Category: International Institutions – summits,working, organisations

UNSC’s sanctions committee blacklists LeT’s Makki

Why in News?

  • The ISIL and Al Qaida Sanctions Committee of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) has placed Abdul Rehman Makki, a fundraiser and key planner of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), on its sanctions list.

What is United Nation Security Council?

  • The UNs Charter established six main organs of the UN, including the UNSC. Article 23 of the UN Charter concerns the composition of the UNSC.
  • The other 5 organs of the UN are—the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.
  • The UNSC has been given primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and may meet whenever peace is threatened.
  • Headquarter: The council is headquartered at NewYork.
  • The UNSC is composed of 15 members, 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent.
  • Five Permanent Members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Ten Non-Permanent Members: Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
  • India, for the eighth time, has entered the UNSC as a non-permanent member last year (2021) and will stay on the council for two years i.e 2021-22.
  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.

What is UNSC 1267 committee?

  • It was first set up in 1999, and strengthened after the September, 2001 attacks. It is now known as the Da’esh and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
  • It comprises all permanent and non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  • The 1267 list of terrorists is a global list, with a UNSC stamp. It is full of Pakistani nationals and residents.
  • It is one of the most important and active UN subsidiary bodies working on efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
  • It discusses UN efforts to limit the movement of terrorists, especially those related to travel bans, the freezing of assets and arms embargoes for terrorism.
  • India has made at least three attempts in the last decade — in 2009, 2016 and 2017 — to list JeM chief as “global terrorist”. All attempts have been blocked by China at Pakistan’s behest.

Procedure of Listing:

  • Any member state can submit a proposal for listing an individual, group, or entity.
  • The proposal must include acts or activities indicating the proposed individual/group/entity had participated “in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities” linked to “ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida or any cell, affiliate, splinter group or derivative thereof”.
  • Decisions on listing and de-listing are adopted by consensus. The proposal is sent to all the members, and if no member objects within five working days, the proposal is adopted.
  • An “objection” means curtains for the proposal.
  • Any member of the Committee may also put a “technical hold” on the proposal and ask for more information from the proposing member state. During this time, other members may also place their own holds.
  • The matter remains on the “pending” list of the Committee until such time as the member state that has placed the hold decides to turn its decision into an “objection”, or until all those who have placed holds remove them within a timeframe laid down by the Committee.
  • Pending issues must be resolved in six months, but the member state that has placed the hold may ask for an additional three months. At the end of this period, if an objection is not placed, the matter is considered approved.

If not reformed, the UN will be overtaken by other organisations

Why in News?

  • According to India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Ruchira Kamboj, organisations such as the G-20 may step up to play a more important role in international affairs if the UN fails to implement reforms in the UN Security Council (UNSC). 

Background:

  • She stated during India’s December UNSC Presidency on the themes of reformed multilateralism and counterterrorism that the UN reformation is the “most complex process” of the UN system.
  • The item of reform has remained on the agenda of the UNSC for nearly three decades without any substantive progress.
  • Today, the UN has almost 200 member states. But their voices are not being heard and everything is being scripted for them.

Need to reform UNSC:

  • Ineffectiveness: Global issues have been increasingly complex and interconnected, yet UNSC remains ineffective to address these.
  • Underrepresentation: The composition (P5-Permanent 5 members) does not reflect contemporary geopolitical and economic realities and excludes globally important and emerging economies like G4.
  • Powerplay and division among P5: The P5 with veto powers often act in self-interest rather than serving the global interests.

Why is the process complex?

  • Veto powers: Reform of the UN Charter requires all the P-5 to be on board and none of them should veto.
  • Conflict of interest: There are many who aspire to be in a reformed council but there are many who would not like to see those in the council. For example, the tussle between G4 and the coffee club.
  • India’s 2021-22 stint as a non-permanent member of the UNSC (which ended with the Presidency):
  • India has been vocal in expressing an opinion on difficult issues during the past two years (like the pandemic, and crisis in Ukraine).
  • India’s role in providing vaccines to the least developed countries had been applauded by all.

Way ahead: 

  • The possibility of “minilaterals” (like G20, which are more democratic) taking centre stage in global affairs if the UNSC refuses to make any progress.

Wassenaar Arrangement

Why in News? 

  • Recently, on 26th annual plenary of the Wassenaar Arrangement in Vienna, Ireland handed over the chairmanship to India and India will officially assume the chairmanship from 1st January, 2023.

What is Wassenaar Arrangement?

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement is a voluntary export control regime. The Arrangement, formally established in July 1996, has 42 members who exchange information on transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.
  • Dual-use refers to the ability of a good or technology to be used for multiple purposes – usually peaceful and military.
  • Wassenaar Arrangement’s Secretariat is in Vienna, Austria.
  • It has 42 member states comprising mostly NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and EU states.
  • Participating States are required to report their arms transfers and transfers/denials of certain dual-use goods and technologies to destinations outside the Arrangement on a six-monthly basis.
  • India became a member of the Arrangement in 2017.

Objectives of Wassenaar Arrangement:

  • The group works by regularly exchanging information in respect of technology, both conventional and nuclear-capable, that is sold to, or denied to countries outside the grouping.
  • This is done through maintenance and updating of detailed lists of chemicals, technologies, processes and products that are considered militarily significant.
  • It aims at controlling the movement of technology, material or components to countries or entities which undermine international security and stability.

Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary: 

  • It is the decision-making body of the Arrangement.
  • It is composed of representatives of all Participating States and normally meets once a year, usually in December.
  • The position of Plenary Chair is subject to annual rotation among Participating States.
  • In 2018 the Plenary Chair was held by the United Kingdom, and in 2019 the Chair is held by Greece.
  • All Plenary decisions are taken by consensus.

Why is the Chairmanship Significant for India?

Can Bolster Anti-Terrorism Efforts:

  • The timing of India’s WA chairmanship coincides with a recent increase in country’s anti-terrorism position in international bodies.
  • India is also actively engaging global stakeholders in curbing terrorist financing.
  • Indian home minister is presently the chair of the No Money for Terrorism (NMFT) ministerial initiative.

Prevent Arms Diversion to Terrorists:

  • As a chair of the plenary, India would be in a position to steer discussions of the group to further strengthen the export controls to prevent arms diversion to terrorists or to sovereign nations supporting terrorism.

Strong Anti-Proliferation Framework:

  • The worsening economic crisis in India’s western neighbour coupled with rapid radicalization of historically moderate sects in communities in the country poses a peculiar set of challenges to India.
  • Strengthening the licensing and enforcement practices under the WA and adoption of new export controls in areas like flight technology, interception technology and digital investigation tools will pave the way for the creation of a strong anti-proliferation framework for South Asia.

Democratization of space and Defense Technologies:

  • India can play a significant role in democratising access to technologies and processes that can serve as crucial building blocks for the newly emerging defence and space manufacturing sectors in India.
  • India is slowly emerging as a low-cost producer of several items in the WA’s control lists.

What are other Export Control Regimes?

  • The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for the control of nuclear related technology.
  • The Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponized.
  • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

Way Forward:

  • Membership to these not only allows greater technology and material access but enhances the credibility of a nation as a responsible member of the world order.
  • India is poised to become a significant player in the world and thus requires a voice to further its claim as a rising power.

Ukraine files an application against Russia in ICJ

Why in News?

  • Ukraine has filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), instituting proceedings against the Russian Federation concerning “a dispute relating to the interpretation, application and fulfilment of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (the “Genocide Convention”).

What’s the Issue?

  • Ukraine has accused Russia of falsely claiming that “acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine”, and of using that as a pretext to recognise the independence of these regions and of going to war against Ukraine.

About ICJ:

  • ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations charter and started working in April 1946.
  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • Unlike the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (USA).
  • It settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions in accordance with international law, on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

Structure of ICJ:

  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately.
  • In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years and Judges are eligible for re-election.
  • ICJ is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.
  • The 15 judges of the Court are distributed in following regions:
  • Three from Africa.
  • Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Three from Asia.
  • Five from Western Europe and other states.
  • Two from Eastern Europe.

Independence of Judges:

  • Unlike other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

Jurisdiction and Functioning:

  • ICJ acts as a world court with two fold jurisdiction i.e. legal disputes between States submitted to it by them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings).
  • Only States which are members of the United Nations and which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions, are parties to contentious cases.
  • The judgment is final, binding on the parties to a case and without appeal (at the most it may be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision).

About the Genocide Convention:

  • The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) is an instrument of international law that codified for the first time the crime of Genocide.
  • According to the Genocide Convention, genocide is a crime that can take place both in time of war as well as in time of Peace.
  • The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948 and signified the international Community’s Commitment to ‘never again’ after the atrocities committed during the Second World War.
  • The definition of the crime of genocide, as set out in the Convention, has been widely adopted at both national and international levels, including in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Those crimes “shall not be subject to any statute of limitations”.
  • Importantly, the Convention establishes on State Parties the obligation to take measures to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide, including by enacting relevant legislation and punishing perpetrators, “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals” (Article IV).

India’s abstention on UNSC vote over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Why in News?

  • India recently abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

Who moved the Resolution?

  • The UN Security Council voted on the draft resolution presented by the US and Albania, and co-sponsored by several other nations, including Australia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom.

What was the Resolution About?

  • The Council’s resolution reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
  • The resolution “deplores in the strongest terms Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” and decides that Russia “shall immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and shall refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any UN member state”.
  • The resolution added that Russia “shall immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”. It also asked Moscow to “immediately and unconditionally reverse the decision related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine”.
  • In UN Security Council meeting on #Ukraine today, India abstained on the vote on draft resolution.

Why did India Abstain?

  • India did not endorse the harsh language used in the resolution condemning Russia’s actions.
  • It wants to maintain a balance between the Western bloc led by the US, and Russia, since it has strategic partners on both sides.
  • India’s past record has been maintaining balance between the West and Russia. On January 31, India abstained on a procedural vote on whether to discuss the issue of Ukraine. New Delhi had then articulated its position on “legitimate security interests” that echoed with a nuanced tilt towards the Russian position, and had abstained along with Kenya and Gabon.

So, what was the Fate of this Resolution?

  • While Russia — which chaired the meeting of the UNSC since it holds the presidency for the month of February — vetoed the resolution, China, too, abstained along with the United Arab Emirates.
  • Despite the remaining 11 members of UNSC, including US, UK, France, voting in favour of the resolution, it did not pass since Russia vetoed it.
  • China’s abstention is a surprise since it had opposed the vote on January 31, and was seen echoing Russia’s position.

How did India Explain its vote?

  • First, it said that it is “deeply disturbed”, but did not name Russia at all. India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.
  • Second, it reiterated its appeal for “cessation of violence”. India urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. This was conveyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well during the phone call.
  • Third, it flagged its core concern about Indian nationals in Ukraine — about 16,000 are still stuck, most of whom are students. “India is also deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community, including a large number of Indian students, in Ukraine.
  • Fourth, it touched upon “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, which was a new theme. The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward.
  • Fifth, it advocated diplomacy. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this Resolution. 

 Was India under Diplomatic Pressure?

  • Before the United Nations Security Council took up the draft resolution condemning the Russian invasion, India was caught in a diplomatic bind between the Western powers and Russia.
  • Ambassadors of European countries in India got together in New Delhi and expressed solidarity with their Ukrainian counterpart and strongly condemned Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified” military attack on Ukraine.
  • British and EU Foreign ministers had also called up Jaishankar, while ambassadors of G-7 countries had expressed support for the Ukrainian ambassador.

So, is this good for India’s Diplomatic Space?

  • Experts said that India maintained its “consistent, steadfast and balanced position on the matter”.
  • “India has been in touch with all sides, urging the parties concerned to return to the negotiating table. By abstaining, India retained the option of reaching out to relevant sides in an effort to bridge the gap and find a middle ground with an aim to foster dialogue and Diplomacy,” a source said.
  • An earlier draft of the resolution had proposed moving the resolution under   Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides the framework within which the   Security Council may take enforcement action, the sources added. However,   this was dropped in the final version that was put to vote.

WE FULLY COMPLIED WITH ICJ ORDER ON JADHAV, SAYS PAKISTAN

Why in News?

  • Pakistan recently said that it has “fully complied” with the ICJ’s judgment in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case.

About the Case:

  • Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” in April 2017.
  • Weeks later, India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Mr. Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.

What was ICJ’s Ruling?

  • The Court has observed that there has to be an effective review of Jadhav’s sentence. Effective review and reconsideration is a phrase which is different from ‘review’ as one understands in a domestic course.
  • An effective review and reconsideration includes giving consular access and helping Jadhav in preparing his defence. It means that Pakistan has to disclose the charges and also the evidence which it has been absolutely opaque.
  • The Pakistan would also have to disclose the circumstances in which Jadhav’s confession was extracted by the military. It implies that Jadhav will have a right to defence whichever forum or court hears his case.The International Court of Justice also said that Pakistan must take all measures which are necessary including legislative measures to facilitate the process of effective review. In general, military courts cannot try civilians. The constitutional amendment which created military courts for trying civilians has lapsed in Pakistan and it has not been able to re-enact the same.

Points in Favour of India:

  • Pakistan being a party to the UN charter is bound to obey the decision made by the UN body.
  • International community has its own way of dealing with the states that disobey the UN Charter.
  • India has continued to maintain a sustained pressure on Pakistan from all fronts: economic, political, diplomatic and military.
  • Because of the sustained diplomatic campaign by India, Pakistan has got isolated. Now Pakistan wants to normalize its status in the international order.
  • Pakistan is not in a position to disobey the order of ICJ considering especially because of its economic situation.
  • Pakistan needs to be moderate in its opposition and criticism of this decision. It has a way out i.e. it can say to its citizens that it is facing tremendous international pressure. This is a great opportunity that has been presented to Pakistan to mend its ways and to sort of reach out for diplomatic settlement or diplomatic talks with India.
  • Some of the messages that Pakistan has been sending over the last few years have been positive. Opening of airspace to India, acceding to most of the demands of Indian on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, taking an action on Hafiz Saeed are some examples.

Way Forward:

  • India needs to vigorously pursue this case to get satisfaction on full annulment of the decision against Jadhav and his safe and speedy return to India.
  • If Pakistan doesn’t mend its ways, India needs to be prepared to further isolate Pakistan particularly on the issue of terrorism.
  • The regional security environment is becoming complex day by day. India needs to find a solution to tackle the same.

ASIAN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT BANK (AIIB)

Context:

  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has recently approved US$ 500 million for ‘Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project’ initiated by India.

Highlights:

  • It will be implemented by the National Health Mission (NHM), the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • It will cover all States and Union Territories across India and address the needs of infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel and service providers, medical and testing facilities, and national and animal health agencies.
  • It will enable the government slow and limit as much as possible the spread of COVID-19 in India by providing immediate support to enhance disease detection capacities, oxygen delivery systems and medicines among others.

About AIIB:

  • It is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond.
  • It is headquartered in Beijing. It commenced operations in January 2016.
  • It aims to connect people, services and markets that over time will impact the lives of billions and build a better future.

About Board of Directors:

  • It is composed of twelve members who shall not be members of the Board of Governors, and of whom nine are elected by the Governors representing regional members; and three are elected by the Governors representing Non-Regional Members.

 

 

  • The Directors of the Board are persons of high competence in economic and financial matters.
  • The Directors represent members whose Governors have elected them as well as members whose Governors assign their votes to them.
  • The Board of Directors is a non-resident Board to reduce operating cost.
  • It is responsible for the direction of the Bank’s general operations, exercising all powers delegated to it by the Board of Governors.
  • It includes approving the Bank’s strategy, annual plan and budget; establishing policies; taking decisions concerning Bank operations; and supervising management and operation of the Bank and establishing an oversight mechanism.

About International Advisory Panel (IAP):

  • It has established an IAP to support the President and Senior Management on the Bank’s strategies and policies as well as on general operational issues.
  • The President selects and appoints members of the IAP to an initial two-year term, which can be renewed upon completion.
  • The Panel meets at least twice a year, once in tandem with the Bank’s Annual Meeting, and second time at the Bank’s Headquarters in Beijing.
  • The Panelists receive a small honorarium and do not receive a salary. The Bank pays the reasonable costs associated with Panel Meetings.

About the Membership in AIIB:

  • It is open to all members of the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank and is divided into regional and non-regional members.
  • The Regional members are those located within areas classified as Asia and Oceania by the United Nations.
  • Unlike other MDBs (multilateral development bank), the AIIB allows for non-sovereign entities to apply for AIIB membership, assuming their home country is a member.
  • Thus, sovereign wealth funds (such as the China Investment Corporation) or state-owned enterprises of member countries could potentially join the Bank.

