Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
World should not ignore recession signals
A German GDP contraction, weak Chinese industrial output and an inversion of the US yield curve all seem to strengthen fears of a global slowdown and the world community needs to take a serious note of it.
Also highlighting the seriousness of the issue is the fact that stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic witnessed hefty losses on Wednesday.
The US Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007. A curve inversion, when short-dated bond yields are higher more than their longer-dated counterparts, is seen as a reliable warning for an impending recession.
The US curve has inverted before each recession in the past 50 years. It offered a false signal just once in that time.
The glaring signal of impending trouble has come from Germany where the economy shrank by 0.1 per cent in the second quarter as troubles in the auto industry held back the largest member of the 19-country Euro currency union.
The weak performance has darkened prospects for the entire Euro zone, where the European Central Bank is poised to add more monetary stimulus at its next meeting.
It has also raised the possibility that Germany could enter a technical recession by posting another consecutive quarter of falling output.
Germany's economy is facing headwinds as its auto industry, a key employer and pillar of growth, faces challenges adjusting to tougher emissions standards in Europe and China and to technological change.
Uncertainty over the terms of Britain's planned exit from the European Union has also weighed on confidence more generally.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that his country will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal.
The euro zone's GDP barely grew in the second quarter of 2019 as economies across the bloc lost steam.
On Tuesday, the dollar gained dramatically against the yen after US President Donald Trump backed off his Sept.1 deadline for imposing 10% tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods.
Those gains were reversed overnight, however, as scepticism about the progress began to weigh.
Singapore has already slashed its full-year economic growth forecast. The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product (GDP) in Singapore — often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy - to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.
Just recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had indicated that global trade expanded by merely 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the slowest year-on-year pace of growth since 2012.
It had also signaled that a more significant slowdown is possible.
IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath stated that she saw significant downside risks for global growth going forward, including escalating trade wars.
With the IMF lowering its forecast for global growth this year and the next, the world community should address more seriously prevailing concerns caused by factors such as additional US-China tariffs, technology tensions and a disorderly Brexit.
More and more businesses are worried globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.
In a hugely knitted world, coordinated actions suit best. Economic uncertainty can add to social unrest and hence the world community needs to wake up and act, before it is too late.

Kabul wedding attack a monstrous act
The terrorist attack that targeted a wedding in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is a cowardly, monstrous act that turned a scene of joy and celebration into horror and carnage.
The perpetrators of the crime against humanity should be swiftly brought to justice.
Imagine the plight of a groom who greets smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out just a few hours later. Targeting helpless civilians, including the elderly, women and children, reveals the depraved mindset of the killers.
The massive blast, which claimed several innocent lives, underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan.
The conflict in Afghanistan continues to be devastating for civilians.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has in its latest report stated that more civilians were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces in the first half of this year than by the Taliban and other militants, which they should take a serious note of.
At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces.
The fighting has been forcing civilians to live under the constant threat of being targeted by militants or being caught up in ground fighting, or becoming inadvertent victims of air strikes by Afghan government and foreign forces.
More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, as per UN figures. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors.
Meaningless violence has become a norm in the country and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.
On Monday, scores of people including children were wounded after a series of explosions shook the eastern city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.
As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province and the casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.
Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day.
An attack deliberately targeting civilians is an outrage, and deeply troubling, as it can only be described as a cowardly act of terror, as stated by Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Such deliberate attacks on civilians signal a deliberate intent to spread fear among the population, which has already suffered too much.
The pace of such atrocious attacks indicates that current measures in place to protect must be strengthened and those who organised such attacks must be brought to justice and held to account.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MoFAIC, has condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack and reaffirmed its support to the Afghan government as it confronts the menace of terrorism.
As the ministry correctly pointed out, this cowardly attack claimed by Daesh on a civilian gathering is a solemn reminder of the complex challenges faced by the Afghan government as it works to enter a new phase of stability and security.
This unacceptable loss of life definitely underlines the importance of multilateral efforts to promote a comprehensive peace agreement that will degrade the ability of transnational terror groups to operate in Afghanistan, as the UAE foreign ministry pointed out.

UAE remains a beacon of hope for youth
The youth are the cornerstone of any development plan and their active contribution is not only necessary but also integral to the development process.
