Current Affairs - International
Visit of Bhutan’s King to India
Recently, Bhutan’s King visited India. During the visit, Indian Prime Minister and the Bhutanese King discussed a wide range of bilateral issues.
- The leaders discussed financial support for reforms, institutional capacity building, infrastructure and connectivity projects, energy cooperation, and space cooperation.
- Bhutan is set to graduate from the list of Least Developed Countries in 2023, and its 21st century Economic Roadmap aims to turn the country into a developed nation.
- India has also extended Bhutan a third additional standby credit facility to support its economic growth.
- The credit facility is aimed at supporting Bhutan's development plans and helping it achieve its goals of becoming a developed country with a per-capita income of $12,000 in the next 10 years.
- The two leaders also discussed the entire gamut of issues of national and regional interest, including security concerns and potential boundary deals with China.
- While the leaders acknowledged some strategic issues, the primary focus was on development and reform initiatives in Bhutan, as well as India's commitment to supporting its neighbouring country's growth.
- The Indian government has agreed to expedite the proposed Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail link project, which would create the first-ever rail link between India and Bhutan.
- The link would connect India's rail network to Bhutan's second international airport, currently under construction in Gelephu, and help establish the southern Bhutanese city as a hub for international investment.
- Bhutanese king met with a number of Indian CEOs, discussing potential investment opportunities in education and digital technology. The CEOs expressed interest in skilling and training initiatives, which would help build Bhutan's institutional capacity and create new opportunities for young people in the country.
- The two countries have been collaborating on fintech, start-ups, and emerging technologies, and are now looking to expand this collaboration to properly utilize the energy and potential of their youth.
UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report
According to the report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the trade of "green goods" increased by four percent in the second half of 2022, amounting to a record $1.9 trillion for the year.
- It predicted that the market for environmentally friendly technologies would quadruple in value by 2030, reaching $2.1 trillion.
- The forecast also predicts that global trade will stagnate in the first half of 2023 but may get a boost in the second half of the year due to a weaker US dollar, stabilized shipping costs, and fewer supply chain disruptions.
- Electric and hybrid vehicles, non-plastic packaging, and wind turbines were among the best-performing green goods in 2022.
- UNCTAD warned that the outlook for global trade remains uncertain due to factors such as geopolitical tensions, high commodity prices, and record levels of public debt.
- Despite economic uncertainties, UNCTAD believes that the growth in green goods is set to continue, driven by the momentum on climate action.
- It warned that developed countries are benefiting the most from these economic opportunities related to green technologies, while developing countries are falling behind.
- It called on the international community to support emerging green industries in developing economies through global trade rules and technology transfers, enabling them to catch up economically while helping to protect the planet.
Readiness Index Ranking
- The report also ranks 166 countries based on their readiness for frontier technologies using indicators like infrastructure, human capital, and regulatory environment.
- India (46) remains the greatest overperformer, ranking 67 positions better than expected, followed by the Philippines (54 positions better) and Vietnam (44 better).
- China is the most ready developing country, ranked 35, followed by Brazil (40), India (46), and South Africa (56).
- China's lower-than-expected position is due to urban-rural disparities in internet coverage and broadband speed.
- High-income economies such as the United States, Sweden, Singapore, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are the most ready for frontier technologies.
- Countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa are the least ready to use, adopt, or adapt to frontier technologies and are at risk of missing current technological opportunities.
IPCC Synthesis Report
On March 20, 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final report of the sixth assessment cycle, warning that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.
- Irreversible Adverse Impacts: The report highlights the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, including those who have contributed the least to climate change.
- It warns that overshooting 1.5°C of global warming will result in irreversible adverse impacts on certain ecosystems, such as polar, mountain, and coastal ecosystems, which are impacted by ice-sheet, glacier melt, or committed sea level rise.
- Climate Justice is Crucial: It emphasizes that climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected.
- It also highlights that one of the most significant implications of climate change is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, which could have dire consequences for agriculture, the economy, and public health.
- Need for Urgent Action: If significant action to cut emissions is not taken, it would be impossible to prevent the earth from heating 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.