Voting Rights of the Members:

  • The China is the largest shareholder with 26.61 % voting shares in the bank followed by India (7.6%), Russia (6.01%) and Germany (4.2 %). The regional members hold 75% of the total voting power in the Bank.
  • It has a governance structure similar to other MDBs (Multilateral Development Bank).
  • With two difference, it does not have a resident board of executive directors that represents member countries’ interests on a day-to-day basis; and the AIIB gives more decision making authority to regional countries and the largest shareholder, China.

Way Ahead:

  • It can create own space by contributing to sustained economic growth leading towards improved living standard of millions of poor people across Asia and other regions.
  • It is still in its evolutionary phase that must be nurtured with Democratice principles avoiding single-country dominance (Chinese dominance) like that of USA in IMF and World Bank.

OPEN BUDGET SURVEY 2019

Why in News?

  • The International Budget Partnership (IBP) has recently released an Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2019.

About Open Budget Survey:

  • It is part of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Initiative, a global research and advocacy program to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.
  • It is a biennial survey, which covers 117 countries.
  • It rates the level of budget transparency across countries on a scale of 0-100, based on several normative, internationally comparable indicators
  • It evaluates each country on the basis of the availability of key budget documents of the Central or Federal Government, and assesses whether these are made public, in a timely manner, and provide comprehensive information.

About International Budget Partnership (IBP):

  • It is a collaborative effort of multiple actors – including civil society, state actors, international institutions and the private sector.
  • It was formed in 1997 to promote transparent and inclusive government budget processes as a means to improve governance and service delivery in the developing world.
  • It intends to bring citizens participation in open, inclusive budgeting processes to shape policies and practices that promote equity and justice on a sustainable basis.
  • It focusses on citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) was driven by the pioneering civil society budget monitoring efforts in a small number of middle-income countries in the early 1990s.
  • Its ultimate aim is to ensure that public resources are used more effectively to fight poverty and promote equitable and sustainable development in countries around the world.

 About the Global Scenario in OBS:

  • In OBS 2019, it finds a modest global improvement in budget transparency, which is consistent with the overall trend measured by the survey over the past years.
  • The global average transparency score has turned out to be 45 out of 100 and thus levels of publicly available budget information remains limited.
  • New Zealand tops the chart with a score of 87. Further, South Africa (87), Mexico (82) and Brazil (81) are among the top six countries providing extensive information to the public for scrutiny.
  • The citizens’ participation in the budget process continued to be at a dismal level and thus average global scores on the OBS participation measure remains 14 out of 100.
  • Out of 117 countries only 30 surveyed countries have adequate scores both for audit and for legislative oversight.

About Indian Scenario in OBS:

  • India has been placed at 53rd position among 117 nations in terms of budget transparency and accountability.
  • India’s Union Budget process has a transparency score of 49 out of 100, which is higher than the global average of 45.
  • Some of the other large developing countries, with the exception of China, have got much higher transparency scores compared to India.
  • The public participation in its budgets has been flagged as an area of improvement required for India.
  • The absence of a published Pre-Budget Statement and not bringing out a Mid-Year Review in 2018-19 pulled down the transparency score for the Union Budget of India.

Way Ahead:

  • Though many governments and citizens have embraced the open budgeting agenda, more efforts to translate good intentions into better practice are required.
  • A global effort of joint, sustained activism is needed to accelerate progress and deliver the promises of open Budgeting to all Citizens.

GLOBAL ENERGY REVIEW 2020

Why in News?

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently released Global Energy Review:2020 report which also includes the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Global Energy demand and CO2 Emissions.

Key Points:

  • Energy Demands Around the World:
    • In full lockdown, countries experiencing an average decline of 25% in energy demand per week, while in those with a partial lockdown, the fall in energy demand is about 18% per week.
  • Global Energy Demand declined by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • It is expected that the impact of Covid19 on energy demand would be more than seven times larger than the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on global energy demand.

Global Demand of Various Energy Sources:

  • Coal:  It has been declined by 8% compared with the first quarter of 2019. The reasons for such decline include, China – a coal-based economy – was the country hardest hit by Covid19 in the first quarter and cheap gas and continued growth in renewables elsewhere challenged coal.
  • Oil: It has declined by 5% in the first quarter, majorly due to curtailment in mobility and aviation, which account for nearly 60% of global oil demand. It also estimates that the global demand for oil could further drop by 9% on average in 2020, which will return oil consumption to 2012 levels.
  • Gas: The impact of the pandemic on gas demand has been moderate, at around 2%, as gas-based economies were not strongly affected in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Electricity: It has been declined by 20% during periods of full lockdown in several countries. The residential demand is outweighed by reductions in commercial and industrial operations.

Demand for Renewables Energy Resources:

  • It is the only source that has registered a growth in demand, driven by larger installed capacity.
  • It is expected to rise by 1% by 2020 because of low operating costs and preferential access for many power systems.
  • Covid-19 and CO2 Emissions: The Overall emissions decline in 2020 could be 8% lower than in 2019, which would be the lowest level of emissions since 2010.
  • It is also the largest level of emission reduction — six times larger than witnessed during the 2009 financial crisis, and twice as large as the combined total of all reductions witnessed since World War II.

About India’s Energy Demands:

  • India is one of the IEA association countries, which has experienced a reduction in its energy demands by 30% as a result of the nation-wide lockdown.
  • The economic growth and power production are slowing significantly, the demand for coal is expected to decline steeply.
  • China and India are the largest and third-largest electricity users in the world respectively, and coal use is dominant in both these countries shaping the Global demand for this Fuel.

About International Energy Agency:

  • It is an autonomous organisation which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy.
  • It is established in the wake of 1973 (set up in 1974) oil crisis after the OPEC cartel had shocked the world with a steep increase in oil prices.
  • It is headquartered in Paris, France.
  • It also releases an Annual Report Namely World Energy Outlook.
  • India became an associate member of the International Energy Agency in 2017.
  • Mexico officially became the International Energy Agency’s 30th member country in February 2018, and its first member in Latin America

GLOBAL REPORT ON INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT 2020

Why in News?

  • Recently, the ‘Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020’ revealed that conflict, violence and disasters led to 50.8 million internal displacements across the world at the end of 2019.

About:

  • It is published by Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
  • The Internal Displacement refers to the forced movement of people within the country they live in due to conflict, violence, development projects, disasters and climate change.

Conflict Displacement:

  • All regions are affected by conflict displacement, but it is highly concentrated in a few countries. Of the global total of 45.7 million people displaced due to conflict and violence in 2019, three-quarters or 34.5 million, were in just 10 countries
  • The Top Five countries with highest displacement by conflict and violence are: Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Afghanistan.

About Displacement and its Disasters

  • Nearly 1,900 disasters sparked 24.9 million new displacements across 140 countries and territories in 2019.
  • Out of the 24.9 million displaced due to disasters, 23.9 were weather-related, and “much of this displacement took place in form of pre-emptive Evacuations”.

Measures Taken to Prevent and Respond to Internal Displacement

  • The Countries such as Niger and Somalia improved their policy frameworks on internal displacement.
  • Others, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines, incorporated displacement in their development plans, in their reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals, or when updating risk management strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • The official monitoring of disaster displacement in the Philippines with mobile phone tracking data and social media analysis helped improve planning for shelters, reconstruction and long term urban recovery.
  • Improvements in the quantity and quality of data available also enabled better reporting and analysis, which in turn informed more effective responses and risk mitigation measures.

About Internal Displacement and India:

  • Nearly five million people were displaced in India in 2019
  • The Cyclones Fani and Bulbul also led to huge displacements.
  • The displacements were prompted by increased hazard intensity, high population and social and economic vulnerability.
  • The Political and electoral violence, especially in Tripura and West Bengal, led to the displacement of more than 7,600 people.
  • More than 2.6 million people suffered displacement due to the southwest monsoon. 2019 was the seventh warmest year since 1901 and the monsoon was the wettest in 25 years.
  • Evacuations save lives, but many evacuees had their displacement prolonged because their homes had been damaged or destroyed.

INDIA ATTENDS ANNUAL MEETING OF NDB

Why in News?

  • Indian Union Minister of Finance has attended the 5th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of New Development Bank (NDB) through video-conference in New Delhi.

Highlights of the Meeting:

  • NDB fast-tracked financial assistance of about $5 billion to BRICS countries including Emergency Assistance of $1 billion to India to combat Covid-19 pandemic. This assistance under this facility was suggested to be enhanced to $10 billion.
  • NDB was encouraged to take appropriate actions to join the G-20 forum along with other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), etc.
  • India appreciated NDB’s efforts in establishing itself as a credible Global Financial Institution, delivering its mandate successfully by taking a more sustainable and inclusive approach.
  • Brazil thanked India for sending critical drugs for timely management of novel coronavirus in Brazil.

NDB appreciates India:

  • NDB has praised India on the measures taken to respond to the health crisis and to mitigate its impact. Some of the key measures taken by India are as:
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana: Announcement of a scheme of social support measures amounting to ₹70 lakh crore to alleviate the hardship of the poor and the vulnerable.
    • Insurance cover for Health Workers: Insurance cover of ₹50 lakh per person to over 2.2 million frontline health workers and others provision of relief to firms in statutory and Regulatory Compliance Matters.
    • Easing of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and three-month moratorium on loan instalments.
    • India Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package: Allocation of $2 Billion (₹15,000 crore) by the Government of India for strengthening the healthcare system.
    • Creation of a Covid-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC countries.
    • Helping Neighbouring Countries: India’s efforts in supplying critical medicine to the countries in need (e.g. Operation Sanjeevani), to tackle the Covid-19.

About New Development Bank:

  • It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
  • It is headquartered at Shanghai, China.
  • In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the United Nations General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the UN.
  • It was formed to support infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies for faster development through innovation and cutting-edge Technology.

INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY (IEA)

Context:

  • Recently, IEA has made some observations about the impact of global lockdown on oil demands across the world.

Highlights:

  • The price of oil has already fallen about 60% since the start of the year due to a pricing war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  • Global demand for oil will fall this year by the most ever due to the economic lockdowns enforced around the world to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
  • An estimated drop in demand of 9.3 million barrels a day this year is equivalent to a decade’s worth of Growth.

About IEA:

  • It is established in 1974 as per framework of the OECD, which is an autonomous intergovernmental organisation.
  • Its Headquarters (Secretariat) is located at Paris, France.
  • Its mission is to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its member countries and beyond. They are guided by four main areas of focus: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide.
  • It mandate has expanded over time to include tracking and analyzing global key energy trends, promoting sound energy policy, and fostering multinational energy technology cooperation.
  • The Reports released by IEA are Global Energy & CO2 Status Report, World Energy Outlook, World Energy Statistics, World Energy Balances and Energy Technology Perspectives.

Composition and Eligibility:

  • It has 30 members at present. Its family also includes eight association countries.
  • A candidate country must be a member country of the OECD. But all OECD members are not IEA members.
  • To become its member country, they must demonstrate that it has:
    • Crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports, to which the government has immediate access (even if it does not own them directly) and could be used to address disruptions to global oil supply.
    • A demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%.
    • Legislation and organisation to operate the Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) on a national basis.
    • Legislation and measures to ensure that all oil companies under its jurisdiction report information upon request.
    • Measures in place to ensure the capability of contributing its share of an IEA collective action.

About the Impact and their Changes:

  • While the cheaper energy can be helpful for consumers and energy-hungry businesses, it is below the cost of production.
  • That is eating away at the state finances of oil-producing countries, many of whom are relatively poor economies, and pushing companies to bankruptcy.
  • With broad limits on travel and business, many consumers are unable to take advantage of the low prices anyway.
  • The recent deal by OPEC and other countries to reduce global output by some 9.7 million barrels a day will help stabilize the situation somewhat.

On top of those cuts, countries like China, India, South Korea and the United States will look to buy more oil to store away in strategic reserves

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS SUMMIT

Why in News?

  • Recently, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit was held online chaired by Vietnam. The discussions pertained to the impact of Covid-19 on southeast Asia.

About Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN):

  • It is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation.
  • It was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Its ten members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Its Chairmanship rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
  • Its country has a total population of 650 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.8 Trillion.

Highlights:

  • Its leaders have warned of the crippling economic cost of Covid-19 and called for trade routes to reopen to protect jobs and food supplies, as well as the stockpiling of medical equipment.
  • The Covid-19 has affected the region’s tourism and export-reliant economies. Vietnam has urged Southeast Asian leaders to set up an emergency fund to tackle the Coronavirus.

About the impact of Covid-19 on the Region:

  • The Singapore has raised fears the pandemic due to the recent surge that could rebound in places which had battled back the initial outbreak.
  • Health systems from Myanmar to Laos are widely believed to be missing the true scale of infections.
  • The Thai economy, is expected to shrink by 5.3% in 2020 — a 22-year low — with millions left jobless.
  • Limited testing in Indonesia has resulted in the lower number of cases and under 400 deaths for a country of 260 million.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF)

Why in News?

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently approved a $500 million grant to cancel six months of debt payments for 25 of the world’s most impoverished countries.

About:

  • It will provide grants to the poorest and most vulnerable member countries to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • These countries will be able to channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts.
  • The money will come from the IMFs revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT)which will use recent pledges of 185 million from the United Kingdom and 100 million from Japan. It urged other donors to help replenish the trusts resources, which also approved the immediate debt service relief for 19 African countries including Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan and Yemen.

About Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT):

  • It was established in February 2015 during the Ebola outbreak and modified in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • It allows the IMF to provide grants for debt relief for the poorest and most vulnerable countries hit by catastrophic natural disasters or public health disasters.
  • The relief on debt service payments frees up additional resources to meet exceptional balance of payments needs created by the disaster and for containment and Recovery.

About International Monetary Fund (IMF):

  • It came into existence after the UN conference in Bretton Woods in 1944. The 44 countries at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • It currently has 189 member countries, each of which has representation on the IMF’s executive board in proportion to its financial importance.
  • The most powerful countries in the global economy have the most voting power.
  • Its main objectives are foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty around the world.

About the Functions of IMF:

  • To provide financial assistance to member countries with balance of payments problems. Countries must embark on structural adjustment policies monitored by the IMF.
  • It oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its 189 member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the Global Level and in Individual Countries, the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.
  • It provides technical assistance and training to central banks, finance ministries, tax authorities, and other economic institutions.
  • It helps the countries to raise public revenues, modernize banking systems, develop strong legal frameworks, improve governance, and enhance the reporting of macroeconomic and financial data.
  • It also helps countries to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

 

ADB ASSURES COVID-19 SUPPORT PACKAGE

Why in News?

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured the Ministry of Finance of USD 2.2 billion (about Rs 16,500 crore) support to India in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points:

ADB’s Support to India:

  • It is now preparing USD 2.2 billion in immediate assistance in response to Covid-19 to the health sector to help alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic on the poor.
  • ADB announced an initial package of approximately USD 6.5 billion to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries, including India, as an response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • ADB is also engaged with the private sector to meet its financing needs during this period.
  • It is ready to provide further financial assistance and policy advice whenever the situation warrants.
  • ADB is also planning to consider all financing options available to meet India’s needs, to facilitate swift disbursement of ADB funds including emergency assistance, policy-based loans, and budget support.

ADB praised efforts of the Government:

  • ADB praised the Indian government’s decisive response to the pandemic, including
  • Rs 1.7 lakh crore economic relief package (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana), which provides immediate income and consumption support to the poor, women, and workers affected by the three-week nationwide lockdown.
  • A national health emergency program.
  • Tax and other relief measures provided to businesses.

About Asian Development Bank:

  • ADB is a regional development bank established in the year 1966. ADB is headquartered in Manila, Philippines. ADB now has 68 members, 49 from within Asia.
  • Japan holds the largest proportion of shares in ADB followed by the USA.
  • It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
  • ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.

RISE IN GENDER BASED VIOLENCE

Why in News?

  • The UN Women has urged member-states to include prevention of violence against women in their action plans on COVID-19 and it has also called the rise in gender-based violence a “shadow pandemic”.

About UN Women:

  • UN Women is the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
  • In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
  • It merges and builds on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system, which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment:
    • Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).
    • International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
    • Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).
    • United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
  • The main roles of UN Women are:
    • To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms.
    • To help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.
  • To hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

Suggestions made by UN Women:

  • Member states should consider shelters and Helplines Essential Services.
  • Helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or Internet.
  • Police and justice services must mobilise to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators.

Why these Measures are Necessary?

  • Globally 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months.
  • The number is likely to increase as security, health and money worries heighten tensions and strains are accentuated by cramped and confined living conditions.

How Lockdown is Worsening the Situation?

  • According to emerging data, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has ‘intensified’.
  • As per data compiled by the U.N. body, France has seen a 30% increase in domestic violence since the lockdown on March 17.
  • In Argentina, emergency calls for domestic violence cases have increased by 25% since the lockdown on March 20 and Cyprus (30%), Singapore (33%) have also registered an increase in calls.
  • Canada, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. have also registered an increase in cases of domestic violence and demand for emergency shelter.