As countries across the globe marked the International Youth Day on Tuesday, the UAE stood out as a model nation because it has always made youth the focus of its attention in almost every aspect of its policy for the future.
Since the establishment of the UAE in 1971, the country has adopted clear national policy and strategic plans to empower the youth and develop their capabilities.
The Cabinet formed in February 2016 was called "Cabinet of Future" for including eight young new ministers, whose average age was 38, including Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who assumed the post at the age of 22 to be the youngest minister in the world.
Saeed Saleh Al Rumaithi became a member of the Federal National Council, FNC, at the age of 31 to be the youngest member in the FNC's history.
In 2016, the Cabinet adopted the establishment of the Emirates Youth Council, under the leadership of Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs.
The council undertakes various important tasks, including developing a youth work system in the UAE, setting and mapping out strategies and policies for young people in line with the UAE’s future approaches.
It also identifies challenges faced by the youth in various sectors and proposes solutions to overcome them.
The council’s tasks also include proposing necessary solutions to ensure the positive participation of young people in society across various sectors.
Besides, the UAE Cabinet has approved the formation of the Federal Youth Authority to encourage young people to get involved in key sectors of the economy.
It is responsible for coordinating with local youth councils with the aim of setting an annual agenda for youth activities in the country and ensuring that the objectives, plans, strategies and activities of these councils are in line with the general plans of the country in this regard.
For several years consistently, most Arab youth from the region have named the UAE as the country in which they would like to live and work.
At the international level, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly stated that schools are “not equipping young people with the skills they need to navigate the technological revolution.”
Transforming Education is the theme for this year, which comes at a time when the world is facing a “learning crisis,” as per Guterres, and students need not only to learn, “but to learn how to learn”.
UN statistics reveals that significant transformations are still required to make education systems more inclusive and accessible: only 10% of people have completed upper secondary education in low income countries; 40 % of the global population is not taught in a language they speak or fully understand; and over 75 % of secondary school age refugees are out of school.
Education today should combine knowledge, life skills and critical thinking, as Guterres points out. It should include information on sustainability and climate change. And it should advance gender equality, human rights and a culture of peace.
The future-focused vision of the UAE leadership has been paying rich dividends. The UAE is indeed a beacon of hope and a model nation for young people, and for all the right reasons.

N-treaty collapse makes world less safer
The collapse of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia has fuelled fears of a new arms race and made the world a more dangerous place to live in.
It is hugely disappointing that the two major powers, instead of resolving their differences through sincere dialogue, chose a path that puts the entire world at risk.
The Intermediate-Range nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, had a noble goal of eliminating land-based short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.
Under the deal, missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers were eliminated. That paved the way for the mothballing of Russian SS-20 missiles and American Pershing missiles deployed in Europe.
For years, Washington has accused Russia of developing a new type of missile, the 9M729, which it says violates the treaty — claims that NATO has backed up.
The missile has a range of about 1,500 kilometres, according to NATO, though Moscow says it can only travel 480 kilometres.
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous enemies of humanity. Nuke weapons have the potential to destroy an entire city killing millions, cause inconceivable damage to environment and ruin the lives of future generations with long-term catastrophic effects.
The blame game has begun too.
Washington has placed the responsibility firmly on Moscow over the demise of the treaty with  President Donald Trump insisting any new disarmament pact would now also need China to come on board.
Russia, on its part, has accused the US of making a "serious mistake" in turning its back on the INF, which the United Nations said had played a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability for more than three decades.
"Russia is solely responsible for the treaty's demise," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement confirming Washington's formal withdrawal, minutes after Russia also pronounced the agreement void.
Russia's suggestion of a moratorium was also swiftly rebuffed by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg as not credible while saying the 29-country transatlantic alliance did not want to see a renewed battle for military supremacy.
In another worrisome development, Trump's new defence secretary Mark Esper has declared that the US has already begun work to develop mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems.
The INF pact had been widely proclaimed as a beacon of hope.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres points out, in the current deteriorating international security environment, previously-agreed arms control and disarmament agreements are increasingly under threat.
Since its entry-into-force on June 1, 1988, the Cold War-era arms control contributed tangibly to the maintenance of peace and stability internationally and especially in Europe, playing an important role in reducing risk, building confidence and helping to bring the Cold War to an end.