- The report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action, and shows that if we act now, we can still limit certain unavoidable and/or irreversible future changes by deep, rapid, and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
- Investment and Infrastructure: It also emphasizes the need for policymakers to prioritize investments in disaster risk reduction, including early warning systems, evacuation plans, and infrastructure development to protect these populations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a United Nations body that was established in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on the state of knowledge about climate change, its causes, potential impacts, and response options. The IPCC does not conduct its own research; rather it assesses and synthesizes scientific literature related to climate change from around the world.
World Happiness Report 2023
On March 20, 2023, the annual U.N.-sponsored World Happiness Report was released, ranking Finland as the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row while India ranks 126th out of 137 countries.
- The report includes an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on happiness and resilience, as well as an examination of the relationship between state effectiveness and happiness.
- The report is based on People’s self-assessment of their happiness.
- The six factors considered in the report are: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.
- It also explores the relationship between altruism and well-being for altruists, beneficiaries, and observers.
- Despite the Russian invasion, Ukraine's ranking improved from 98 to 92 this year, with acts of kindness growing in the country.
- It notes a stronger sense of common purpose and benevolence in Ukraine since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
- Israel rose five spots to occupy fourth position, while the Baltic countries are rising rapidly towards Western European levels.
- Afghanistan, which has occupied the bottom spot (lowest country) on the table since 2020, saw its humanitarian crisis deepen since the Taliban government took power in 2021.
- Overall, the report highlights the importance of a strong welfare system, high trust in authorities, and low levels of inequality in promoting happiness.
World Happiness Report 2023 is produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which is a global initiative launched by the UN in 2012.
On March 14, 2023, the United States Senate has recognized the McMahon Line, by passing a bipartisan resolution, as the international boundary between China and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Arunachal Pradesh Integral Part of India: The resolution also acknowledges Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India and expresses support for India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- Condemnation of China's Aggression:It condemns China's military aggression and expansionist policies, including its attempts to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control, construct villages in disputed areas, and assert territorial claims in Bhutan.
- Commendation of India's Measures: It also commends India for taking steps to secure its telecommunications infrastructure, examine procurement processes and supply chains, implements investment screening standards, and expand cooperation with Taiwan in public health and other sectors.
- Strengthening of US-India Partnership: It aims to deepen the US-India bilateral partnership in defense, technology, economics, and people-to-people ties, and promote multilateral cooperation through forums such as the Quad and the East Asia Summit.
The McMahon Line is a boundary line between China and India that was drawn by British colonial officials in 1914.
The World Bank's Women, Business and the Law report 2023
On March 3rd, 2023, the World Bank released a report on the index measuring the life cycle of a working woman to measure gender-based legal restrictions in 190 economies, including India.
- Indian laws regarding pay and pension do not provide equal treatment for working women in comparison to men.
- This legal discrimination has impacted India's score on the World Bank's index measuring the life cycle of a working woman, bringing it down to 74.4 out of 100.
- The index measures gender-based legal restrictions in several areas, including pay, pensions, maternity leave, and access to credit and property.
- India's score on the index is lower than several other countries, including Nepal, which scored 80.6 and had the highest score in the South Asian region.
- The report focuses on eight indicators that measure women's equality with men in areas such as pay, pensions, maternity leave, and access to credit and property.
- India scored higher than the South Asian regional average of 63.7 but lower than Nepal, which had the region's highest score of 80.6.
- Nepal had the highest score in the region, indicating that legal reforms in that country have led to greater gender equality.
- Only 14 economies (such as Belgium, Canada, Denmark etc.) out of the 190 economies covered in the index scored a perfect 100, showing that there is still a long way to go towards achieving gender equality around the world.
- The economies that scored a perfect 100 included several European countries, indicating that legal reforms in those countries have led to greater gender equality.
- Gender-based pay disparities and pension inequalities still exist in India, despite several laws aimed at promoting gender equality in the workplace.
Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
On March 3, 2023, the Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in New Delhi to discuss various issues related to regional security and cooperation.
- The Quad discussed the commitment of India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
- The meeting reaffirmed the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and peaceful dispute settlement, freedom of navigation and over flight.
- The meeting also opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo.
- The Quad seeks to support the region through practical cooperation on contemporary challenges, including: health security, climate change, critical and emerging technologies, infrastructure, and connectivity.
- The Quad ministers committed to supporting Pacific Island countries and strengthening the ASEAN-led architecture through: Cooperation with the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and emphasizing upon the rules-based international order, including the UN Charter.
