While 2012 may not have had such defining movements internationally as the Arab Spring of the previous year, it was punctuated by significant events around the world, from crises to scandals to celebrations.
Fighting between rebels and government forces continued in Syria, claiming more than 40,000 lives and exacerbating a humanitarian and refugee crisis. In September, a trailer for an anti-Islam film posted on YouTube led to massive protests worldwide. In an attack still under investigation, Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi. There was also saw a flare-up of tensions between Israel and Hamas, with eight days of violence along the Gaza border. Meanwhile, an economic crisis plagued Europe, with anti-austerity protests in several cities. And in Africa, rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo seized the eastern city of Goma, resisting calls to leave and threatening the capital, Kinshasa.
Elections in several key regions of the world brought new leaders to some countries, while familiar faces retained power as well, including strongmen Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Citizens of Burma elected pro-democracy icon Aung Sung Suu Kyi to parliament. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Libya held its first democratic elections in decades. Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, elected in June, later took the most undemocratic step of granting himself sweeping powers. And in China, a once-in-a-decade power shift saw a new communist leadership in place.
The year also saw some notable celebrations. The spotlight was on Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years on the throne of England. Later, London welcomed the world's best athletes for the 30th Summer Olympics. And in a celebration for science, NASA's rover -- aptly named Curiosity -- touched down on Mars after an eight month journey from Earth.