There is no alternative to dialogue on nuclear arms control. Risk-reduction measures, including transparency in nuclear-weapon programmes and further cut in all types of nuclear weapons is the best way forward. For that, leaders need to keep the dialogue process alive.
Guterres is correct in insisting on the need to avoid destabilising developments and to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.
Russia and the US should extend New START and undertake negotiations on further arms control measures.
That’s the best option and any other path could prove disastrous.
A world free of nuclear weapons should be the common goal.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Climate change naysayers better wake up
Merely halfway through 2019, the world has already witnessed temperature records smashed from Europe to the Arctic Circle and the year could prove to be one of the hottest ever recorded.
This June was the hottest on record, beating out June 2016 — so far the hottest year ever.
The first half of 2019 also saw intense heat waves in Australia, India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, according to the World Meterological Organisation (WMO).
Soaring temperatures broke records in Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands last week as a heat wave gripped Europe for the second time in a month and this should definitely be seen as a wake-up for action against climate change.
As a cauldron of hot air from the Sahara desert moved across the continent, drawn northwards by high pressure, Paris saw its highest temperature since records began and Britain reported its hottest weather for the month of July.
An all-time high was measured in Germany for a second day running, at 41.5 degrees Celsius in the northwestern town of Lingen on Thursday.
The impact was harsh and residents were forced to face the brutal impact of the heat wave.
The abnormal conditions even brought a reduction in French and German nuclear power output, disrupted rail travel in parts of Britain and sent some Europeans, not habitual users of air conditioning in their homes, out to the shops in search of fans.
Health authorities were forced to issue warnings to the elderly, especially vulnerable to spikes in temperature.
The seriousness of the situation could also be gauged by the warning issued by the United Nations that the hot air which smashed European weather records this week looks set to move towards Greenland and could cause record melting of the world's second largest ice sheet.
As per Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the UN WMO, the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records but surpassed them by 2, 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, which she has described as "absolutely incredible."
Three papers released this week showed that Earth's temperature was currently warming at a rate and uniformity unparallelled in the past 2,000 years.
There are enough alarm bells ringing over climate change. The heat waves in Europe, drought and storms in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching corals, the Arctic ice melting — do we need to add more?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report spells out that by the end of the 21st century temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, not enough is being done to achieve that.
The challenge comes on multiple fronts. Ocean heat also hit a record high in 2018 raising urgent new concerns about the threat global warming is posing to marine life.
Scientists have repeatedly linked intense heat waves to manmade climate change and indications on the ground are substantiating their arguments.
The sequence is alarming. The last four years are the hottest on record. Last year was fourth on the list, with an average surface temperature of 1°C above pre-industrial levels. The year 2016 still holds the crown as the hottest year in human history — 1.2C above average.
There is a need for everyone to unite, connect to nature and stand together for the planet.
The planet is heating up fast, and if the counter-measures are not equally swift, the repercussions could be unimaginable.
Slow global growth calls for fast remedy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated that global trade expanded by merely 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the slowest year-on-year pace of growth since 2012.
This certainly comes as disturbing news as there are also signals that a more significant slowdown is possible.
With the IMF lowering its forecast for global growth this year and the next, the world community should take a more serious note of the issue and address prevailing concerns caused by factors such as additional US-China tariffs, technology tensions and a disorderly Brexit.
These could compound problems by further slowing growth, weakening investment and disrupting supply chains.
IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has indicated that she does not see signs of a recession, but does see significant downside risks for global growth going forward, including escalating trade wars.
The negative consequences of policy uncertainty are visible in the diverging trends between the manufacturing and services sector, and the significant weakness in global trade.
Manufacturing purchasing manager indices continue to decline alongside worsening business sentiment as businesses hold off on investment in the face of high uncertainty.
Euro zone business growth was weaker than expected in July, hampered by a deepening contraction in manufacturing.
A recession in Germany's manufacturing sector worsened in July while French business growth also slowed unexpectedly in the month.
Amid the worrisome trend, the positive development is that the US and Chinese negotiators are expected to restart trade negotiations in Shanghai on July 30, aimed at improving the trade relationship between the world's two largest economies,
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the American team, while Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will lead negotiations for China, as per a White House statement.
The discussions are likely to cover a range of issues, including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, the trade deficit, and enforcement.
Protectionist and unilateral approaches on trade are not the best way forward and only tend to fuel fear among investors.
In a highly connected world, moving further away from an open, fair and rules-based trade system cannot be termed sensible.