COVID-19 COMMUNITY MOBILITY REPORT

Why in News?

  • Recently, Google has released ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports’.

About Covid-19 Community Mobility Report:

  • It aims to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19.
  • It covers 131 countries and chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.
  • It comes at a time when communities across the globe are looking at measures such as social distancing as a key action to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It adopted technical measures to ensure that no individual could be identified through the new reports. The reports have been developed according to the company’s stringent privacy protocols and policies.
  • Google is an American search engine company founded in 1998 by Serge Brin and Larry Page. It is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.

About Finding Related to India:

  • In the wake of the March 22 ‘Janata Curfew’ and the subsequent ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown, public movement had declined while movement in residential areas had increased. Its data is based on the 5-week period Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020 and the first few days of the lockdown period.
  • It shows that there has been a dip of 77% in mobility trends for places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centres and movie theatres and a 65% drop at grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers’ markets and pharmacies.
  • A 57% fall for places like public beaches and gardens, a 71% decline at public transport hubs and a 47% drop for places of work. But the mobility trends in the places of residence category showed an increase of 22%.
  • It will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.

About Other Countries Around the World:

  • It compared traffic from Feb 16 to March 29 to retail and recreational venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces with a five-week period (Jan 3- Feb 6).
  • Both Italy and Spain, two of the hardest-hit countries, both saw visits to retail and recreation locations such as restaurants and movie theaters fall 94%. The UnitedKingdom, France and Philippines had declines of more than 80%.
  • In Japan and Sweden, where authorities have not imposed harsh restrictions, visits to retail and recreation sites fell by roughly only a quarter.
  • In South Korea, which has successfully contained a large outbreak through aggressive testing and contact tracing, the decline was just 19%.
  • It has noreports for China and Iran, where Google Services are Blocked.

FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE (FATF)

Why in News?

  • The decision by a Pakistani court in Sindh to acquit Ahmed Omar Sheikh Saeed of murdering journalist Daniel Pearl will be raised by India at the next meeting of the Financial Action Task Force.

About FATF:

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.
  • It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
  • The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
  • Initially it was established to examine and develop measures to combat money laundering.
  • In October 2001, the FATF expanded its mandate to incorporate efforts to combat terrorist financing, in addition to money laundering.
  • In April 2012, it added efforts to counter the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The FATF currently comprises 37 member jurisdictions and 2 regional organisations, representing most major financial centres in all parts of the globe. It also has observers and associate members.
  • To set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

What is Blacklist and Grey List?

  • Black List:Countries known as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist. These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities. The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.
  • Grey List:Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.
  • Considered in the Grey List may Face:
  1. 1.Economic sanctions from IMF, World Bank, ADB.
  2. 2.Problem in getting loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other countries.
  3. 3.Reduction in international trade.
  4. 4.International boycott.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF COVID-19

Why in News?

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has recently observed that the economic uncertainty sparked by the Covid-19 will likely cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020.

Highlights:

  • It is based on the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020 released by UNCTAD.
  • The global economy slowdown will be under 2% for this year is envisaged which will probably cost in the order of $1 trillion.
  • If the world economy grew at only 0.5% which would involve a $2 trillion hit to gross domestic product (GDP).
  • With the moderate declines in private consumption, investment and exports and offsetting increases in government spending, global growth would fall to 1.2% in 2020.
  • Due to the supply-chain interruptions from China and oil price uncertainty among major producers, the Global financial market is fluctuating.
  • The economies of European countries had already been performing extremely badly towards the end of 2019, which is almost certain to go into recession over the coming months. German economy is in a fragile state. Italian economy and other parts of the European periphery are also facing very serious stresses right now.
  • It describes that many parts of the Latin American region are also vulnerable. Particularly Argentina will be struggling as a consequence of the knock-on effects of this pandemic.
  • The economies of least developed countries are driven by the sale of raw materials will also face hard consequences.
  • Developing countries which are Heavily-indebted, particularly commodity exporters face a threat due to the weaker export returns linked to a stronger US dollar.
  • The likelihood of a stronger dollar as investors seek safe-havens for their money and the almost certain rise in commodity prices as the global economy slows down, means that commodity exporters are particularly vulnerable.

About United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):

  • It was established in 1964 to promote development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy.
  • It is a permanent intergovernmental body headquartered at Geneva in Switzerland.
  • The reports published by it are Trade and Development Report, World Investment Report, The Least Developed Countries Report, Information and Economy Report, Technology and Innovation Report, Commodities and Development Report.

Way Forward:

  • The policy responses and institutional reforms are needed to prevent a localized health scare from turning into a global economic meltdown. Governments need to spend now in order to prevent more damaging meltdown in the coming times.
  • The Chinese Government is likely to introduce significant expansionary measures – shorthand for increasing spending or tax cuts. The US government is in an election year and it needs to do more than simply cutting taxes and Reducing Interest Rates.

SAUDI KING TO CHAIR THURSDAY’S G20 VIRTUAL SUMMIT

Why in News?

  • Leaders of the G20 group of nations will hold a video conference which will be the virtual summit led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia which is the current president of the economic grouping.

About the News:

  • Recently, Saudi Arabia became the first Arab nation to take over the G20 Presidency on December 2019.
  • The Three Key Aims of the G20 Presidency, 2020 are:
  • Empowering People by creating the conditions in which all people mainly women and youth can live, work and thrive.
  • Safeguarding the Planet by fostering collective efforts to protect our global common-pool resources.
  • Shaping New Frontiers by adopting long-term and bold strategies to share the benefits of innovation and technological advancement.
  • Apart from 19 of the biggest economies of the world, G20 also includes the European Union. For 2020, Spain, Jordan Singapore and Switzerland are the invited countries.

About G20:

  • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over 75% of global trade.
  • Headquarter: The G20 operates as a forum and not as an organisation.
  • Therefore, it does not have any permanent secretariat or management and administrative structure.
  • Origin: 1997-1999 Asian Financial Crisis: This was a ministerial-level forum which emerged after G7 invited both developed and developing economies. The finance ministers and central bank governors began meeting in 1999.
  • Amid 2008 Financial Crisis the world saw the need for a new consensus-building at the highest political level. It was decided that the G20 leaders would begin meeting once annually.
  • Members: The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

What are the Key Challenges?

  • As the presiding nation, Saudi Arabia has to work towards mitigating global risks like climate change, demographic issues, such as low birth rates, rising life expectancy and aging societies which requires coordinated efforts at global level. However, rising populism and nationalism may prevent the progress at the multilateral level.
  • It has promoted a liberalisation drive, including granting greater rights to women. However, incidents like the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi drew intense global criticism over human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
  • Therefore, G20 member states should exert pressure on the Saudi Arabia for its authoritative policies and hold it accountable for its human rights obligations.
  • One nation holds the Chair every year, known as ‘G20 Presidency’. Argentina chaired the G20 summit of 2018 and Japan for 2019.

50 YEARS OF NPT

Why in News?

  • Recently, the foreign ministers of the five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council issued a joint statement on the successful implementation of NPT which was implemented 50 years ago on March 5 1970.

About NPT:

  • The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament.
  • It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
  • Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967.
  • India did not sign it as the treaty was discriminatory. India argued that treaties like NPT were selectively applicable to only non-nuclear powers and legitimized the monopoly of nuclear power by a few.
  • Consequently India conducted nuclear explosion test in May 1974, all along maintaining that it was committed to peaceful use of atomic energy.
  • In 1998, India again conducted a nuclear explosion tests, and acquired the capacity to use nuclear energy for military purposes.
  • To alleviate the fears of a world community, India formulated a comprehensive nuclear doctrine. The major tenets of this doctrine are:
    • Maintenance of a credible minimum nuclear deterrence.
    • Professes no first use policy.
    • Commitment to global veritable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament leading to a nuclear weapons free world.
  • India has abided by both NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) even though it is a non-signatory. This along with its commitments on nuclear non-proliferation under NSG waiver in 2008 provides India with a strong basis for membership in NSG.
    • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the treaty banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
    • The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996.

What is Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?

  • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
  • The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • The grouping has 48 participating governments and the European Commission acts as an Observer.
  • Since 2008, India has sought membership in the NSG. The same year, the NSG granted India a “clean waiver” from its existing rules, which forbids nuclear trade with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • The waiver paved the way for India to engage in nuclear trade and led to the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal. India has since signed civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with the U.S., U.K., France, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Namibia, and South Korea.
  • The drive for India’s membership got a decisive boost when U.S declared support for India joining the quartet of multilateral export control regimes.
  • S proposed case for a country-specific rather than a criteria-based approach rested on the argument that India’s nuclear record and commitment to non-proliferation norms qualified it as a “like minded country” to join the NSG.
  • The four multilateral export control regimes are Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group (AG) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India is not a member of NSG only.

Impediments to India’s NSG Bid:

  • NSG operates by consensus and all its current members are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • China has relied on an obstructionist argument claiming that a “compulsory” requirement for NSG membership is that they must be signatories to the NPT.
  • China equates India with Pakistan — which has an established history of nuclear proliferation, further complicating the scenario.

Significance of NSG Membership for India:

  • Membership of NSG will increase India’s access to state-of-the-art nuclear technology from members of the Group.
  • As per India’s commitment under the Paris climate agreement, it has to ensure that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources by 2030. In order to achieve this target, India needs to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to NSG.
  • Some nations are restricted by regional treaties (For eg., Pelindaba Treaty) to provide access to nuclear fuel and technology to India. If India joins the NSG, such restrictions are expected to be done away with.
    • Pelindaba Treaty (African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty) establishes a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Africa.
    • The treaty was signed in 1996 and came into effect in July 2009.
    • It aims at preventing nuclear proliferation and preventing strategic minerals of Africa from being exported freely.
    • This treaty prohibits member parties to come into bilateral agreement with countries who are non-signatories of NPT.
    • In 2016, Namibia criticized the Treaty of Pelindaba for disallowing Namibia to trade uranium to India because India is not a member of the NPT.

OPEC+

Context:

  • Recently, Saudi Arabia plans to raise its crude oil production significantly above 10 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, after the collapse of the OPEC+supply cut agreement with Russia.

About:

  • The three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony recently after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts to cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production.
  • Effects now could quickly flood global markets at a time when demand has already weakened substantially.

About OPEC+:

  • It refers to the alliance of crude producers, who have been undertaking corrections in supply in the oil markets since 2017.
  • Its countries include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan and Sudan.
  • The Opec and non-Opec producers first formed the alliance at a historic meeting in Algiers in 2016.
  • Its aim was to undertake production restrictions to help resuscitate a flailing market.

About OPEC:

  • It was founded in Baghdad, Iraq, with the signing of an agreement in September 1960 by five countries namely Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
  • They were to become the Founder Members of the Organization. It is a permanent, intergovernmental organization. Currently, it has a total of 14 Member Countries. It is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
  • Its objective is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.
  • Its membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and which shares the ideals of the organization.

Why is OPEC+ is more influenced than OPEC?

  • OPEC’s 14 members control 35 percent of global oil supplies and 82 percent of proven reserves. With the addition of the 10 Non-OPEC nations, notable among them Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan, those shares increase to 55 percent and 90 percent respectively.
  • This affords OPEC+ a level of influence over the world economy never seen before.

G20 MEETING IN SAUDI ARABIA

Why in News?

  • The G20 meeting presided by Saudi Arabia was held recently in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) in which the ministers and central bankers from the world’s largest economies has participated. Saudi Arabia is the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency.
  • Theme: “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”.

Highlights of the Meet:

Global Economic Slowdown:

  • The global economic growth remains slow and faces downside risks due to the geopolitical trade tensions and policy uncertainty. But economic growth is expected to increase in 2020 and 2021 due to loose monetary policy and an easing of trade tensions.

Demand for Global Taxation System:

  • It discussed ways to achieve consensus on a global taxation system for the digital era by the end of 2020.
  • It aims to allow governments to tax digital companies where they do business, rather than where they are registered for tax purposes.
  • India has also demanded closer collaboration between international revenue agencies to investigate tax affairs of offenders who cross borders for escaping tax investigation.

Views of IMF:

  • It projected a “V-shaped, rapid recovery” for the global economy, but it warned about the uncertainty around the spread of the Corona-virus (COVID 19).
  • The IMF has also warned about other risks such as rising debt levels in some countries and climate change.

About G20 Grouping:

  • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over 75% of global trade.
  • The G20 operates as a forum and not as an organisation. Therefore, it does not have any permanent secretariat or management and administrative structure.
  • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

What is meant by V-Shaped Recovery?

  • A V-shaped recovery is characterized by a sharp economic decline followed by a quick and sustained recovery. The recession of 1953 is an example of a V-shaped recovery.

3RD GLOBAL MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON ROAD SAFETY

Why in News?

  • 3rdGlobal Ministerial Conference on Road Safety took place recently in Stockholm (Sweden). The Minister of Road Transport & Highways has represented India at the Conference.
  • It is organised by the World Health Organization (WHO) in association with the World Bank and minister-led delegations from more than 80 countries.

Highlights of the Conference:

1. Objectives of the Conference:

  • It intends to bring road safety on the global agenda and renew the world community’s commitment to safer roads.
  • It also aims to define ways to accelerate action on proven strategies to save lives.

2. Theme of the Conference: ‘Achieving Global Goals 2030’.

3. Stockholm Declaration

  • The conference adopted the “Stockholm Declaration” which calls for a new global target for road safety for 2030 and a set of innovative solutions to save lives on the world’s roads.
  • It also aims to share successes and lessons from the implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020.
  • India has reaffirmed its commitment to the United Nations goal set under the UN Decade of Action of drastically reducing road accidents by the year 2030 during the event.

Road Accidents – The National Scenario:

  • Number of Deaths:It kills almost 1.5 lakh people annually in India.
  • Severity:The road accident severity (the number of persons killed per 100 accidents) has increased by 0.6% in 2018 compared to 2017.
  • Drastic Drop:The accidents, as well as accident-related deaths in the period 2010-2018, dropped drastically compared with the previous decades, despite the very high rate of growth of automobiles.

National Level Initiatives for Road Safety:

1. 4 E’s for Road Safety:

  • Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had formulated a multi-pronged strategy based on 4 `E’s – Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Emergency Care.
    • 1. Education: Awareness is generated through various Road Safety Campaigns utilizing audio-visual and other print media and through NGOs.

      2. Engineering:The engineering measures are considered essential for adoption to help in improving road safety leading to reduction of accidents.

      3. Enforcement:The enforcement of road transport-related rules and regulations (like The Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989) is an important aspect to ensure road safety.

      4. Emergency Care:The scheme like National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme (NHARSS) has been implemented to provide cranes and ambulances to States/UTs/NGOs for relief and rescue measures in the aftermath of Accidents.

2. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan Committee

  • Supreme Court had set up the three-member KS Radhakrishnan panel on road safety in 2014.

3. Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019

  • It hikes the penalties for traffic violations, defective vehicles, juvenile driving, etc.
  • It provides for a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, which would provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
  • It also provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the Central Government through a notification.
  • The act also provides for the protection of Good Samaritans.

TOWARDS NEW WORLD ORDER

Why in News?

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF), a platform for world leader, professionals, senior government ministerial delegations, was held at Davos recently. This Forum has majorly discussed about a “New World Order”.

Why there is discussion on new world order?

1. Social inequalities and stark and Continuing Poverty:

  • The latest Oxfam Report presented at Davos points out that 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people.
  • [The 2019 report titled “Public good or Private Wealth?” showed that India’s top 1% holds 51.53% of the wealth].

2. Un-tenability of Capitalism as a Concept:

  • The ugliest face of the capitalism was visible during the 2007-2008 economic crisis, first in the U.S. and thereafter across the European Union. At that time, it appeared as if the global economy was on the verge of collapse.

3. ‘Energy Imperialism’

  • The developed countries are of the strategy of imperialism across continents, in order to capture energy – generating resources to push their GDP.

4. Toxic colonialism

  • Egregious consumption of energy by the developed world has resulted in disposal of ‘e-waste’ in many African and Asian countries.

5. Unsustainable energy consumption

  • Developed world, and China, are ferociously using up finite raw materials without care or concern for the welfare of present and future generations.

6. Unequal distribution of the ‘fruits of globalisation’

  • Intellectual Property Rights are highly favouring the Rich Nations.
  • Most transactions are based on the arbitrage between price and value difference, from which only the ‘middleman’ gains, not the primary producer.
  • Carbon credit system – mechanism is also in favour of the wealthy countries. Under this, countries with high energy consumption trends can simply offset their consumption patterns by purchasing carbon credits, the un-utilized carbon footprint, from poor developing countries.