- The ministers also stressed the importance of respect for sovereignty consistent with international law.
- The importance of peace and security in the maritime domain and countering terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations.
- Strengthening the ASEAN-led Architecture. The Importance of Rules-based International Order, Including the UN Charter
- Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism in All Forms and Manifestations.
Bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister
On March 3, 2023, the External Affairs Minister of India and the Chinese Foreign Minister held bilateral talks to discuss the current status of India-China relations, with a particular focus on the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- To address the peace and tranquility along the border between India and China, specifically the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- They also discussed the G20 agenda, which suggest that they talked about broader international issues.
- The talks aimed to openly and candidly discuss the real problems in the relationship between the two countries
- Overall, the meeting seemed to be an attempt to improve communication and find ways to ease tensions between the two countries.
Significance of the meeting
- To create conditions that will "restore normalcy" in the relationship between India and China.
- Chinese foreign Minister emphasized the importance of avoiding power politics or bloc confrontation, stating that global development and prosperity require a peaceful and stable international environment.
- He highlighted China's Global Security Initiative and its position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis as examples of China's commitment to promoting peace.
- Chinese foreign Minister comments suggest that China is positioning itself as a responsible and peaceful global actor.
- Both sides agreed to hold the next round of talks between senior military commanders soon.
Earlier also in his remarks to the G20 Foreign Ministers' meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister called for the group to practice true multilateralism, uphold the U.N.-centered international system, observe the basic norms of international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, and follow the international order based on international law.
UN- Water GLAAS Report 2022
Recently, on December 12, 2022, the Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report was released.
- The report is released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN-Water.
About the Report
- The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) 2022 report compiles new data on drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) from 121 countries and territories and 23 external support agencies (ESAs).
- It serves as a global reference to inform commitments, priority-setting and actions during the second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the United Nations Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018–2028) (UN 2023 Water Conference).
- The report also highlights opportunities to accelerate progress in key WASH areas that positively affect the quality and sustainability of WASH services and delivery, pandemic preparedness and resilience to climate change.
Key Highlights of the Report
- SDG 6: In many countries, progress must be accelerated to meet United Nations-mandated (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six — ensuring universal access to water and sanitation by 2030.
- WASH: The increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related extreme weather events continue to impact universal access to safe and sustainably managed water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Less than one-third of countries reported maintaining enough human resources to manage essential WASH tasks.
- Human Resources: Less than one third of countries reported they have more than 75% of the human resources needed to carry out key functions to deliver WASH services.
National Coverage Targets/Achievements
- Climate Resilience of WASH Systems: Despite the WHO identifying the climate change as the biggest health threat facing humanity, most WASH policies and plans do not address risks of climate change to WASH services.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of WASH aid dropped from 32% to 23%, while in Central and Southern Asia, it increased from 12% to 20%, and in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, it increased from 11% to 20%.
World Malaria Report 2022
World Malaria Report 2022 was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 8, 2022.
Key Highlights of the Report
- Cases and Deaths due to Malaria: There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases and 627 000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2020. This represents about 14 million more cases in 2020 compared to 2019, and 69 000 more deaths.
- Larger Contribution from Countries: Six countries — Nigeria (27 per cent); the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12 per cent); Uganda (5%); Mozambique (4%); Angola (3.4%) and Burkina Faso (3.4%) — accounted for about 55 per cent of all cases globally.
- In 2021, the number of countries that reported fewer than 10 indigenous cases increased from 23 in 2020 to 25 in 2021.
- Causes: Approximately two-thirds of these additional deaths (47 000) were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic.
- India and Neighbour Countries: India accounted for 83 per cent of cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Sri Lanka was certified malaria-free in 2016 and remains malaria-free.
- China and El Salvador were certified by WHO as malaria-free in 2021, and the Islamic Republic of Iran attained 3 consecutive years of zero indigenous cases in 2020.
- Prevention Measures: Insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) are the key vector control tool used by endemic countries. Prevalence of Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTP) has remained consistent in 2021 as compared to 2020.
Government’s Initiatives for eliminating Malaria
- The National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) was launched in July 2017 which laid down strategies for the following five years.
- NFME is in line with WHO’s 2016-2030 Malaria Strategy, which guides the WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP).
- Malaria elimination efforts were initiated in 2015 and were intensified after the launch of the National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) in 2016 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.