Economic issues can have a direct impact on lives of people across the globe and could even lead to social and health problems in the form of joblessness and depression.
It is hence necessary that the international community take remedial measures swiftly before things get out of hand. 
The global economy clearly remains at a delicate juncture and it would be pertinent to adopt policies to support growth, as suggested by IMF officials.
Monetary policy should remain accommodative especially where inflation is softening below target. But it needs to be accompanied by sound trade policies that would lift the outlook and reduce downside risks. With persistently low interest rates, macroprudential tools should be deployed to ensure that financial risks do not build up.
Fiscal policy should balance growth, equity, and sustainability concerns, including protecting society’s most vulnerable.
The need for greater global cooperation is urgent. In addition to resolving trade and technology tensions, countries should work together to address issues such as climate change, international taxation, corruption, cybersecurity and the challenges of emerging digital payment technologies.
Primarily, tariffs should not be used to target bilateral trade balances or as a general-purpose tool to tackle international disagreements.
Instead, the rules-based multilateral trading system should be strengthened to encompass areas such as digital services, subsidies and technology transfer.
India’s moon mission a victory for science
As India’s rocket soared on a historic attempt to put a landing craft on the surface of the moon, so did the joy of millions of Indians across the globe.
The thrill of the take-off drowned the dejection of the halting of the initial launch of Chandrayaan-2 (Moon Chariot 2) a week earlier.
This is India’s most ambitious mission yet in an effort to establish itself as a low-cost space power and become only the 4th nation to soft-land on the moon, thereby joining an elite space force.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India's first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the moon and searched for water.
China, Russia and the United States are the only other nations to have sent missions to the moon.
If successful, $146-million mission will allow Indian scientists to carry out studies regarding the presence of water at the moon's south pole, unexplored by any other nation before.
Incidentally, the United States — which is marking the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first human on the moon — spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion on its Apollo missions.
Nonetheless, the Chandrayaan-2 task has just begun and the path to success is laden with huge challenges. A total number of 38 soft landing attempts have been made so far. The success rate is 52 per cent.
It may be recalled that earlier this year, Israel's first moon mission crash-landed while attempting to touch down.
"Today is a historic day for space, science and tech in India," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Sivan stated as he hailed the efforts made to fix a fuel leak that forced the earlier launch to be postponed.
But Sivan has also made it clear that the mission's next stage would be critical to its success, with scientists set to conduct some 15 crucial manoeuvres of Chandrayaan-2 over the next month-and-a-half to position it around the moon.
In his own words: "After that, D-day will come — and that day we are going to experience 15 minutes of terror to ensure that the landing is safe."
The 2.4-tonne orbiter is expected to circle the moon for about a year, taking images of the surface, looking for signs of water, and studying the atmosphere.
ISRO scientists will remotely control the rover named Pragyaan — "wisdom" in Sanskrit — as it carries out experiments. It will work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, studying rocks and soil on the moon's surface.
The country’s space ambitions have been soaring. India's 2019/20 budget for space research stood at Rs124.7 billion ($1.81 billion), rising by some 75% since 2014.
In March this year, India shot down one of its own satellites to demonstrate its anti-satellite weapon capabilities.
India also put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation's first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.
India has also announced plans for a manned space mission with a targeted flight in December 2021, besides proposing missions to study Venus and the sun.
Besides, India puts into orbit foreign satellites for a fee using its PSLV rocket. Revenue for launching satellites depends on the weight of the satellite — higher the weight, higher the revenue.
Any development in science and technology will at the end of the day benefit entire humanity. India does deserve a pat for the tireless efforts to fulfill its space ambitions.
Continuing turmoil taking toll on HK
Hong Kong has for long been seen as one of the safest cities in the world, but its recent troubles in the form of protests show no sign of abating and that’s a huge cause for worry.
The demonstrators are seeking direct elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's leader, the resignation of the current leader and an investigation into police use of force to quell earlier protests.
An unrelenting administration has refused to heed such calls and the situation only seems to be worsening with each passing week.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history after millions of demonstrators took to the streets and sporadic violent confrontations erupted between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The demonstrations over the last few weeks were triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but have evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.
The unprecedented protests with huge turnouts, as well as frequent clashes and the sacking of parliament, have had little luck persuading Beijing or Hong Kong's leaders.