Nordic Economic Model – a model to Emulate:

  • There have been remarkable achievements of the Scandinavian countries comprising – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and allied territories. These nations are among the richest in the world when measured in terms of GDP per capita. Nordic countries also tops in the Global Happiness Index.

Important feature of their Development Model:

  • Large public sector enterprises
  • Universal welfare systems
  • Excellence in public service
  • High levels of taxation
  • High rates of Personal and corporate income tax rates.

Ingredients of the New ‘Enlightened Global Order’

  • Taking the Nordic model as a template, there are some ingredients that could be part of a new ‘enlightened global order’. These should include —
    • Effective welfare safety nets for all
    • Corruption-free governance
    • A fundamental right to tuition-free education, including higher education
    • A fundamental right to good medical care
    • Higher taxes on rich and shutting of tax havens
    • Corporates must work not only for Profit – but must be guided by 4P’s – Profit, People, Planet and Process.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS – SCIENCE

Why in News?

  • The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is recently celebrated on 11th February every year.

About:

  • The International Day of Women and Girls is designated by UN General Assembly in 2015.
  • It is implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) and UN-Women, in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners.
  • It is to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

Global Scenario:

  • Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics): The data from UNESCO of 2014-16 shows that only around 30% of female students select STEM, related fields in higher education.Their enrolment is particularly low in information technology (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering and allied streams (8%).
  • According to fact sheet prepared by UNESCO, only 28.8% of researchers are women.
  • From 1901 to 2019, 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded, of which just 20 have been won by women.
  • The American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize in 2019. It is a Norwegian prize awarded annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians.
  • It is so far has also been awarded to only one-woman Mathematician, the late Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran, as opposed to 59 men since 1936. 
  • It is awarded every four years by the International Congress of Mathematicians to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.

National Scenarios:

  • Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics): The female enrolment in science streams rose from 2010-11 to 2015-16.According to the NITI Aayog report in 2015-16, 9.3% of female students in Undergraduate (UG) courses were enrolled in engineering, compared to 15.6% across genders. Conversely, 4.3% of female students were enrolled in medical science, compared to 3.3% across genders.
  • In India, there are only 9% of women who work as a Researcher. At master’s and doctoral levels, female enrolment remained lower than overall enrolment.
  • The NITI Aayog report has found that in over 620 institutes and universities, including IITs, NITs, ISRO, and DRDO, the presence of women was 20.0% among Scientific and Administrative Staff, 28.7% among Post-Doctoral Fellows, and 33.5% among PhD scholars.

Way Forward:

  • Interventions geared to popularising subjects such as Engineering or the Physical sciences or Chemistry among female students at the school level in both urban and rural areas might be helpful in changing mind-set.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Context:

  • The EU Parliament is taking steps to debate and vote on a resolution asking India to repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Indian government, on its part, says the CAA is an internal Indian matter and a law adopted through democratic means.

The European Union has Seven Institutions:

  1. 1.The European Parliament,
  2. 2.The Council of the European Union,
  3. 3.The European Commission,
  4. 4.The European Council,
  5. 5.The European Central Bank,
  6. 6.The Court of Justice of the European Union
  7. 7.The European Court of Auditors.

European Parliament:

  • The European Parliament is an important forum for political debate and decision-making at the EU level.
  • It is the EU’s law-making body, and shares its power with the EU Council.
  • It is directly elected by EU voters every 5 years.
  • The European Parliament allows the citizens of the EU to participate directly in European political affairs.

What does the Parliament do?

  • The Parliament has 3 Main Roles:
  • Legislative :
      • Passing EU laws, together with the Council of the EU, based on European Commission proposals
      • Deciding on international agreements
      • Deciding on enlargements
      • Reviewing the Commission’s work programme and asking it to propose legislation.
  • Supervisory –
    • Democratic scrutiny of all EU institutions
    • Electing the Commission President and approving the Commission as a body. Possibility of voting a motion of censure, obliging the Commission to resign
    • Granting discharge, i.e. approving the way EU budgets have been spent
    • Examining citizens’ petitions and setting up inquiries
    • Discussing monetary policy with the European Central Bank
    • Questioning Commission and Council
    • Election observations
  • Budgetary:
    • Establishing the EU budget, together with the Council
    • Approving the EU’s long-term budget, the “Multiannual Financial Framework”

SOUTH ASIAN ASSOCIATION AND REGIONAL COOPERATION (SAARC) –INDIA

Context:

  • Recently our Honorable Defense Minister has mentioned, India is playing a lead role in connectivity in the South Asian region, but the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not utilised because of the behavior of a Single Country.

About SAARC:

  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
  • It is the economic and geopolitical unit presently consist of eight member countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan.
  • The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
  • Decisions at all levels are to be taken on the basis of unanimity; and bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.

SAARC Lost its Utility:

  • India has maintained that it is difficult to proceed with the SAARC initiative because of continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan,
  • The last SAARC Summit was in 2014, held in Kathmandu. In the past few years, India has been pushing for regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC umbrella.
  • It faced another setback after the 19th summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was suspended for an indefinite period, as member countries declined to participate, pointing to what they said was the absence of a Conducive Regional Environment.

Way Ahead for India:

Economic development

  • SAARC preferential trade agreement (SAPTA) needs to be revived to bring the economic prosperity in this Region.
  • India needs to give the trade concessions to member countries to make the SAPTA achieve its potential.
  • This will reduce the incidence the poverty in the region and will have the cascading effect on the other aspect of the development.

Terrorism:

  • It is a big threat to the security of the SAARC countries.
  • It diverts the resources which otherwise could have been used for other development activity.
  • Joint cooperation among these countries is required to fight against terror outfits.
  • Each country needs to ensure that they will not allow their soil to become the breeding ground for terrorism.

Energy:

  • Energy is like a blood for the development of the economy. The region has great potential to develop the renewable energy like solar, wind, tidal etc.
  • In addition to this hydro power potential is enormous in the Himalayan belt Rivers, which can be harnessed with the joint cooperation of these Countries.
  • SAARC forum can be used to resolve the water related issues among the member countries .This will contribute to the overall development of the region as water resources are critical to the development.
  • Disaster management is another area where SAARC nation can cooperate and develop a specific fund to strengthen the disaster management system.

Conclusion:

  • India needs to accept the reality that it has a troubled relation with Pakistan but it has to be open to them once they are willing to cooperate because India has investments in Afghanistan & Pakistan is a key player there.

FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE (FATF)

Context:

  • Recently the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) of The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Beijing cleared Pakistan on 14 out 27 action plans.

About FATF:

    • It is an intergovernmental body established in 1989 by the Group of Seven (G-7)countries in Paris, France. It was formed with the intention to examine and develop measures to combat money laundering.

  • It has formed 40 recommendations against money laundering and 9 special recommendations against terrorist financing, which forms the commonly known ‘40+9’ FATF Standards.It issues a list of ‘Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories’ (NCCTs), commonly called the (FATF Blacklist). These countries or territories are considered to be uncooperative in international efforts against money laundering and terrorism financing.

FATF Grey List:

  • It is a list of countries or territories with deficiencies in anti-money laundering and/or countering the financing of terrorism, for which they have developed an action plan with the FATF.

Grey List and Pakistan:

  • Pakistan was put on the grey list in 2012 after the completion of an earlier Mutual Evaluation by FATF, and therefore had to follow the action plan suggested by FATF. In 2015, it was taken off the grey list, after the FATF was satisfied with Pakistan’s measures undertaken to counter terror financing.
  • The US, UK, France and Germany, started a process at the FATF to cosponsor a motion to nominate Pakistan as a country having strategic deficiencies in countering financing of terrorism. This motion was passed in March, 2018.
  • FATF in June, 2018 placed Pakistan on the ‘grey list’ for failing to curb anti-terror financing despite after submitting a 26-point action plan to FATF.
  • The other countries on the list are Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen

Background:

  • The APG of FATF declared that Pakistan had progressed in its efforts to avoid blacklisting.
  • Pakistan was placed on the grey list in 2018 by FATF and directed to take 27-point actions with respect to terror funding and money laundering.
  • Accordingly FATF directed Pakistan to freeze the funds of 26/11 mastermind LeT, Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other Taliban-affiliated groups.
  • For Pakistan to come out of grey-list it would need an extra 12 votes in addition to continued support from China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and West Asian countries that it Already Gets.

ICJ RULING ON ROHINGYA ISSUE

Why in News?

  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has asked the government of Myanmar to immediately take all measures within its power to prevent atrocities against members of the minority Rohingya Muslim community.

Highlights:

  • The Gambia, which is predominantly Muslim, went to the ICJ in November 2019, accusing Myanmar of genocide, which is the most serious of all international crimes. The Gambia was backed by the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
  • The ruling of the court is binding on Myanmar, and cannot be appealed. However, no means are available to the court to enforce it.
  • The Gambia and Myanmar are parties to the Genocide Convention that allows a party to move the ICJ for violations. Proving genocide has been difficult because of the high bar set by its ‘intent requirement’, that is showing the genocidal acts were carried out with the specific intent to eliminate a people on the basis of their ethnicity.
  • So far, only three cases of genocide worldwide have been recognised since World War II: Cambodia (the late 1970s), Rwanda (1994), and Srebrenica, Bosnia (1995).
  • Even with the stepping in of the Security Council, there are several hurdles in enforcement of ICJ decisions. Any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers can block the enforcement of an ICJ decision against itself or its ally.

ICJ Statement:

  • Myanmar shall ensure that its military or any irregular armed units within its control, do not commit any of the acts described above, or conspire to commit, direct, attempt to commit, or be complicit in genocide.
  • Myanmar shall take “effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts” of genocide.
  • Myanmar shall submit a report to the ICJ on all measures taken to give effect to the order within four months, and thereafter every six months, until a final decision is passed.

Rohingya case:

  • An estimated 7.3 lakh Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since 2017 when the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown on Rohingya villages in the country’s coastal Rakhine state. In August 2019, the UN said the army’s action was carried out with “Genocidal Intent”.

WORLD EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL OUTLOOK -TRENDS 2020

Context:

  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recently released the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2020 (WESO) report.

About International Labour Organisation:

  • It is created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice. It became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946.
  • It is a tripartite organization, the only one of its kind bringing together representatives of governments, employers and workers in its executive bodies. It is Headquartered at Geneva in Switzerland.
  • India is a founder member of the International Labour Organization.

Key Findings of the WESO Report:

  • It analyses key labour market issues, including unemployment, labour underutilisation, working poverty, income inequality, labour income share and factors that exclude people from decent work.
    • Global Unemployment-The number of people unemployed around the world stands at some 188 million.Some 267 million young people aged 15-24 are not in employment, education or training, and many more endure substandard working condition.
    • Working Poverty-defined as earning less than USD 3.20 per day in purchasing power parity terms.It affects more than 630 million workers or one in five of the global working population.
    • Unpaid Work-over 165 million people do not have enough paid work, and 120 million have either given up actively searching for work or otherwise lack access to the labour market. Almost half a billion people are working fewer paid hours than they would like or lack adequate access to paid work.
  • Future Status of Global Unemployment- It is projected to increase by around 2.5 million in 2020. Though, global unemployment has been roughly stable for the last nine years. Moderate or extreme working poverty is expected to increase in 2020-21 in developing countries, increasing the obstacles to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1 on eradicating poverty everywhere by 2030.

Reasons for the increase in Unemployment:

  • Global Economic Slowdown- It is one of the major reasons for not creating enough new jobs to absorb new entrants to the labour market. In addition, many African countries are experiencing a drop in real incomes and a rise in poverty.
  • Rising Protectionism- A rise in trade restrictions and protectionism restricts national as well as global employment generation.
  • Decreasing Value of Human Capital- Labour underutilisation and poor-quality jobs mean our economies and societies are missing out on the potential benefits of a huge pool of human talent.
  • Inequalities- Persisting and substantial work-related inequalities (Gender, age and geographical location) and exclusion are preventing from finding decent work and better futures. These inequalities also limit both individual opportunity and economic growth.

Recommendations of the Report:

  • It suggests countries to ensure that economic growth and development occurs in a way that leads to the reduction of poverty and better working conditions.
  • It also recommends for structural transformation, technological upgrading and diversification in global as well as National Economies.

MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE

Why in News?

  • In furtherance to India’s policy of Zero Tolerance for crime and in an endeavour to fast track the dispensation of justice, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has Issued Revised Guidelines for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

Mutual Legal Assistance Guidelines:

  • They aim to enhance and streamline the process of international mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
  • By Incorporating various legal and technological developments in the recent years, it aims to make the documentation in this regard more precise and focused as well as compliant with International requirements.
  • The guidelines have also taken into account the concerns raised by various courts for prompt and timely responses in service of documents on persons residing abroad.
  • As an Initiative, the revised guidelines have provision for service of documents on authorities of foreign country preferably within 10 days of receipt of request in respect of offences committed against women and children.

Why need Mutual Legal Assistance?

  • The transnational nature of crime and digital explosion has blurred geographical boundaries for criminal activities.
  • Availability of evidence and criminals outside the Sovereign Jurisdiction of countries has necessitated the transformation of scope and nature of conventional investigation.

MLA Treaties:

India has entered into Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties/ Agreements with 42 countries and is signatory to Various International Conventions i.e. UNCAC, UNTOC etc. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the designated ‘Central Authority’ for India. Generally, assistance is sought and received in the form of Mutual Legal Assistance Requests/Letters.

GLOBAL TOBACCO EPIDEMIC- WHO REPORT

Context:

  • The World Health Organization has recently released a report which projected a powerful shift in the global tobacco epidemic.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • The Number of males using tobacco has rose from 1.050 billion in 2000 to 1.093 billion in 2018, but the report projects a decline in the number of males using tobacco.
  • Global tobacco use is declined from 1.397 billion in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018.
  • Approximately there are 43 million children, between the age 13 to 15 over the world used tobacco in 2018. The fall is largely driven by reductions in the number of females using tobacco products, with their numbers shrinking from 346 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2018, or more than 100 million users.
  • By 2020, there will be 10 million fewer tobacco users compared to 2018 and another 27 million less by 2025, amounting to 1.299 billion.
  • The number has stopped growing and is projected to decline by more than 1 million (or 1.091 billion) male users by 2020 and 5 million (or 1.087 billion) less by 2025, compared to 2018 levels.

Key findings with Regard to India:

  • Globally, the prevalence was 33.3% in 2000, and is projected to reach 20.9% in 2025.
  • The prevalence of tobacco use in India was 44% in 2000 and it is expected to reduce almost by half to 22.3% by 2025.
  • The rates of tobacco smoking in India were lower than global rate. However, the tobacco use rate in 2018 for people aged 15 years and older were higher than global rates among both males and females.

Tobacco Control Provisions:

  • It is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO.
  • It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005.It was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.
  • Governments adopt and implement the tobacco control provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
    • The FCTC’s measures to combat tobacco use Include:
    • Price and tax measures.
    • Large, graphic warnings on tobacco packages.
    • 100% smoke-free public spaces.
    • A ban on tobacco marketing.
    • Support for smokers who want to quit.
    • Prevention of tobacco industry interference.

National Tobacco Control Programme

  • The key activities undertaken under the National Tobacco Control Programme include:
    • National Level Public awareness campaigns
    • Monitoring, Evaluation and Research.
    • Advocacy and inter-sectoral linkages
    • Training and capacity building of multiple stakeholders.
    • Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act (COTPA, 2003)
    • School Awareness Programmes
    • Setting up and expansion of cessation services.
    • Recently India made mandatory with increase in size of pictorial warning of tobacco causing cancer

Tobacco Control in India:

  • The Cigarettes Act, 1975 is Largely limited to statutory warnings- ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ to be displayed on cigarette packs and advertisements. However, it did not include non-cigarettes.
  • The Prevention and Control of Pollution Act of 1981 has recognized smoking as an air pollutant. The Motor Vehicles Act 1988- Made smoking illegal in public vehicle.
  • The Cable Television Networks Amendment Act of 2000 has prohibited the transmission of advertisements on tobacco and liquor in India. Government of India has issued regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 which lay down that tobacco or nicotine cannot be used as ingredients in food products
  • The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003 has replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975 the Act also included Cigars, Bidis, Cheroots, Pipe Tobacco, Hookah, Chewing Tobacco, Pan Masala, and Gutka.

GLOBAL GENDER GAP INDEX 2020

Why in News?

  • Recently, India has been ranked 112thamong 153 countries in the Annual Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.

About Global Gender Gap Index:

  • It benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions:
  • Economic Participation and Opportunity,
  • Educational Attainment,
  • Health and Survival and
  • Political Empowerment
  • Its aims to serve as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics.
  • Its highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0(Inequality).

