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2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 2003rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 3rd year of the 3rd millennium and the 21st century, and the 4th year of the 2000s decade.

From top left, clockwise: the crew of STS-107 perished when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry into Earth's atmosphere; SARS became an epidemic in China, and was a precursor to SARS-CoV-2; Myspace launches becoming one of the first major social media platforms; protests in London against the Invasion of Iraq; a drained river in France during the European heatwave; an earthquake in Bam, Iran kills 30,000 people; abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. personnel; a statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad after his regime was deposed during the Iraq War.
Millennium: 3rd millennium

2003 was designated the International Year of the Fresh Water.

In 2003, a United States-led coalition invaded Iraq, starting the Iraq War.


The world population on January 1, 2003, was estimated to be 6.272 billion people and increased to 6.353 billion people by January 1, 2004. An estimated 134.0 million births and 52.5 million deaths took place in 2003. The average global life expectancy was 67.1 years, an increase of 0.3 years from 2002. The rate of child mortality was 6.85%, a decrease of 0.27pp from 2002. 25.54% of people were living in extreme poverty, a decrease of 1.31pp from 2002

There were approximately 10.6 million global refugees at the beginning of 2003, and the number was reduced to 9.7 million refugees by the end of the year. Afghanistan was the largest source of refugees, with a total of 2.1 million at the end of the year.


There were 29 armed conflicts affecting 22 countries in 2003. This was a net decrease from 31 conflicts in 2002.: 625  The deadliest conflicts were in Iraq, Kashmir, Liberia, Nepal, and Sudan.: 627 

Internal conflicts

The Colombian conflict against two Marxist militant groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army—escalated in 2003.: 101  The government negotiated an agreement for the right-wing militant group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to disband as a means to deescalate the conflict.: 102 

The First Ivorian Civil War was halted in 2003 amid a ceasefire while France and the states of ECOWAS intervened. Peace talks fell apart on March 7 until the ceasefire was restored on May 3, only to be broken again on September 23. The war was left in a frozen state at the end of 2003 with rebels controlling parts of the country.: 115–116  The Second Liberian Civil War against Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy escalated when the Movement for Democracy in Liberia split off as its own faction.: 116  President Charles Taylor resigned on August 2, allowing a peace agreement to take place on August 18.: 118 

The Indonesian insurgency in Aceh escalated when a demilitarization agreement failed and the government renewed its offensive in May.: 126  The Moro conflict in the Philippines deescalated when the Philippine government agreed to peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in July, though conflicts with other groups continued.: 129 

The Sri Lankan Civil War continued in 2003 as peace talks failed, and long-running civil wars in Burundi and in Uganda both escalated.: 107–112  The Second Sudanese Civil War escalated as new militant groups joined the conflict,: 628  though a security agreement was reached between the National Islamic Front and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement on September 25.: 119  The Second Chechen War continued in Russia: the Russian government held a referendum for a new Chechen constitution and offered amnesty for Chechen rebels, but terror attacks continued.: 125 

International conflicts

Only two inter-state conflicts took place in 2003: the Iraq War and the Kashmir conflict. The Kashmir conflict saw progress toward resolution in 2003 as negotiations began and a ceasefire took effect on November 23.: 95  A coalition of countries led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia led an invasion of Iraq beginning on March 20, warning that Iraq had been operating a program to develop weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Iraq War became the most publicized conflict in 2003.: 627–628 

The Second Intifada continued into 2003 as conflict between Israel and Palestine killed 400 people in suicide bombings by Palestinians and military strikes by the Israel Defense Forces.: 104 



The highest-grossing films globally in 2003 were The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo, and The Matrix Reloaded. The highest-grossing non-English film was Bayside Shakedown 2 (Japanese), the 39th highest-grossing film of the year. Critically acclaimed films from 2003 include Finding Nemo, Lost in Translation, and Master and Commander.

Music sales in 2003 amounted to about 2.7 billion units, a decline of 6.5% from 2002. DVD music video thrived in 2003 at the expense of singles and cassettes. Globally, the best-selling albums of the year were Come Away with Me by Norah Jones, Get Rich or Die Tryin' by 50 Cent, and Meteora by Linkin Park. No non-English albums were among the global top fifty albums sold in 2003.


Golf saw an upset when Ben Curtis defeated some of the sport's top players in his first major competition at the 2003 Open Championship. Tennis players Roger Federer and Andy Roddick won their first Grand Slams in 2003.


The global economy improved in the second half of 2003 as it recovered from the early 2000s recession, brought about by low interest rates and expansionary fiscal policy. The United States led the recovery, while China and Japan also made significant contributions. The economic situation improved in Latin America and Africa, while Western Europe saw slower recovery. The gross world product increased by 2.5% in 2003, and international trade increased by 4.75%. The prices of non-fuel commodities, such as metal, minerals, and agricultural materials, increased during the year.

Environment and weather

2003 tied with 2002 as the second hottest year on record, behind only 1998. The year began during an El Niño period that continued until April. A major heatwave occurred in Europe during the summer, causing approximately 70,000 deaths, 14,000 in France alone.

Severe cold weather affected Asia, North America, and Peru. 2003 saw low precipitation, causing droughts in Australia, the United States, and Zimbabwe. The previous year's droughts in Asia were alleviated by heavy precipitation in the region.

Major earthquakes in 2003 included a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Algeria on May 21 that killed over 2,200 people and a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Iran on December 26 that killed about 50,000 people.

The 2003 Atlantic hurricane season was above average in activity, including sixteen named storms of which seven were hurricanes. The most severe hurricanes were Hurricane Fabian, Hurricane Isabel, and Hurricane Kate. Tropical Storm Ana was the first recorded North Atlantic tropical storm to occur in April, and 2003 was the first year since 1887 to have two tropical storms occur in December. The 2003 Pacific typhoon season was slightly more intense than average, though the overall number of tropical storms was below average with 23 total storms. The most destructive typhoons were Typhoon Dujuan, which made landfall in Guangdong, China, on September 2, and Typhoon Maemi, which made landfall in South Korea on September 12.


The World Health Organization set "shaping the future" as its health focus for 2003, seeking to improve health systems and primary health care for the poor.














Births and deaths

Nobel Prizes


New English words and terms

  • anti-cultural
  • baby bump
  • Big Rip
  • binge-watch
  • botnet
  • darmstadtium
  • electronic cigarette
  • flash mob
  • iraimbilanja
  • manscaping
  • MERS
  • muffin top
  • netroots
  • SARS
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • unfriend


External links