, disruption of parliaments and an amplified risk of corruption. These challenges exacerbate and accelerate long-standing problems in the region [4].

Whether as organizations or as individuals representing them, international organizations have established an active digital presence on the most popular social media platforms. In turn, a growing number of private users and groups around the world are virtually engaging with international organizations following their social media accounts, sharing information about them, and commenting on their actions. As a result of these developments, international organizations bureaucracies, which until recently have been perceived as rather obscure and impenetrable, have become more visible and “sociable” on the global digital stage [5].

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Politics in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. liberalism, 
  2. democracy,
  3. authoritarianism,
  4. mondialism,
  5. populism,
  6. immigration,
  7. diversity,
  8. international relations,
  9. instability,
  10. peace.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] Congressional Research Service, “U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress”, 19 Jan 2021, CRS Report R44891, United States, online at

[2] I. Bremmer et al., “Top Risks 2021”, Jan 2021, Eurasia Group, online at

[3] E. Bassot, “Ten issues to watch in 2021”, Jan 2021, European Parliamentary Research Service, European Union, online at

[4] The Global State of Democracy IN FOCUS, “Taking Stock of Regional Democratic Trends in Africa and the Middle East Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, 28 Jan 2021, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, online at

[5] C. Bjola et al., “1 GOING DIGITAL Choices and challenges for international organisations”, 2021, in:
Digital Diplomacy and International Organisations: Autonomy, Legitimacy and Contestation, Routledge, online at

“Ten Problems for Politics in the 2020s” booklet for Amazon Kindle, 2020; click on the cover to go to the dedicated Amazon listing page

booklet updated on 2 Mar 2021, now on sale as version 1.1