Key Findings of the Report:

  • Its Global Average (population-weighted) distance completed to gender parity is at 68.6%, which is an improvement since the last edition.
  • It will take 99.5 years to achieve full parity between men and women at the current rate of change.
  • Only 25% of the 35,127 seats in parliaments around the world are occupied by women, and only 21% of the 3,343 ministers are women.
  • Iceland has been topped the Global Gender Gap Index for 11 years in a row. It is almost close to 88% of its gender gap, followed by Nordic neighbours Norway, Finland and Sweden.
  • Yemen is ranked the worst (153rd), while Iraq is 152ndand Pakistan 151

Specific Findings about India:

  • India has dropped to the 112thrank from its 108th rank in the last edition. India was ranked 98th place in 2006 Report.
  • India has been ranked below countries like China (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal (101st), Brazil (92nd), Indonesia (85th) and Bangladesh (50th).
  • Performance of India in four Indicators:It has improved to 18th place on political empowerment but it has slipped to 150th on health and survival, to 149th in terms of economic participation and opportunity and to 112th place for educational attainment.

Economical finding of India:

  • India is the only country where the economic gender gap (0.354) is larger than the political gender gap (0.411).
  • India is among the countries with very low women representation on company boards (13.8%), while it was even worse in China (9.7%).

World Economic Forum:

  • It is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.
  • It was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests.

INSTEX – INSTRUMENT IN SUPPORT OF TRADE EXCHANGES

Why in News?

  • Six new Countries – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have recently joined INSTEX.
  • It was initially set up by Germany, France and Britain (E3) to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran.

What is INSTEX?

  • It is a payment mechanism being setup by the European Union to secure trade with Iran and skirt US sanctions after Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal recently.
  • Recent U.S. sanctions halted a significant portion of trade between Iran and its European partners. The above move will allow the European Union to circumvent U.S. sanctions in an effort to continue humanitarian trade with Iran.
  • It is registered at Paris with an initial 3,000 Euros in the capital and a supervisory board with members from France and Germany and chaired by the UK.
  • It is a project of the governments of France, Germany and Britain and will receive the formal endorsement of all 28 EU members.

Significance of the Move:

  • It will support legitimate European trade with Iran, focusing initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population – such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods.
  • It aims in the long term to be open to economic operators from third countries who wish to trade with Iran and the E3 continue to explore how to achieve this objective.
  • It will function under the highest international standards with regards to anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) and EU and UN sanctions compliance. In this respect, the E3 expect Iran to swiftly implement all elements of its FATF action plan.
  • This mechanism is the first concrete step by the EU to counter Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Deal.
  • The launching of INSTEX is not only a matter of Iran-EU relations but also embodies a new approach by the bloc towards US policies.
  • It “becomes an opportunity when it’s understood as an experiment and as part of a bigger project to strengthen EU economic power.

How has the US Reacted?

  • It has warned EU that any attempt to evade its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran would be subject to stiff penalties.

About “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA):

  • It is a detailed agreement with five annexes reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in July 2015.
  • The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015.
  • Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA will be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) according to certain requirements set forth in the agreement.
  • Recently, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime and subsequently did the same.

INDIA REFUSES TO INK RCEP AGREEMENT

Why in News?

  • India has decided to not join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in the recently concluded 3rd RCEP Summit at Bangkok, Thailand. It is because of the fact that India’s concerns not being addressed in the final deal.

What is RCEP?

  • RCEP is a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between ten ASEAN member states and their six FTA partners namely India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
  • RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

Objective of RCEP:

  • RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.

Significance of RCEP:

  • When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people.
  • India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.

Advantages to India through RCEP:

  • It presents a decisive platform for India which could enhance strategic and economic status in the Asia-Pacific region and can complement its Act East Policy.
  • It can augment India’s existing free trade agreements with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
  • RCEP provides a chance for India to bring in historic trade reforms, which in itself will cement India’s position as a major global economy and make Indian industry competitive.
  • It can boost India’s inward and outward foreign direct investment, particularly export-oriented FDI.
  • It would also facilitate India’s MSMEs to effectively integrate into the regional value and supply chains.
  • It can address challenges emanating from implementation concerns vis-à-vis overlapping agreements of ASEAN.
  • The RCEP would help India streamline the rules and regulations of doing trade, which will reduce trade costs.
  • India enjoys a comparative advantage in the services sector such as information and communication technology, healthcare, and education services etc. Thus, RCEP will create opportunities for Indian companies to access new markets.
  • Some of the sectors that have been identified as potential sources of India’s export growth impulses under RCEP to the tune of approximately $200 billion.
  • If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive with other RCEP members’ exports in each RCEP market, and the ensuing export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and even subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee.

Indian Concerns over signing RCEP:

  • Widening Trade Deficit: NITI Aayog held that India’s trade deficit with the ASEAN, Korea and Japan has widened post-FTAs. Thus, Tariff elimination due to RCEP could worsen the trade deficit, at $105.2 billion in 2018-19.
  • Impact on Agriculture: It threatens farm livelihoods, autonomy over seeds and also endangers the country’s self-sufficient dairy sector.
  • Services Sector: India has demanded that the ASEAN countries should open up their services sector so that Indian professionals and workers can have easier entry into their market.
  • Flooding of Chinese Imports: Almost every sector registered its apprehension that once the RCEP agreement was in place, China would harm the domestic market with its cheap exports and would also dump its products. China already has a $70 billion (approx.) trade surplus with India.
  • Decline of Customs Revenue: Since import duties are also a source of revenue for India, it could experience a disproportionate loss of customs revenue.
  • Sensitive List: Most of the RCEP countries have very high tariffs on certain products sensitive to them, such as rice, footwear, dairy products and honey, which they can continue to shield through the sensitive lists.
  • This shows that ASEAN countries are very sensitive about protecting this sector and have not offered much liberalisation even within the bloc to each-other.
  • So, in terms of enhanced market access, India would benefit relatively less from its RCEP partners than the benefits given to them by it.

Way Forward:

  • India’s entry into RCEP will strengthen its strategic weight but it may act as a double-edged sword for India.
  • The RCEP can be a stepping stone to India’s Act East Policy, but at a time of growing protectionism and the US-China trade war, opening our market to China (through RCEP) can prove to be disastrous, given the structural issues in the Indian market.
  • So India has to undergo second-generation reforms of its domestic economic policies, including those that reform its factor markets, to make its trade more competitive and export-oriented.
  • These reforms will help India better access other markets and will mitigate some of the repercussions arising from the RCEP.
  • Hence, it is important that India focuses on resolving the structural issues in the domestic market, before concluding the RCEP negotiations.

UN LAUNCHES ‘FEED OUR FUTURE’ CINEMA AD CAMPAIGN IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has joined hands with Bollywood in India and launched a cinema advertisement campaign ‘Feed Our Future’ to raise awareness and take steps against hunger and malnutrition in India.UNWFP believes that this ad campaign will help them to spread the message of zero hunger among Indians.

About ‘Feed Our Future’ campaign:

  • It is an advertising campaign launched by the World Food Program against hunger and malnutrition. The ad shows the reality that millions of people facing across the world. ‘Feed Our Future’ focuses on the urgent attention for the critical issue of hunger and malnutrition in the country.
  • The ad shows that the world has to face great loss when children’s voices are silenced due to hunger. The visual content shows the group of Syrian refugee children of the local community playing in the ruins of bombed-out buildings.

About WFP:

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
  • The WFP strives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee. The WFP is governed by an Executive Board which consists of representatives from member states.
  • WFP was established in 1961 when the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) decided to form an autonomous body for global food security in 1960. Its headquarters is located in Rome, Italy.
  • WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life.
  • The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors. WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

Why in News?

  • Venezuela was elected to UN Human Rights Council recently. Brazil and Venezuela won the two Latin American seats on the rights body that were up for grabs.

About UNHRC:

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations around the world.
  • It was established in the year 2006.
  • The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups.
  • The Regional Groupings were as follows:

1.African Group

2.Asia and the Pacific Group

3.Eastern European Group

4.Latin American and Caribbean Group

5.Western European and Others Group

  • To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority). Elections takes place through secret ballot.
  • The members are elected for a period of three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  • Members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.
  • The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.

News Regarding India:

  • India has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019 as a part of Asia- Pacific category.
  • India was among the first batch of 47 countries elected to the Council in 2006 soon after it was set up and received an initial one-year term instead of three to facilitate a rotating roster of vacancies each year.

PACIFIC SMALL ISLANDS DEVELOPING STATES (PSIDS)

Why in news?

  • PM Modi has announced a $150 million line of credit to the group of Pacific island nations for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate related projects based on their requirement.

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS):

  • The PSIDS comprises of the 14 Pacific Island countries viz. The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Small Island developing states (SIDS):

  • SIDS is a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges.
  • The challenges include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.
  • Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.
  • These countries are across the globe in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and South China Sea.

Groupings:

  • These are broken down into following three geographic regions, with each region having it’s own regional cooperation body.
    • Caribbean: The Caribbean Community
    • Pacific: The Pacific Islands Forum
    • Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS)

INDIA-CARICOM LEADERS’ MEETING

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Modi chaired a meeting with the member states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Highlights:

  • During the meet, Mr. Modi announced a USD 14 million grant for community development projects in the CARICOM.
  • He also announced another USD 150 million Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate change related projects.
  • He also declared setting up of the Regional Center for Excellence in Information Technology in Georgetown, Guyana and the Regional Vocational Training Center in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centers in these countries.
  • Leaders of 14 Caribbean countries participated in the meeting.

CARICOM:

  • CARICOM is a group of twenty developing countries in the Caribbean that have come together to form an economic and political community that works together to shape policies for the region and encourage economic growth and trade.
  • It comprises of 20 countries. Fifteen of these countries are full-fledged members of the community while five of them only retain associate member status.
  • Fulltime Members:
    • Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia ,Saint Kits and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadine, Suriname,Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Associate members:
    • Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
  • The CARICOM was formed in 1973.
  • One of CARICOM’s current goals is to establish a free-trade zone and single market for Increased Trade and Economic Growth in the region.

OIC ASKS INDIA TO REVOKE ITS ACTIONS IN KASHMIR

Context:

  • The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) asked India to “rescind” its actions in Kashmir and abide by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions following New Delhi’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Details:

  • The Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Kashmir discussed the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the state’s bifurcation into two Union Territories during a meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of UN General Assembly.
  • It also said India should allow access to Jammu and Kashmir to human rights organisations and international media to ascertain and report on the situation there.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)?

  • The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations, with the membership of 57 states, covering four continents.The OIC is the collective voice of the Muslim world to ensure and safeguard their interest on economic socio and political areas.
  • The OIC has Institutions, which implement its programmes. Its Headquarters is in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  • The OIC’s mission statement bills it as “the collective voice of the Muslim world” that works to “protect the interests of the Muslim world”. It was established by 24 member states in 1969.

Islamic Summit:

  • The Islamic Summit includes Kings, Heads of State and the Governments of Member States, and is the OIC’s supreme authority.
  • It convenes once every three years to deliberate, take policy decisions, provide guidance on issues pertaining to the realization of objectives and consider other issues of concern to Member States and the Ummah.

Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM)

  • The Council of Foreign Ministers meets once a year and considers the means for the implementation of the OIC’s general policy by adopting decisions and resolutions on matters of common interest in the implementation of the OIC’s objectives and general policy, and reviewing progress in the implementation of decisions and resolutions adopted at previous Islamic Summits and Councils of Foreign Ministers. The CFM considers and approves the programme.

Why Was the OIC Established?

  • The OIC first met in Morocco in September 1969, a month after an arson attack inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque that destroyed part of the roof and the 800-year-old pulpit of Salahuddin, best known for recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century.
  • Reacting to the incident, representatives from 24 Muslim countries met in the capital Rabat to establish a body that would promote cooperation across the Muslim world.
  • In March 1970, the first Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and plans for setting up a permanent secretariat for the OIC were established.
  • Issues relating to Palestine have been central to the OIC’s agenda and summit discussions. The organisation has continuously condemned what member states consider Israeli aggressions against the Palestinians.
  • Other issues that have also taken centre stage in OIC summits include the wars in Bosnia and Iraq, a rise in the number of refugees from Muslim-majority countries such as Syria, as well as Islamophobia in the West.

Objectives and Role:

  • According to its charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic values, safeguard and defend the national sovereignty and independence of member states and to contribute to international peace and security.
  • While the organisation has been known for its cultural and social projects, its political influence has been relatively limited.
  • “Typically, in the past, the OIC has been effective in promoting cultural and educational projects across the Muslim world,”. “However, its political capabilities remain severely limited.”
  • The OIC has relative political weight, its rhetoric does not always translate into action on the ground.
  • “With 57 member states… the OIC carries a [relatively] heavy political weight… [and] impact. But how much change that makes on the ground is not always clear,”.
  • Adding to its political limitations is its inability to unify its stance on issues, say experts.
  • “Like other international organisations, such as the UN General Assembly, the OIC is supposed to have a unified voice but it does not because policies of the individual countries greatly differ,”
  • “Most importantly, the OIC doesn’t have a unified voice because most of its member countries are not democracies. So, while their populations may be in agreement [over an issue] they do not always represent the views of their populations.”

Members of OIC:

  • Today, with 57 member states from four continents, the OIC is the second-largest intergovernmental organisation in the world after the United Nations, with a collective population reaching over 1.8 billion.
  • The majority of its member states are Muslim-majority countries, while others have significant Muslim populations, including several African and South American countries.
  • While the 22 members of the Arab League are also part of the OIC, the organisation has several significant non-Arab member states, including Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
  • It also has five observer members, including Russia and Thailand.
  • The organisation has permanent delegations to the UN and the European Union and its official languages are Arabic, English and French.

Is the OIC relevant and effective?

  • Like other intergovernmental organisations, although resolutions issued by the OIC are not usually followed by action, statements usually point towards member states’ “red lines” that they cannot cross.
  • Because the OIC includes a significant number of Arab states among its membership, it has often been compared with the Arab League.
  • While the two organisations share many similarities, the main difference lies in the OIC’s limited politicisation compared with the Arab League.
  • “The Arab League is more of a political entity than the OIC given the close proximity of its members and the, often joint, threat that the countries have had to face in the past,”

INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA) resulting from mediation by the Republic of India scheduled to be held at Singapore

Highlights:

  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (“the Convention”) in 2018.
  • The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation.
  • The Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion, refuse to grant relief. Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
  • Signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors and shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Initiatives to promote ADR Mechanisms:

  • In order to encourage international commercial arbitration in India, to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration the Government is establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) as a statutory body.
  • The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, has been further amended and legislative exercise to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is currently underway.
  • These initiatives are being taken with a view to encourage the settlement of commercial disputes, domestic and international, in India through ADR Mechanism of Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation.
  • A new Chapter (IIIA) has been inserted in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, for mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement in certain category of cases.
  • Therefore, the provisions of the ‘Convention’ are in line with the domestic laws and the efforts made to strengthen Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.

MEETING OF BRICS MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Why in News?

  • The BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting took place on 26th July 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Highlights:

  • India was represented by Gen (retd) VK Singh who at the meeting who is the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways.
  • A common understanding was made to further deepen BRICS three-pillar-driven cooperation in the areas of security, peace, economy and people-to-people exchanges.
  • Reaffirmation to the commitment to upholding the international law was made along with advance sustainable development and protection of human rights and freedom.
  • They decided to make a dedicated effort to prevent the financing of terrorist networks and condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • BRICS is an informal grouping of five major emerging national economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa formed in 2006.
  • Originally the first four countries were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”), and after the induction of South Africa in 2010 it became BRICS. BRICS countries represent 41% of the global population and contribute about 23% of the gross world product.

U.S.A. GRANTS INDIA NON-NATO ALLY STATUS

  • Context: Recently U.S. Senate has passed a legislative provision (under The National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA) that brings India at par with America’s NATO allies.

About NATO:

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries.
  • The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed in April 1949.
  • NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
  • NATO’s Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
    Montenegro is the latest country to join the alliance in 2017.

What Is Non-NATO Ally Status?

  • It is a designation given by the United States government to close allies that have strategic working relationships with the US Armed Forces but are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • While the status does not automatically include a mutual defense pact with the United States, it still confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO countries.

Significance for India:

  • The move brings India on par with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and countries such as Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation.
  • Increased cooperation between the United States and India in the areas of humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and maritime security in the Indian Ocean.

Prior Moves by USA:

  • Trump administration had granted Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status to India, which is largely accorded to NATO allies. The move identified India’s growing status as a US defence partner.
  • In 2016, India was recognised as a “Major Defence Partner” by the United States. This allowed India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies that is on par with that of US’ closest allies and partners.

PARIS PACT INITIATIVE


Why in News?