City leader Carrie Lam has also shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill.
Her administration has faced down weeks of public anger and she has made few public appearances beyond visiting injured officers and holding a handful of press conferences.
The disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians, the de facto expulsion of a foreign journalist and the jailing of democracy protest leaders are among several issues that have sparked anxiety.
The deteriorating situation could be gauged by the fact that police fired tear gas at protesters for the second night in a row on Sunday.
Chaotic scenes filled several blocks in the western part of Hong Kong on Sunday night as police pushed protesters away from the Chinese government's liaison office and a police station.
The situation reached such a stage where the police appealed to people to stay indoors with their windows shut as officers use tear gas to try to drive protesters from the streets.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees its people freedoms for 50 years that are not enjoyed in mainland China, including the liberty to protest and an independent judiciary.
Beijing vehemently denies interfering in Hong Kong affairs, but many residents worry about what they see as an erosion of freedoms and a relentless march towards mainland control.
Last Sunday, protesters took police by surprise with a swoop on the Liaison Office, scrawling graffiti and throwing paint bombs at walls, the national emblem and a plaque.
Chinese officials have described the vandalism as an attack on China's sovereignty which would not be tolerated.
Anger against police is also too evident. Many of the marchers chanted slogans against the police. Some held up banners reading: "We rise as one, we fight as one" and "Stop violence."
Adding to fears is the fact that the protesters appear to be getting more organised and willing to use violence to achieve their aims.
Continuing turbulence is not good for Hong Kong. It is unfortunate that the city's leadership seems unable or reluctant to end the chaos. The level of public anger and frustration is visibly high. The administration should do its best to address all genuine grievances of the protesters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Don’t turn migrants’ dream into nightmare
When the image of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy, rattled collective human conscience and made global headlines after he drowned on Sept.2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, it was expected that the approach of governments and people towards refugees and migrants would turn more humane.
Alas, that has not turned out to be the case.
Shocking images of a drowned Salvadoran migrant and his two-year-old daughter who died while trying to cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico to the United States have now emerged raising questions whether humanity as a whole is turning compassion-deficient.
The searing photograph of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl's arm around her father's neck, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper             La Jornada, also highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.
Contrary to the portrayal of certain political worlds leaders, migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.
In a touching briefing to the UN Security Council recently, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that during his three and a half decades as an international civil servant, he had never seen such toxicity, such poisonous language in politics, media and social media, directed towards refugees, migrants and foreigners.
Grandi emphasised that the stigmatisation of refugees and migrants was unprecedented and that traditional responses to refugee crises appeared increasingly inadequate.
It should be acknowledged that Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a set a brilliant example of how those seeking refuge need to be treated with dignity and care. 
The US and Mexico are presently implementing tougher policies to stem the flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, travelling north. At least six have died in recent days.
Most migrants insist they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and plan to seek asylum in the US.
However, US President Donald Trump's hardline stance on immigration is visibly driving migrants to take more dangerous routes.
The image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande, will haunt the conscience of all considerate human beings for years to come.
Ramírez’s tragedy highlights the plight of migrants in similar situations. Frustrated because his family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to US authorities and request asylum, he reportedly swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria.
He set her on the US bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Martínez returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away.
With the UN refugee agency indicating that a record 71 million people have now been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the world community cannot anymore afford to turn a blind eye to the crucial issue.
Collective and effective global measures to tackle the root causes of displacements are essential.
It should never be forgotten that migrants are humans too. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.
The question remains how many more innocent lives need to be lost before the world community wakes up to the endless plight of migrants and refugees!
Don’t ignore warming world’s warning signals
Climate change is accelerating faster than efforts to counter it and laxity on the part of the international community could prove disastrous for future generations.
The consolation, though, is the visibly increasing awareness on the subject, especially among youngsters. The protest by thousands of students from across Europe on Friday near a coal mine in western Germany urging governments to take bolder action against climate change sends a clear signal that climate change is now one of the hottest issues on the European political agenda.
Protesters from 16 countries took part in the rally in Aachen, near Germany's border with Belgium and the Netherlands.
What has added to global disappointment is the push by most European Union nations for the world's biggest economic bloc to go carbon-neutral by 2050 being dropped to a mere footnote at a summit on Thursday after fierce resistance from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary .
