The biggest world news stories in 2016

The year 2016 was one of change and death.

The world pitched sharply to the political right, and the first cultural icons of the baby boomer generation began to pass away.

So-called "Strong Men" emerged to take or further strengthen their power around the world, with Donald Trump's ascension to the White House the final nail for some in a fast-closing coffin.

The year saw a marked increase in war and conflict, with violence continuing to rage unabated in South Sudan and Syria in particular.

France endured yet more deadly terror attacks, while Germany's capital Berlin experienced its own act of terror just five days before Christmas.

Across the channel the UK surprised the world and perhaps even itself, by voting to leave the European Union.

All of this happened as dozens of world icons such as David Bowie and Muhammad Ali passed away, spelling the beginning of the end for the baby boomer generation.

David Bowie

The year began with a loss, a big one: the one and only David Bowie.

The singer-musician-actor-artist's influence spanned generations.

Some revered him as the greatest singer-songwriter of the 1970s; others as the evil goblin king from the cult 80's film Labyrinth.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Whatever you thought of Bowie, you probably liked at least a few of his songs or knew some of the dozens of films he'd acted in.

His legion of fans struggled to believe initial speculation of his death as it surfaced on social media in January.

When it became clear Bowie had actually died of liver cancer, many revaluated his time on Earth.

How much impact could one person actually have?

The great legend of Bowie is that he constantly reinvented himself, owning and shifting between the musical genres of folk-hippie, glam rock, plastic-soul, electronica, kraut rock and everything in between.

Bowie was only the first cultural icon to go in 2016; there would be plenty of others.


One of the biggest shocks in 2016 was the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union in June.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Brexit took many by complete surprise - it shook up the western world and its impact probably won't be fully felt for years to come.

It saw the end of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and the beginning of a new kind of Britain - an isolated and insecure one.

The political right had reared up and empowered the frustrated working classes to vote for change.

This was mirrored during the US presidential election, when media forecasters and polls proved woefully wrong as controversial billionaire Donald Trump huffed and puffed his way past Hillary Clinton to win the race to the White House in November.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

The free world suddenly had a former reality TV star, climate-change denier and apparent misogynist in charge.

In the Philippines, the people voted in Rodrigo Duterte to be their new president in June. The former hard-line mayor of Davao City had promised to clean the streets of drugs and crime, addicts and sinners, and has so far more than lived up to his promises.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Duterte has even admitted to killing a few people suspected himself, and the United Nations want him investigated for murder.

Terrorism and war

There were hundreds of deadly terror attacks throughout 2016, but none were more chilling than the Bastille Day truck rampage in July.

The French coastal city of Nice became a death zone as a truck driven by an Islamic State sympathiser ploughed through the celebrating crowd.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Eighty-six innocent people were killed.

Turkey turned its back further on the West as President Erdogan brutally crushed an attempted coup in July while clamping down on freedom of the press and civil rights.

Terror attacks in Turkey were an almost weekly occurrence, and five days before Christmas Russia's ambassador to Turkey was assassinated, plunging Europe's largest Muslim country further into chaos.

Russia and Turkey support different sides in Syria's devastating civil war. The conflict came to a head in December, when government forces backed by Russia finally finished their push into Syria's biggest city, Aleppo.

It's estimated half a million of Aleppo's two million citizens have been killed since fighting began in 2011.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

While the world stood largely by as the Syrian people were slaughtered, we mourned other people we'd never met.

Other icons we lost

Aside from David Bowie, the death of Prince in April from a prescription drug overdose certainly stirred some emotions.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Prince was only 57, and his brand of catchy dance-pop-funk was and still is widely popular.

Like Bowie, Prince was especially popular in the 1980s, but his music and persona endured beyond that.

There were two other deaths that made us sit up and take notice in 2016.

When Muhammad Ali died in June the world not only mourned the greatest boxer in history, but also a human rights activist and social revolutionary.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Ali was one of the most widely recognised people in the world during the latter half of the 20th century, and did wonders for racial equality and religious understanding.

Another revolutionary, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro passed away in November.

If the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, then the death of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz provided the battle between communism and capitalism with a fitting epitaph.

When the world was on the precipice of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Castro was a key player.

His reaching out to the Soviets for military protection was a giant middle finger to his US neighbours and almost ended all life on earth.

The biggest world news stories in 2016

Hated in the so-called free world, and loved but perhaps equally loathed by his own people, Castro ruled Cuba unopposed for half a century.

We will think of 2016 as the year the torch was passed to a younger and perhaps more cautious generation.

Does this generation want world peace, and if so, what will it do to attain it?