  • The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance is hosting a Meeting of Expert Working Group on Paris Pact Initiative on Illicit Financial Flows deriving from the trafficking of Opiates originating in Afghanistan. The Meeting is being organised with the support of United Nations Office on Drugs & Crimes (UNODC).

Paris Pact Initiative:

  • A partnership of more than 80 countries and international organizations, the Paris Pact Initiative is one of the most important frameworks in the fight against opiates originating in Afghanistan.
  • The Initiative dates back to a meeting titled the Ministerial Conference on Drug Routes from Central Asia to Europe that was held in Paris on 22 May 2003. The participants of the meeting adopted the so-called “Paris Statement”, later followed by the Moscow Declaration and the Vienna Declaration.
  • Under the ambit of UNODC, Paris Pact Initiative has addressed the issue of drug problem related to opiates originating in Afghanistan, both at policy and implementation level.
  • It has provided the platform for the Member Countries and International Organizations to coordinate and combat the trafficking and consumption of opiates on the principle of common and shared responsibility.
  • Illicit traffic in opiates, including heroin, is a growing problem, generating illicit financial flows, fuelling corruption, and organized crime and in some cases funding terrorist activities and insurgency.

Rainbow Strategy:

  • Under the guidance of the UNODC over the years the of the Paris Pact Initiavite adopted seven action outlines that in 2007 were collectively termed “the Rainbow Strategy”. The strategy consists of:
  • The Blue Paper: Afghanistan’s Opium Poppy Free Road Map and Provincial Profiles
  • The Green Paper: Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan: Border Management Cooperation and Drug Control
  • The Yellow Paper: Securing Central Asia’s borders with Afghanistan
  • The Violet Paper: The Caspian Sea and Turkmen border initiatives
  • The Red Paper: Targeting precursors used in heroin manufacture: operation TARCET
  • The Orange Paper: Financial flows linked to Afghan opiates production and trafficking
  • The Indigo Paper: Preventing and Treating Opiates Addiction and HIV/AIDS epidemics in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries

QS World University Ranking 2020: IIT Bombay tops among Indian Institutions

  • MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has made a history by topping the 2020 QS World University Rankings for the eighth consecutive year.
  • Stanford University, Harvard University and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) — all retain their positions at second, third and fourth in the world, respectively.
  • Only three Indian institutes — IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IISc-Bangalore making it to top 200 in 2020 QS World University Rankings.
  • The  Indian  Institute  of  Technology,  Bombay  (IIT-Bombay),  has  emerged  as  India’s  best institution   in   the   Quacquarelli   Symonds   (QS)   World   University   Ranking   2020.   IIT Bombay which was at 162nd rank last year has moved up to 152nd rank.
  • IIT-Delhi has bagged 182th position and IISc Bangalore has secured 184th rank.

IIIDEM (ECI) organises capacity building program on Electoral Technology

  • India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) (ECI) organized a five-day training program
  • The program on Use of Technology in Elections for Election Officials of Union Election Commission of Myanmar.
  • The  Capacity   Building  Programs  on  Electoral   technology  is  the  7th  program  of   09 programs scheduled across 2018-2019.
  • Election Commissioner of India Sushil Chandra shared the need of sharing best practices of Elections among Election Management Bodies
  • Their aim is to strengthen the democracy around the world and create transparency

Background:

  • India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) conducted training on Election Management of SAARC Countries.
  • It is conducted by Election Commission of India (ECI) and sponsored by the Union Ministry of External Affairs.

UN CONVENTION ON HATE SPEECH

  • United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the CERD) conducts discussion on “Hate Speech” in the context of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention) to enhance understanding of the causes and consequences of racist hate speech.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights both prohibits discrimination and protects freedom of expression. It is well-established in international human rights law that the right to freedom of expression, though not absolute, is a fundamental right which may only be restricted in certain limited circumstances.
  • The conditions in which restrictions are allowed are set out in Article 19(3) and 20 of the International   Covenant   on   Civil   and   Political   Rights   (ICCPR),   as   well   as numerous regional treaties also ratified by many States parties to the Convention.

G 20 NATIONS

  • It  is  an  international  grouping  that  consists  of  central  bank  governors  and  government representatives of 19 countries and the EU.
  • The  nations  consist  of  90%  of  world’s  GDP,  80%  of  world  trade  and  2/3rd  of  world’s population.
  • It is an initiative of the World Bank, IMF and the WTO.
  • The G20 summit this is scheduled to take place in Osaka in Japan on June 28-29. Ahead of this, the G20 Environmental Ministers met near Karuizawa, Japan.

Outcome:

  • Adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.
  • It had earlier adopted G20 action plan on marine litter in 2017 at Hamburg Summit.
  • It is to follow a life cycle approach to prevent and reduce plastic waste litter discharge into oceans. The countries will share best practices, promote innovation, and boost scientific research and analytical methodologies.
  • Japan   will   host   the   first   meeting   under   the   framework   during   the   G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue.

SCO SUMMIT

What is SCO?

  • Shanghai Cooperation Agreement is otherwise known as SCO.
  • It is an intergovernmental international organization founded in 15 June 2001 at Shanghai, China.
  • Founding Members: Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan, Russia, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.
  • India and Pakistan were granted full member status in the organization in 2017.
  • The Heads of the State Council (also known as HSC) is the supreme decision-making body.
  • It meets once in a year.
  • Official languages: Russian and Chinese.
  • Apart from the HSC, The Heads of Government Council meets once in a year to approve the budget, multilateral cooperation strategy, priority areas and other issues.
  • RATS: Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. It is a part of SCO. All the members of SCO are also members of RATS. It supports coordination and cooperation of competent bodies of SCO’s members states to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.

SCO Summit 2019:

  • Location: Bishkek, Kyrgystan

India’s stand:

  • Indian delegation to the summit headed by the Prime Minister openly criticized trade protectionism and unilateralism in the global economy.
  • Trade protectionism: It refers to government actions and policies that restrict or restrain international trade often adopted to protect the interest of its domestic market. Recently,U.S President Donald Trump had taken up policies towards protectionism. This embarked protests from China and other nations across the globe. Unilateralism: It refers to trade policies adopted by a country without any regard for other nations. Such a policy would only benefit the nation adopting it. For example, imposition of tariffs, trade restrictions etc. Recently, both U.S and China imposed high tariffs on others’ products.
  • Bishkek Declaration: Stressed on the importance of deepening cooperation to build a transparent and stable environment.

WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOUR

Why in News:

  • The World Day Against Child Labour will be observed on 12 June to raise awareness about the plight of child labourers worldwide.

More in News:

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.
  • Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.

ILO defines child labour as:

  • “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”.
  • In 2019, the International Labour Organization celebrates 100 years of advancing social justice and promoting decent work. The World Day Against Child Labour looks back on progress achieved over a 100 years of ILO support to countries on tackling child labour.
  • One of the first Conventions adopted by the ILO was on Minimum Age in Industry
  • This year also marks 20 years since the adoption of the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
  • The theme for 2019: Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams
  • SDG target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to:
  • “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”
    Child Labour and India
  • Although comprehensive data on child labour are not available for India, as per the 2011 Census, in the age group 5-14 years, 10.1 million of 259.6 million constituted working children.
  • Even though there was a decline in the number of working children to 3.9% in 2011 from 5% in 2001, the decline rate is grossly insufficient to meet target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),which is to end child labour in all forms by 2025.
  • 12% of all children in India are engaged in some form of child labour, according to data released by UNICEF in 2017.
  • Indian government introduced laws to curb this atrocity. For example,
  • The Child Labour Act in 1986 was the first large-scale prohibition against child labour, and A 2009 law called the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act tightened the child labour laws by guaranteeing free education for children under the age of 14.
  • National Child Labour project, which is a rehabilitative scheme providing bridge education and vocational training to adolescents.On World Day Against Child Labour (June 12) in 2017, India ratified two core conventions of the International Labour Organization on child labour. Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138): India is the 170th ILO member State to ratify Convention No.138. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182): India is 181st member State to ratify Convention No. 182.

Steps India could take to Eliminate Child Labour:

  • Strengthen policy and legislative enforcement
  • Build the capacities of government, workers’ and employers’ organisations as well as other partners at national, State and community levels.
  • India should invest in enhancing its body of knowledge on child labour, emphasising quantitative information.
  • There are many common factors and drivers across the spectrum that push children into the labour market. These have to be addressed. Such factors and drivers can only be identified and analysed through proper research, surveys and assessments.
  • Utilise private sector to eliminate child labour from its domestic and multinational supply chains. It is also a matter of competitive advantage for multi-nationals to ensure that child labour is effectively eliminated in their supply chains. A sector-wide culture of child labour-free businesses has to be nurtured.

ST. PETERSBURG CONSENSUS: ON RUSSIA-CHINA BONHOMIE

Why in News:

  • President Xi Jinping high-profile three-day state visit to the St. Petersburg consensus International Economic Forum last week include some panda diplomacy and underscore the strengthening Beijing-Moscow axis at a time when relations for both with the US continue to fray.

Background: / More in News

  • In St. Petersburg Mr Xi and Mr Putin emphasised that bilateral relations were at a historic high, marked by increased diplomatic and strategic cooperation.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping made it clear in St. Petersburg that the tensions with the West had only drawn them closer.
  • Russia’s annual investment gathering was boycotted by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman. His absence was ascribed to the prevailing environment in Russia for foreign entrepreneurs, typified by the detention of U.S. private equity investor Michael Calvey on allegations of fraud.

China and Russia in Recent Time:

  • Trade between Russia and China grew almost 25 per cent last year, reaching $108 billion
  • —  finally  breaking  the  $100  billion  milestones  sought  for  years,  even  if  partly  based  on higher oil prices. In advance of the forum, Huawei signed a deal with MTS, Russia’s largest telecoms  operator,  to  develop  5G  technologies  and  launch  a  fifth-generation  network  in Russia.  The  deal  comes  as  Huawei,  one  of  China’s  most  important  companies,  is  at  the centre  of  an  escalating  trade  war  between  Beijing  and  Washington.  China  participated in Russian  military  exercises on  its eastern  border last  September, marking  a watershed. Moscow and Beijing have been adopting common positions at the UN Security Councilon critical international issues. Both sides have a keen interest in developing the Arctic, where Russia hopes Chinese money and demand will replace the West in developing oil and gas fields. Russia eventually expects that global warming will open up a competitive sea route to Asia through the Arctic, with China being a prime market.

Impact of China Russia Ties:

  • Chinese cooperation would prove critical for Russia’s elaborate plans to exploit the
  • Northern Sea Route along the Arctic as an alternative transportation hub. Give a boost to china’s Belt and Road initiative.

Challenges:

  • China’s  Belt  and  Road  initiative  will  overshadow  Russia’s  historical  control  over  Central Asia  since  Moscow  cannot  compete  economically.  But  it  hopes  China  will  continue  to accept a major Russian role in security for the region, once part of the Soviet Union. Russia and  China  share  a  common  goal  in  hoping  to  exclude  the  United  States.  St.  Petersburg International  Economic Forum. It  is an annual  Russian business  event  for the economic sector,  which  has  been  held  in  St.  Petersburg  since  1997,  and  under  the  auspices  of  the Russian President since 2005. The key purpose of the Forum is to provide a practical tool for  business, helping  to  overcome  the  barriers,  both  geographical  and  informational, dividing  Russia  and  other  countries.  The  Forum  brings  together  the  chief  executives  of major  Russian  and   international  companies,  heads   of   state,  political  leaders,  prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, departmental ministers, and governors.

WHY LAKHS ARE PROTESTING ON THE STREETS IN HONG KONG

Why in News:

  • Hundreds of thousands of people protest in Hong kong against the government’s extradition bill.

More in News:

  • The protesters were marching against proposed changes in the law that would allow suspects accused of crimes such as murder and rape to be extradited to mainland China to face trial. Carrie Lam, who became Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017 as the candidate favoured by Beijing, is pushing for the amendments to be passed this month.
  • Once the law is changed, Hong Kong will also handover to China individuals accused of crimes in Taiwan and Macau.
  • Taiwan has a tense relationship with China;
  • Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Chinese special administrative region with significant autonomy.

China Argument:

  • The government has said that the proposed amendments would “plug loopholes” that
    allow the city to be used by criminals.
  • It has assured that courts in Hong Kong would make the final decision on extradition, that only certain categories of suspects would be liable, and that individuals accused of political and religious offences would not be extradited.

Protesters’ Concerns:

  • China may use the changed law to target political opponents in Hong Kong.
  • Critics point to China’s flawed justice system and say extradited suspects would likely face
    torture.
  • Change in the law will deal another blow to Hong Kong’s already crumbling autonomy. Global Response. Human Rights Watch and the International Chamber of Commerce have warned against changing the law.
  • A body of the US Congress has said it would make Hong Kong vulnerable to Chinese “political coercion”, UK and Canada have expressed concern over the potential impact on their citizens in Hong Kong. European Union has issued a formal diplomatic protest note.

EMERGING SIGNIFICANCE OF BIMSTEC

Why in News:

  • Leaders from the BIMSTEC, Kyrgyz Republic and Mauritius are invited for the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister.
  • In this context, here is an overview on the role and significance of BIMSTEC in India.

What do these imply?

  • BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) -The invite signals a major outreach to India’s neighbourhood in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Last time, the PM had invited the SAARC leaders.
  • The then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s attendance had raised hopes of a new beginning in the bilateral ties.
  • This time, SAARC’s exclusion is clearly aimed at keeping Pakistan out of New Delhi’s engagement with its neighbours.
  • Kyrgyzstan – By inviting the Kyrgyz Republic leader, India is displaying an outreach to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • India became a member in SCO along with Pakistan in 2017.
  • India thus wants to leverage its membership to advance its strategic objectives in Central Asia.
  • Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth is one of the most well-placed People of Indian Origin in the world.
  • Since Indian PM has invested diplomatic capital in outreach to the Indian diaspora since 2014, this invite is seen as a natural choice.

Why is BIMSTEC so significant?

  • BIMSTEC comprises of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan, besides India.
  • New Delhi’s engagement with BIMSTEC rose from the ashes of SAARC (India, Pakistan,Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, and Afghanistan).
  • In October 2016, following the Uri attack, India gave a renewed push for BIMSTEC, although it had existed for almost two decades.
  • India had long felt that the vast potential of SAARC was being under-utilised.
  • Opportunities were being lost due to either a lack of response and/or an obstructionist approach from Pakistan.
  • So BIMSTEC had emerged as an alternative regional platform.
  • With 5 five countries from SAARC and two from ASEAN, BIMSTEC is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • It thus offers scope for discussions on sub-regional cooperation.
  • Nevertheless, SAARC summit has only been postponed, and not cancelled.
  • The possibility of revival remains, and so, the success of BIMSTEC does not render SAARC pointless.

Why the Region Matters?

  • The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world.
  • Over one-fifth (22%) of the world’s population live in the seven countries around it.
  • These countries have a combined GDP of close to $2.7 trillion.
  • Despite economic challenges, they have been able to sustain average annual economic growth rates of 3.4% – 7.5% from 2012 to 2016.
  • The Bay also has vast untapped natural resources.
  • One-fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the Bay every year.

How could India benefit?

  • As the region’s largest economy, India has a lot at stake in BIMSTEC.
  • It is a natural platform to fulfil India’s key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’. A key reason for India’s engagement is the vast potential that is unlocked with stronger connectivity. About 45 million people live in landlocked North-eastern states.
  • They will have the opportunity to connect via the Bay of Bengal to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. This opens up new possibilities in terms of development.
  • From the strategic perspective, the Bay of Bengal is a funnel to the Malacca straits.
  • In this context, the Bay has emerged a key theatre for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.
  • Given these, it is in India’s interest to consolidate its internal engagement among the BIMSTEC countries. The BIMSTEC invite is an effort to reach out diplomatically to the neighbourhood, diaspora and the China-Russia-led regional grouping of Central Asian countries. The future course of the move depends on the progress New Delhi makes with these groupings.

BIMSTEC HEADS INVITED TO PM’S SWEARING-IN

Why in News:

  • India has invited several heads of state, including those from the Bay of Bengal community (BIMSTEC) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

Details:

  • Government of India has invited the leaders of the BIMSTEC Member States for the swearing-in ceremony. This is the government’s focus on it’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy”. According to the information, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is not on the list of invitees and President of the Maldives is also not among the invitees.

