1) Algeria's revolution. As one North African dictator after another fell to pro-democracy protesters, everyone expected Algeria to be next. But it wasn't. there are many reasons for this, as Hakeem Debouche and Susi Denison argue in this new report; including the country’s oil wealth, people’s fear of a civil war, and that fact that the Algerian regime is less repressive than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
2) Outright failure in Durban. After the collapse of the Copenhagen climate negotiations, everyone expected any future talks to fail in the same way, with countries disagreeing about how to address climate change. But the 17th meeting since the 1992 talks in Rio de Janeiro actually ended with some sort of agreement. You can argue about how significant it all is, but, on paper at least, there are commitments to draw up a legal framework for climate action by 2015, as well as measures such as a new Green Climate Fund.
3) The orderly return of President Putin. A year ago, most observers expected the Russian prime minster to prepare the ground for a third presidential term by emerging triumphant from the Russian parliamentary elections. But it did not turn out that way, as the ruling party, United Russia, struggled to capture 50 per cent of the vote in a poll widely seen as rigged. Riots are now a weekly occurrence in a state where everyone assumed the population was too scared, after the post-revolutionary 1990s, to protest.
4) The collapse of the Euro. This may, of course, still happen in 2012. But only three months ago — in the face of general political disagreement and ECB inaction — it looked like the Euro had, in the words of George Osborne, only weeks left. And yet it has staggered on.
5) The West wouldn't attack a Muslim country again. Before this year most people — analysts, officials and officers alike — were adamant that West would shy away from military action in a Muslim country, given the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan. But then, facing the risk of mass atrocities, Britain and France led a NATO alliance in support of the Libyan rebels.
There are other things that did not happen in 2011, despite being expected by some: an Israeli strike on Iran; the success of the liberals in Egypt; civil war in Pakistan; German support for Eurobonds, etc, etc. Closer to home, the Coalition did not collapse, either over the AV referendum or Europe. But what are your top non-events?