France and Germany took the right approach of leading efforts for the 28-member EU to lead by example in setting an ambitious new climate goal ahead of UN climate talks in September that US President Donald Trump has abandoned.
Unanimity was needed and last-ditch persuasion efforts in what diplomats described as "impassioned" talks that dragged on for four hours failed to ease fears among the central and eastern European states, including Estonia, that it would hurt economies like theirs dependent on nuclear power and coal.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that ending fossil fuel use by mid-century is a must if countries want to achieve the 2015 Paris climate accord's most ambitious goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.
British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough has stated that climate change is humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years, and he is absolutely right.
The situation is dire because, as Attenborough noted, the issue could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world."
The extreme cold in North America, record high heat and wildfires in Australia, heavy rains in parts of South America, and heavy snow on the Alps and Himalayas should be seen as warning signals.
Even with just one degree Celsius of warming so far, Earth has been bombarded with raging wildfires, widespread crop failures and super-storms exacerbated by rising sea levels.
Climate change has even been damaging polar bears' sea-ice habitats and forced them to scavenge more for food on land, bringing them into contact with people and inhabited areas.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has long promoted clean renewables such as solar and wind while phasing out nuclear power -- but it is still missing its climate goals because of a reliance on cheap coal.
Especially since last year's scorching summer — when drought slashed crop yields, forest fires raged and shipping was halted on dried-out rivers -- many people in Germany tend to agree with the protesters' demand on carbon fuels.
In the United States, ignoring scientists' increasingly urgent warnings, the Trump administration ordered a sweeping about-face last week on Obama-era efforts to fight climate change, easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants. The Trump administration is also proposing to roll back a mileage rule requiring tougher mileage standards for cars and light trucks. 
A growing number of people, governments, cities and businesses understand that climate solutions can strengthen economies and improve air quality and public health. Unfortunately, it looks like there is still a long way to go.
#YouthForGood a noteworthy initiative
The UAE and benevolence are synonymous terms. When the social media helps strengthen the country’s humanitarian activities, it is all the more good.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s launching of a major philanthropic initiative, #YouthForGood, together with the UAE’s Youth Hub and Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, is hugely creditable.
The project is noble especially because it involves youngsters and instills in them virtuous social responsibilities.
The competition calls on UAE-based youth to create a greater impact in local communities, whether through civic engagement, volunteering or charitable partnerships.
#YouthForGood will be open to participants of three to five people over the next three months. The initiative encourages the young people of the UAE to utilise the power of Twitter to launch a creative, engaging and active Twitter account that will fuel philanthropic efforts locally in their community.
There will be huge recognition for the winning team too as it will be awarded with the acclaimed Twitter MENA Award and a Twitter for Good Ads Grant.
Incidentally, the #YouthForGood initiative, the first of its kind in the world, aims to promote the use of Twitter to support humanitarian and social causes and sustain a culture of volunteering among youth in the region and the world.
It forms part of the broader global #TwitterForGood campaign, with the philanthropic mission to harness the positive power of Twitter to bring communities together.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has been among the early adopters of social media in the region and completes a decade of his presence on Twitter this June.
Over the past decade, he has garnered 9.71 million followers on this Twitter account. The Dubai Ruler was on the 11th spot on the list of 'The 50 most followed world leaders in 2018'. He had a following of 9 million Twitter users then.
As Sheikh Mohammed himself commented, "The UAE represents positive change and hope in our Arab region and we are keen to encourage our young people to harness the power of online platforms such as twitter to create a positive impact on their communities. #YouthForGood is a significant initiative in this direction."
Social media has become a part of life. It brings with it huge advantages and has set off a knowledge explosion, knitting the entire world into a global village.
The UAE is among the few countries that have resolutely nurtured the huge positive potential of social media for the good of the society. The country has persistently kept pace with technology drawing praise from the international community.
In fact, the country is the second highest regional investor in Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past 10 years, investing as much as  $2.15 billion in total, according to the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young.
The bulk of this investment went towards social media and Internet of Things, transactions, followed by notable spending across eight technologies, including smart mobile and machine learning.
Shamma Al Mazrui well highlighted the scope of the youth initiative by stating, "The #YouthForGood reflects Twitter’s potential to impact communities by supporting real time communication across borders and barriers. This initiative gives our youth a chance to organise around a common purpose and unite to create a force for good using the power of Twitter."