Background: / BIMSTEC

  • Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a sub-regional grouping involving seven countries in South Asia and South East Asia.
  • The BIMSTEC states are those which are on the shore or are adjacent to the Bay of Bengal and are dependent on it.
  • They are Thailand, Myanmar,Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India.
  • The international organization was formed on 6th of June 1997, through the Bangkok declaration and is headquartered at Dhaka in Bangladesh.
  • It mainly aims to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development, accelerate social progress, and promote collaboration on matters of common interest in the region. Bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
  • Platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • Initially, it was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • It became renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ in 1997, following the inclusion of Myanmar.
  • With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan in 2004, the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

Objectives:

  • Creating an enabling environment for the rapid economic development of the sub-region. Encouraging the spirit of equality and partnership.
  • Promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in the areas of common interests of the member countries
  • Accelerating support for each other in the fields of education, science, and technology.
  • The first meeting of National Security Chiefs of BIMSTEC:
  • The first meeting of National Security Chiefs of BIMSTEC member states was hosted by India in New Delhi on the 21st of March 2017.
  • The meeting was aimed at discussing the common security challenges faced by the member countries. The necessity of addressing traditional and non-traditional security challenges to harness human security in the region was underlined, as security cooperation among the member nations is very important in achieving the objectives of the organization.
  • The Importance of maritime security was emphasized. The member states put forth their views to further strengthen the maritime security cooperation including Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
  • An agreement was reached to arrive at collective strategies recognizing Bay of Bengal as a common security space.
  • Urgent need for measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization through coordination in law enforcement, security organizations and capacity building were also discussed in the meeting.

Significance for India

Allows India to pursue three core policies:

  • Neighbourhood First – primacy to the country’s immediate periphery;
  • Act East – connect India with Southeast Asia; and
  • Economic development of India’s north-eastern states – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • Allows India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative. A new platform for India to engage with its neighbours with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) becoming dysfunctional because of differences between India and Pakistan.

‘NEW DEAL’ TO BREAK BREXIT DEADLOCK

Why in News:

  • A “new deal” for Britain’s departure from the EU, offering sweeteners to opposition parties in her fourth attempt to break an impasse in Parliament over Brexit.

Background:

  • Three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and almost two months after the planned departure date, Ms. May is mounting a last bid to try to get the deeply divided Parliament’s backing for a divorce deal, to leave office with some kind of legacy.

What is the issue:

  • “Republic of Ireland” is an independent country that is an EU member, while “Northern Ireland” is an autonomous territory within the UK.
  • The UK and Ireland are currently part of the EU single market and customs union. So products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards.
  • But after Brexit, the two parts of Ireland could be in different customs and regulatory regimes, which could mean products being checked at the border.
  • The UK government does not want this to happen and the EU also does not want any hardening of the border. However, the current Brexit provisions, which include leaving the customs union and the single market, make this very difficult.
  • In this backdrop, the backstop is an arrangement to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland. The arrangement allows the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is only in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

What are the challenges ahead?

  • The EU is less likely to ensure that the backstop will not indefinitely lock Britain into a customs union with the EU.
  • But that would necessarily limit London’s freedom to make trade deals with third states.
  • Logically, Brexit supporters oppose this, whose prime motive is to regain sovereignty. Besides, deep differences persist within the Conservative and Labour parties on the terms of exit they must obtain from Brussels.
  • There is also increasing clamour for a second referendum from remainers in the two parties.
  • These groups view the uncertainty as symptomatic of a flawed Brexit project.
  • They say the citizens should be enabled to make a more informed decision, given the mounting evidence on the economic impact of Brexit.
  • But this view had, nevertheless, to be balanced with the consideration that the majority of MPs have resolved to respect the June 2016 referendum.
  • In any case, a reversal of the 2016 Brexit result is not a guaranteed outcome.
  • Given all these, an extension of the exit date seems the least controversial among many other alternatives for Ms. May for now.

YEMEN’S WOES

Why in News?

  • Renewed clashes broke out between Houthi rebel fighters and Saudi-backed pro- government forces in Yemen.

What is the recent happening?

  • The tussle in Yemen is essentially between Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels loyal to the former President and the forces loyal to the current government.
  • The two factions claim to constitute the Yemeni government.
  • Following the December 2018 ceasefire agreement,
    Houthi rebels were withdrawing from three of Yemen’s
    ports. But while the withdrawal was under way, Houthis, who are reportedly getting support from Iran, allegedly carried out a drone attack on a Saudi pipeline.
  • In retaliation, Riyadh launched airstrikes on Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen controlled by the rebels. The attack killed at least six civilians, including children.
  • Yemen now risks falling back to the pre-ceasefire days of conflict. Fighting is broken out in parts of the government-controlled south too.

How has Saudi’s role been?

  • Saudi Arabia started its Yemen military campaign in March 2015 with the goal of driving Houthis out of territories they captured.
  • Four years of war have devastated the country of Yemen. According to the UN, at least 7,000 civilians have been killed.
  • Thousands of others have died due to disease, poor health care and malnutrition.
  • The blockade Saudi Arabia imposed on Yemen steadily worsened its hunger problem and health-care crisis, and is now on the brink of a famine.
  • Even when the ceasefire was holding, the Saudis did not halt bombing Yemen.
  • Saudi Arabia appears to be frustrated that it is not able to defeat the Houthis even after years of heavy bombing. The Houthis, on their part, continue to provoke the Saudis through cross-border rocket and drone attacks, both affecting the Yemenis severely.

Why is the recent attack so dangerous?

  • The resumption of hostilities is more dangerous in the regional angle.
  • Tensions are already on the rise in West Asia over the U.S.-Iran standoff.
  • The U.S. had earlier warned against possible attacks by either Iran or Iran-backed militias against American interests or its allies in the region.
  • U.S. has also deployed an aircraft carrier and a bomber squad to the Gulf.
  • Immediately after the pipeline was attacked, the Saudis blamed Iran for ordering it.
  • Both Iran and the Houthis have refuted this allegation.
  • Whatever the case be, the incident and subsequent Saudi airstrikes show how the Yemeni conflict is entangled with the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

What is the way forward?

  • Moving ahead, the Hodeida model should be replicated elsewhere in Yemen.
  • Hodeidah is the city wherefrom Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed on the first phase of a withdrawal. The ceasefire took effect in this Red Sea port city and both the rebels and government forces showed compliance till the rebels pulled out recently.
  • It is only safe if the parties to the conflict continue talks under international mediation.
  • For this to be achieved, the Houthis should decouple themselves from the regional politics.
  • They should stay focussed on resolving differences with the government and rebuilding the war-torn country. Importantly, Saudi Arabia should get out of Yemen.

INDIA CUTS OFF UN PANEL AFTER JAMMU & KASHMIR REPORT

Why in News:

  • The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently published its first ever report on Jammu and Kashmir including PoK. India reacted angrily to a submission from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) on the alleged violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Details:

  • This report has opened up controversies over the territory dispute between India and Pakistan. This report has been in production since 2016, after a new wave of violence hit the Kashmir Valley. India had also rejected the OHCHR’s report on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir’ the first-ever such report on Jammu and Kashmir and accused the High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of “clear bias” in bringing it out.

Controversies in the report:

  • The report has criticised India on how it handled the protests and extra judicial killings, using hard tactics. The report has also used less harsh terms such as armed group and leader of armed group, instead of militant group and terrorist as regarded by the Indian Security Forces. The report has also recommended removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for its alleged human rights violations.

Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir:

  • The act was brought into effect in 1978, primarily to adopt a tough measure against timber smuggling in the state. It was much later that the act was frequently used to control militancy-related incidents.
  • Under this act, the government can declare any area as ‘protected’ and exercise authority to regulate entry of any citizen in the protected area. Attempts to forcefully enter the designated areas invite prosecution.
  • The Public Safety Act gives Jammu & Kashmir government the power to detain anyone who
    acts “in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
  • An individual faces the risk of being detained if he or she is found “promoting, propagating, or attempting to create feelings of enmity or hatred or disharmony on grounds of religion, race, caste and community”. This detention without trial happens under the pretext of maintaining public order.

Amendments made to Public Safety Act

  • Pre-trial detention period was reduced from two years to six months.
  • The provision for detention of individuals “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public law” was made less stringent.
  • It introduced the rule that minors (below the age of 18) cannot be detained under the PSA.

Article 370

  • Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370. All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.

Important provisions under the article:

  • Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state.
  • It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression. The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
  • Under Article 370, the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state. The power to make laws related to preventive detention in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Legislature of J & K and not the Indian Parliament. Thus, no preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.

TRUMP WARNS IRAN OF ITS ‘OFFICIAL END’

Why in News:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump warned he would destroy Iran if it threatens the U.S

Details:

  • Tensions between the long-time foes resumed when the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an international deal aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for stopping crippling sanctions against the country.
  • The U.S. had already ordered non-essential staff out of Iraq and the White House had announced that it was sending an aircraft carrier and bombers to West Asia.

Softer Approach:

  • However, Mr. Trump appeared to adopt a softer approach
  • Mr. Trump denied a New York Times report that his administration was planning to send 1,20,000 troops to West Asia if conditions deteriorated but at the same time, he said he would send “a hell of a lot” more than 1,20,000 troops if need be. Saudi Arabia called for emergency regional talks to discuss the Gulf tensions. King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences”.

What should be India’s Response:

  • India must consider not only its own interests in terms of its ties with Iran and with the U.S. and its allies, but also its position as a regional power.
  • Indian oil importers have already stopped placing orders for Iranian oil in compliance with the U.S. diktat on “zeroing out” imports. India had been importing about 10% of its oil requirements from Iran, and the losses in terms of finding alternative suppliers in the face of rising oil prices are piling up. Instead of being a mute spectator to the crisis that is building for India’s energy bill as well as for regional stability, New Delhi must take the challenge head-on.
  • One immediate priority is to work more closely with European countries in ensuring that Iran does not feel compelled to walk out of the nuclear deal, and to jointly build a sanctions-immune financial infrastructure to facilitate Iranian trade.
  • It is necessary that the countries affected in the region meet urgently, as well as unitedly express concerns over a possible U.S.-Iran clash.

MAY TO MAKE ‘NEW, BOLD’ BREXIT OFFER

Why in News:

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said she will present a “new, bold offer” to lawmakers with “an improved package of measures” in a final attempt to get the Brexit divorce deal through Parliament before she leaves office.

Details:

  • After failing three times to get Parliament’s approval for her deal, the government will now put the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, legislation which will enact that deal, before Parliament.
  • When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures

BREXIT

  • Brexit is a term used to define United Kingdom coming out of EU
  • Negotiations are undergoing currently between United Kingdom and European Parliament to negotiate the terms of the exit deal.

Constitutional Provision of Brexit:

  • Lisbon Treaty (Article 50) provides for exit of member countries from European Union. For any country to come out of European Union, it has to negotiate a deal with EU. The deal will provide for a settlement between EU and UK

On India

  • While on the positive side, Brexit has driven away fears of a US Fed rate hike and could lead to lower commodity prices. Brexit has become a new worry for commodity producers, coming on top of concerns about China’s slowing economic growth.
  • If news flows from both these sources continue to cloud the outlook for commodities, then prices may turn weak. Brexit’s impact will then be a fateful one for commodity producers and producing nations. Devaluation of rupee might enhance India’s export competitiveness

BREXIT BILL TO BE TABLED BEFORE MPS IN JUNE

Why in News?

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May is set for a new political showdown in Parliament as MPs across the political spectrum expressed their intention to oppose her Brexit plans, when she attempts to gain their support through legislation set to be put to MPs in early June.

Details:

  • On Tuesday evening, following the latest instalment of cross-party talks with the Labour Party, The Prime Minister plans to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing June 3, thereby setting a tangible deadline for the talks that have continued with little outcome so far.
  • The date of early June has been set to enable the U.K. to leave the European Union (EU) before the start of the summer recess were the legislation to pass.

What is Brexit?

  • It is the abbreviation of “British Exit” from the European Union (EU).
  • Brexit mirrors the term Grexit — a term which was coined and used by two Citigroup’s economists in February 2012 to refer to the possible exit of Greece from the EU.
  • Britain has had a troubled relationship with the EU since the beginning and has made various attempts in the past to break away from it.

Why the ‘Leave EU’ campaign?

  • The Leave Campaign argues that Britain is losing out a big deal by staying in the EU.
  • It has to pay millions of pounds each week as a contribution to the European budget.
  • The extremely bureaucratic nature of the European parliament is hurting British exporters
  • Migration from the European Union into Britain (mainly PIGS economies) is creating an imbalance in the welfare schemes of the UK government.
  • But those who oppose the campaign say that Britain is a net gainer if She stays in the EU.

Negative Impacts of the Brexit referendum on India

  • India will have to adjust to changing world order.
  • There may be foreign fund outflow and dollar rise.
  • Rupee may depreciate because of the double effect of foreign fund outflow and dollar rise.
  • This may increase petrol and diesel prices to an extent.
  • The government then may want to reduce additional excise duty imposed on fuel when it was on a downward trajectory. This may increase fiscal deficit unless revenue increased.
  • Prices of gold, electronic goods, among others may also increase.

Positive Impacts of the Brexit referendum on India

  • There are many who think a weakening British currency might be good news.
  • India being more of an importing country than an exporting nation, the overall effect may turn out positive for India (if the dollar doesn’t’t appreciate much against rupee).
  • With lower pound value, Indian companies may be able to acquire many hi-tech assets.
  • As investors look around the world for safe havens in these turbulent times, India stands out both in terms of stability and of growth.
  • Brexit might give a boost to trade ties between India and the UK. Britain will now be free to discuss a bilateral trade pact with India.
  • Due to the fall in the value of Pound sterling, those who import from the UK will gain. Indian export companies operating in the UK may also gain.

India ready to handle the Brexit?

  • The finance ministry said that the country has sufficient foreign exchange reserves to handle any impact. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said the central bank will infuse whatever liquidity is needed into the Indian market to keep it “well behaved”. SEBI and stock exchanges have beefed up their surveillance mechanism to deal with any excessive volatility. If exports to the UK are costly and imports are cheaper, India can think of utilizing the import-advantage by reversing the present trade scenario. Once the dust settles, India may be seen to be a net gainer and inflows would continue to gravitate towards the Indian shores.

AT WTO, INDIA FOR ‘UNBIASED’ ASSESSMENT OF TRADE POLICIES

Why in News?

  • India is trying to rally the support of other developing countries in the World Trade
    Organisation to reform the “biased” system of assessing a country’s services trade policies, according to an official closely associated with the development.

Details:

  • The existing system, developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has significant quantitative and qualitative flaws. Further, it is biased towards developed countries.
  • The study also found that the OECD method resulted in several counter-intuitive results as compared with the real policies implemented by the countries in question, such as ranking India very high in terms of restrictiveness.
  • India has come up with a “better and more reliable” mechanism to measure restrictiveness in the services trade, and has approached China, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa to highlight the importance of the new system. Representatives of all these countries were in New Delhi on Monday and Tuesday for a WTO meeting.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development:

  • OECD stands for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • It is an international economic organisation
  • Established in 196, Secretariat : Paris, Members : 35
  • Latvia has joined in July, 2016
  • Aims to stimulate economic progress and world trade
  • Its members are committed to Democracy and Market Economy
  • Most OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries
  • India is not a member of OECD

India and the OECD:

  • The OECD Council at Ministerial level adopted a resolution on 16 May 2007 to strengthen co-operation with India, as well as with Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa, through a programme of enhanced engagement, defining these countries as Key Partners of the OECD. As a Key Partner, India is included in OECD analysis and statistical databases. Its participation in OECD bodies and fora is encouraged as a means of allowing Indian policy makers to benefit from the OECD’s technical expertise and analytical capacity.

Benefits:

  • OECD statistics, sector-specific country reviews and targeted joint activities are key to advancing India’s domestic reform agenda while increasing the OECD’s relevance in global governance.
  • This interaction also benefits OECD members and other Key Partners’ engagement with India as a major player in the global economy. At fora like the G20, this dialogue supports a coordinated approach to addressing pressing policy challenges through leveraging the Organisation’s policy advice.

Areas of work:

  • OECD-India collaboration continues to build, in areas such as anti-corruption, corporate governance, economic policy, environment, fiscal relations, as well as, responsible business conduct, steel, taxation, trade and investment.

India’s participation in OECD general activities:

  • India participates in selected OECD Committees and their subsidiary bodies. India is also a member of the Development Centre, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, the International Transport Forum, the Financial Action Task
    Force, and an Association Country of the International Energy Agency. Engagement in the G20 context includes India’s active role in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity and its adherence to the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. Indian ministers and officials have also attended the OECD Ministerial Council Meetings.

CTBTO INVITES INDIA TO BE AN OBSERVER AT MEETINGS

Why in News:

  • The executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, has invited India to be an observer in the CTBT.

Details:

  • Giving India the opportunity to join as an observer could be a good starting point,
  • The organisation has moved from being more confined in CTBT and International Monitoring
    System. Being an observer would give India access to data from the International Monitoring System — a network which when complete will consist of 337 facilities (321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide labs) located in 89 countries.
  • This system can detect even small nuclear explosions using seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound and radionuclide technology. After 15 years China has started sending data to International Monitoring System… and will set up five IMS stations in China. That is an important milestone. Pakistan too was an observer
  • “It only gives the advantage of following what’s happening, learning what China is doing in the organization, and where the US comes in.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.
  • It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996, but has not entered into force, as eight specific states have not ratified the treaty.
  • The CTBT is the last barrier on the way to develop nuclear weapons.
  • It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs. When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing.

HOUTHIS BEGIN PULLOUT FROM PORTS IN HODEIDAH

Why in News:

  • Yemen’s Houthi movement started withdrawing forces from Saleef port in Hodeidah under a UN- sponsored deal.

Details:

  • The move, which is yet to be verified by the UN and accepted by the Saudi-led coalition, is the first major step
  • UN teams were overseeing the Houthi redeployment in Saleef, used for grain, as other teams headed to the second port of Ras Isa, used for oil, to start implementing the Houthi withdrawal.

Background:

  • The security situation in Yemen deteriorated after the Shia Houthis rebels had seized power by dissolving Yemen’s government and parliament in January 2015.
  • Since then rebels had taken control of key government buildings in capital Sanaa including Presidential Palace. They also had taken control and seized city of Taiz, third largest city of Yemen.

How bad is Yemen’s humanitarian situation?

  • Since the Saudi intervention in 2015, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, according to the WHO. The widespread damage caused to infrastructure by the coalition airstrikes and lack of supplies of food and medicines due to the blockade have pushed Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe. About 12 million people are at the risk of starvation if aid doesn’t reach them fast. The country has also seen a massive cholera outbreak. A child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, says UNICEF

IRAN TO REDUCE COMMITMENTS TO NUCLEAR DEAL

Why in News:

  • Iran is expected to announce plans to scale back compliance with a landmark nuclear deal on the anniversary of the United States decision to withdraw from the international accord.

Details:

  • The US unilaterally withdrew on 2018, from the 2015 multilateral deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of biting sanctions.
  • Iran will convey details of the “decision to reduce its commitments” to ambassadors of the five countries still party to the agreement – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
  • The US also blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as “terrorists”, and announced it was deploying a naval strike group to the Middle East because of indications of a “credible threat from Iranian regime forces”.
  • Iran dismissed the move as “psychological warfare”

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known commonly as the Iran deal, is an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany),and the European Union.

Drone delivers vaccines in key Vanuatu trial: UNICEF

Context:

  • A one-month-old on a remote island in the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu became the first child to be immunised in a trial of drone-delivered vaccines, UNICEF said.
  • If successful, the initiative could be replicated in isolated and far-flung areas around the world, the UN agency said.

About Drone:

  • An unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond the line of sight
  • A drone is made from different light composite materials in order to increase maneuverability while flying and reduce weight. It can be equipped with a variety of additional equipment, including cameras, GPS guided missiles, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), navigation systems, sensors, and so on.
  • Drones come in a broad range of shapes, sizes, and with various functions. The vast majority of today’s models can be launched by hand, and they can be controlled by remotes or from special ground cockpits.
  • There are different variations in the frame and construction of drones, but the essential components that every drone must have is a waterproof motor frame, flight and motor controllers, motors, transmitter and receiver, propellers, and batteries or any other source of energy.

About UNICEF:

  • The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund was created by the United Nations General Assembly on the 11th of December 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF ) is a United Nations (UN) programme headquartered in New York City that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Development Group
  • UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions, and the National Committees collectively raise around one-third of UNICEF’s annual income.
  • This comes through contributions from corporations, civil society organizations around six million individual donors worldwide.

Rapid Trident 2018

  • Ukraine on  Monday  launched  joint  military  exercises  with  the  United  States  and  a string  of  other  NATO  countries  amid  ongoing  tensions  with  Russia  over  Moscow’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

Global Plan to fight TB

  • UN member-states agreed on a global plan to step up the fight against tuberculosis, the world’s number one killer among infectious diseases, settling a row with the United States over access to cheap drugs.
  • Following weeks of tough negotiations, the text of a final declaration won approval and will be formally adopted at the first-ever TB summit on Sept 26, on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Background:

  • At the summit world leaders will  commit to end the tuberculosis  epidemic  by 2030 and come up with US$13 billion annually to achieve that goal, according to the 53-point final declaration.
  • An additional US$2 billion will be spent globally to fund tuberculosis research — up from US$700 million currently.
  • In July,  South  Africa  clashed  with  the  United  States  over  proposals  to  water  down language recognising the right of poorer countries to access cheaper medicines.
  • The contested language referred to the so-called TRIPS trade arrangements dealing with intellectual property rights.
  • A compromise was reached that strengthened references to TRIPS.
  • Last year,  the  World  Health  Organisation  (WHO)  sounded  the  alarm  when  it  said tuberculosis  had  surpassed  HIV/AIDS  as  the  world’s  number  one  infectious  killer  and was the ninth cause of death worldwide. About 1.7 million people died from TB in 2016 out of 10.4 million worldwide who became ill from the severe lung infection, according to the WHO.
  • Five countries are the hardest-hit by the TB pandemic: India, which accounts for a quarter of cases, Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Pakistan.
  • THE intervention  of  world  leaders  is  urgently  needed  to  contain  TB  as  the  number  of antibiotic-resistant cases continues to rise.
  • Heads of  state  have  to  show  up  at  the  UN  high-level  meeting  on  TB  and  exercise  their rights  to  protect  public  health  over  drug  company  profits  and  scale  up  effective  and affordable, generic versions of expensive patented drug-resistant TB medicines.

Tuberculosis:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB).Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body.
  • Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis.
  • Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in Their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease.
  • Treatment requires the use of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem with increasin grates of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
  • Presently, one-quarter of the world’s population is thought to be infected with New infections occur in about 1% of the population each year. In 2016, there were more than 10 million cases of active TB which resulted in 1.3 million deaths.
  • This makes it the number one cause of death from an infectious disease. More than 95% of deaths occurred  in developing  countries,  and more than 50% in India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the The number of new cases each year has decreased since 2000.

UN treaty on high seas

  • United Nations begins talks on a 2020 treaty that would regulate the high seas, which cover half the planet.

Need for the Treaty:

  •    The UN adopted the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but left the high seas free from restrictions.
  • The negotiations will relate to spaces beyond national jurisdictions, or areas that belong to no country in particular
  • Only five percent of the high seas have been investigated, because most research focuses on coastal areas.
  • The main sources  of  ocean  pollution are  chemicals  like  pesticides  and  fertilizers  that are produced and used inland, and eventually find their way to the ocean.
  • The treaty could protect some of the most vulnerable and potentially over-exploited ocean resources on earth, particularly deep-water ecosystems and seamounts.
  • Protecting these  areas,  identified  by  The  International  Union  For  The  Conservation  Of Nature  (IUCN)  as  a  top  research  and  conservation  priority,  could  likely  yield  higher conservation, food security, and climate resilience value than most other areas of the high seas.

About the Treaty:

  • Four sessions of talks, each lasting two weeks, are planned to take place over two years, with the  goal  of  protecting  marine  biodiversity  and  avoiding  further  pillaging  of  the oceans.
  • Talk will focus on the high seas and the international zone of marine waters, or about 46% of the planet’s surface
  • Talks will  focus  on  creating  protected  areas  on  the  high  seas,  more  sharing  of  maritime resources and technology, and research on environmental impacts.

US to Stop Aiding UNRWA

  • The U.S. government has decided to stop all funding it gives to a UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, that provides assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees, ending a decades-long policy of supporting it.
  • US justifying  this  largely  on  the  grounds  that  the  funding  is  mismanaged  and  that  the agency  itself  wastes  money  and  is  inefficient,  determining  the  organisation  to  be  an “irredeemably flawed operation”.
  • Endlessly and exponentially  expanding  community  of  entitled  beneficiaries  is  simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.

UNRWA:

  • The United  Nations  Relief  and  Works  Agency  for  Palestine  Refugees  in  the  Near  East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered  Palestinian  refugees,  and  their  descendants,  who  fled  or  were  expelled  from their  homes  during  the  1948  Palestine  war  as  well  as  those  who  fled  or  were  expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war.
  • UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports.
  • Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;[4] aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
  • UNRWA is  the  only UN  agency  dedicated to  helping  refugees  from  a  specific  region  or conflict and is separate from UNHCR.
  • UNRWA allows  refugee  status  to  be  inherited  by  descendants  unlike  UNHCR  which eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country.
  • UNRWA’s headquarters are divided between the Gaza Strip and Amman.
  • Most of UNRWA’s funding comes from European countries and the United States.

BIMSTEC envoys bat for FTA

BIMSTEC called for the speedy conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement within the group comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

Economic Potential:

  • There is scope for both land and maritime connectivity that can enhance their trade, incomes, and welfare.
  • The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy.
  • The region has a diverse socioeconomic setup, including major economic powers such as India. It also has a large young demographic, in search of employment.
  • lack of trust among the member countries of SAARC has been the most significant factor for failure of SAARC which creates the need for BIMSTEC
  • BIMSTEC is a unique regional cooperation initiative in terms of geographical contiguity and spread, natural resources and the vast combined labour force of its member states.

Issues:

  • Despite its huge potential in terms of enhancing regional cooperation between parts of South and Southeast Asia, BIMSTEC has long suffered from lack of resources and proper coordination among its member states.
  • Infrastructure and connectivity are the core elements of trade facilitation at the borders. Lack of telecommunication links, parking space, cold storages, facilities for truck drivers in-transit, and regular power supply are the major problems that hinder the smooth flow of trade between the member countries.
  • The region has low purchasing power, with four members in the LDC category with high poverty levels.
  • Even though there are complementarities in the exports and imports of the member countries, intra-regional trade is low due to many hurdles like tariff barriers, lack of connectivity and transportation problems. Some of the export items of one country within BIMSTEC are the main import items of another member.
  • There are many supply-side constraints in the smaller countries of the group. With limited production capacity, they are unable to meet the demand generated by larger member economies.
  • Lack of industrialisation is an important reason for low production capacity in some LDCs.
  • The costs of transportation and logistics are high.
  • The trade is dominated by low-technology tradable products.
  • There is an absence of a strong regional value chain.
  • The trade is limited to only a few product categories.
  • A substantial amount of informal trade takes place across the borders of India and its neighbouring countries which is not accounted for in trade statistics.

Way Forward:

  • FTA will help members to liberalise and harmonise their investment regimes and fiscal policy structures.
  • If the Northeast manages to nurture stronger links with India’s neighbouring countries to the east, it will lead to a higher degree of integration with them, facilitating trade and development as well as attracting foreign investment.
  • Connectivity particularly digital connectivity and backend infrastructure needs to be improved
  • With BIMSTEC, hopes are higher that the sub-regional cooperation will be more of a success, and that BIMSTEC FTA can replace SAFTA.

BIMSTEC:

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
  • The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.

Quad Countries

Why in news?

A list of 20 policy recommendations for the Quad countries by the think tanks were released.

QUAD Grouping:

  • The grouping of four democracies – India, Australia, US and Japan– known as the quadrilateral security dialogue or quad, was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. It has been recently revived.
  • Even so, it was not an anti-China coalition as all four members have extensive economic ties with the country. They were all committed to a policy of constructive engagement, not containment, of this emergent East Asian power.
  • The Quad could be, therefore, seen as a coalition of maritime democracies seeking to strengthen each other on the basis of shared values and interests. However, its formation indirectly isolated China as a non-democratic power and eroded its diplomatic standing in international gatherings.
  • The four countries already did exercise together along with Singapore as part of Exercise MALABAR – which initially began as a bilateral naval exercise between the United States and India – back in 2007. Then Japan participated and was made a permanent member of the Malabar exercises

Some of the key recommendations of the report:

  • The policy recommendations of the quad include recommendations from diplomacy, security, economy, environment and humanitarian securities.
  • Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. should cooperate with the aim of supporting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region” which recognizes the central and growing importance of the Indian Ocean.
  • Quad should work with other partners to oppose the establishment of permanent Chinese military bases in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Quad should work with the countries in the Indian Ocean region to help them maintain independent security and economic policies by supporting high-quality alternatives to unilateral Chinese investments and political alignment with Chinese regional objectives.
  • While discouraging a unilateral military role by China, Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. should involve China in diplomatic efforts to ensure the safety of navigation in critical energy routes, including those in the Persian Gulf
  • Japan and the U.S. should consider participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to encourage high standards by projects involving China and to build further their economic cooperation with others, including Australia and India.
  • Quad should collectively encourage user states and coastal states to formulate appropriate policies and provide technical assistance for the “blue economy” and green development.
  • Quad should work with others to further support capacity building for maritime law enforcement in coastal states around the Indian Ocean.
  • In order to build stronger Quadrilateral maritime defence capability in the Indian Ocean, India and the U.S. should invite Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercises. The four nations should also consider inviting other countries that share maritime interests in this cooperative https://aviator-game-india.in.

ASIA PACIFIC TRADE AGREEMENT (APTA)

India has provided tariff concessions on 3,142 products to Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) members, including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, from July 1

These duty concessions will be more for least developed countries (LDCs) and less for developing nations.

  • APTA also know as Bangkok Agreement, signed in 1975 under the aegis of UNESCAP.
  • It aims to promote economic development through the adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade expansion and economic integration.
  • Open to all developing member countries of UNESCAP.
  • It is an Preferential trade agreement.
  • The Ministerial Council represents the highest decision-making authority.
  • UNESCAP functions as APTA’s Secretariat.
  • Members of APTA are Bangladesh, India ,china, Laos Sri Lanka, Mangolia, Republic of Korea.
  • APTA is the only operational trade agreement linking china and India.

India becomes a part of global Copyright Treaties

India become part of global copyright treaties

Union cabinet approved the accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty which extends coverage of copyright to the internet and digital environment. The approval is a step towards the objective laid in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy.

WIPO Copyright Treaty

  • The Treaty was concluded in 1996 and entered into force in 2002.
  • A Special agreement under Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works).
  • It has provisions to extend the protection of copyrights contained therein to the digital environment.
  • Further it recognises the rights specific to digital environment, of making work available, to address “on-demand” and other interactive modes of access.
  • The Treaty also grants: (I) the right of distribution; (ii) the right of rental; and (iii) a broader right of communication to the public.
  • As to duration, the term of protection must be at least 50 years for any kind of work.
  • The Treaty obliges Contracting Parties to provide legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures (e.g., encryption) used by authors in connection with the exercise of their rights, and against the removal or altering of information, such as certain data that identify works or their authors, necessary for the management.
  • The Treaty establishes an Assembly of the Contracting Parties whose main task is to address matters concerning the maintenance and development of the Treaty
  • It entrusts to the Secretariat of WIPO the administrative tasks concerning the Treaty

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty:

  • The Treaty was concluded in 1996 and entered into force in 2002.
  • WPPT deals with rights of two kinds of beneficiaries, particularly in digital environment –Performers (actors, singers, musicians etc.)
  • Producers of Phonograms (Sound recordings). The treaty empowers right owners in their negotiations with new digital platforms and distributors.
  • It recognizes moral rights of the performers for the first time & provides exclusive economic rights to them.
  • As far as performers are concerned, the Treaty grants performers economic rights in their performances fixed in phonograms (not in audio-visual fixations, such as motion pictures (i) the right of reproduction; (ii) the right of distribution; (iii) the right of rental; and (iv) the right of making available.
  • As to unfixed (live) performances, the Treaty grants performers: (i) the right of broadcasting (except in the case of rebroadcasting); (ii) the right of communication to the public (except where the performance is a broadcast performance); and (iii) the right of fixation.
  • As far as producers of phonograms are concerned, the Treaty grants them economic rights in their phonograms: (i) the right of reproduction; (ii) the right of distribution; (iii) the right of rental; and (iv) the right of making available.
  • The term of protection must be at least 50 years.
  • The Treaty obliges Contracting Parties to provide for legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures.

The Treaty establishes an Assembly of the Contracting Parties whose main task is to address matters concerning the maintenance and development of the Treaty. It entrusts to the Secretariat of WIPO the administrative tasks concerning the Treaty.

WIPO:

  • It is a specialized agency of UN established in 1967.
  • Located in GENEVA Switzerland.
  • Aim: To encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of Intellectual property throughout the world.
  • Unlike other branches of the United Nations, WIPO has significant financial resources independent of the contributions from its Member States.
  • WIPO has established WIPO net, a global information network. The project seeks to link over 300 intellectual property offices (IP offices) in all WIPO Member States and providing a means of secure communication among all connected parties.

Middle Strait and Humphrey Strait-in Andaman &Nicobar Islands. Connect North Andaman with Middle Andaman. Government of India constructing a bridge connecting middle and north Andaman on this strait. It falls under Jarawa tribes reserved area

Categories

Current Affairs Calendar

M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  

Quick Navigate

Social Connect