Monday, February 18, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Children bearing brunt of conflicts
A child is an uncut diamond, once wrote Austin O’Malley. Children hold a special place in any society. They are to be protected. All children have the right to live free from violence, which harms their physical and mental growth. Unfortunately, what’s happening on the ground reflects a sad reality.
Charity organisation Save the Children International’s observation that at least 100,000 babies die every year because of armed conflict and its impact — from hunger to denial of aid, should rattle the conscience of every human being.
It is distressing that in the 10 worst-hit countries, a conservative estimate of 550,000 infants died as a result of fighting between 2013 and 2017. They succumbed to war and its effects, among them hunger, damage to hospitals and infrastructure, a lack of access to health care and sanitation and the denial of aid.
Children continue to face the threat of being killed or maimed, recruited by armed groups, abducted or falling victim to sexual violence and mere silence cannot be the response of the world community.
As per the charity’s CEO, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, almost one in five children are living in areas impacted by conflict — more than at any time in the past two decades. To add to the distress, the number of children being killed or maimed has more than tripled.
Under international humanitarian law, children and civilians should never be targeted for attacks. But the unfortunate reality speaks otherwise. For example, Israel’s violent practices in Gaza and the West Bank against innocent Palestinian children have been continuing unabated despite repeated warnings by the international community.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimated recently that around 43 per cent of internally displaced people are children, and around three million Syrian children are refugees, and over 40 per cent of Syrian refugees do not have access to education.
This situation is just not acceptable. None of us grow up to be man or woman without passing through that beautiful, carefree phase called childhood.
A Peace Research Institute Oslo study commissioned by Save the Children group had also found that 420 million children were living in conflict-affected areas in 2017.
It issued a list of recommendations to help protect children, from steps such as committing to a minimum age of 18 for military recruitment to the avoidance of using explosive weapons in populated areas. One hopes such ideas are taken seriously and acted upon.
Mounting ‘e-waste’
a mammoth challenge
The environment and health are at increasing risk from the growing weight of electronic waste (e-waste), and it is disappointing that the world community is not giving the crucial subject due attention.
It’s estimated that each year, close to 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste are produced globally, and only 20 per cent is formally recycled.
A joint report by seven UN entities, entitled, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” has rightly called for a new vision for e-waste based on the “circular economy” concept, whereby a regenerative system can minimise waste and energy leakage.
A deliberative process must be instilled to change the system – one that collaborates with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises, academia, trade unions and civil society.
Where there's a will, there's a way. Considerable work is already under way to harness a circular economy. For example, the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment earlier announced a $2 million investment to formalise an e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The investment will leverage over $13 million in additional financing from the private sector.
As far as the UAE is concerned, it is fortunate that the country is fully aware of the challenge e-waste poses and takes serious and effective measures to deal with the situation.
As Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, outlined recently, “Given the relatively high per capita income in the country, our people have demonstrated a high consumption rate. But we are also the most active in creating proper e-waste disposal procedures.”
An Integrated Waste Management system has been established, aiming to meet the UAE’s ambitious target of diverting 75 per cent of all municipal solid waste away from landfills by 2021 as outlined in the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021.
In May 2018, a federal law was issued on integrated waste management that governs the management of all types of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
That’s not all. In partnership with the private sector, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has been supporting the establishment of one of the largest e-waste treatment facilities in the region soon with a processing capacity of 39,000 tonnes per year.
Globally, what’s called for is better e-waste strategies and green standards as well as closer collaboration between governments, employers and unions to make the circular economy work for both people and planet, as Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organisation, well suggests.
Protect users from
cyberspace risks
Technology is a double-edged sword. The immense benefit it offers comes with a flip side that poses potential dangers to users in varied forms. This makes it imperative for tight safety measures to be put in place.
Even as various government and private entities joined hands to mark the International Safer Internet Day 2019 on Tuesday, it would be prudent to take a serious note of a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report which indicated that online violence, cyber-bullying and digital harassment affected over 70 per cent of young people globally, and rightly called for concerted action to tackle and prevent this form of violence.
A recent one-million-strong Unicef poll of 15- to 24-year-old’s from more than 160 countries prompted the call, along with a series of student-led #ENDviolence Youth Talks held globally, which examined what parents, teachers and policymakers could do to keep them safe.
Interestingly, in the end, kindness stood out as one of the most powerful means to prevent bullying and cyberbullying.
According to the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 94 per cent of 15- to 24-year old’s in developed countries are online, and more than 65 per cent of their developing country counterparts – well ahead of the pace of Internet usage among the general population. Half of the world’s total population, regardless of age, is online, which brings increased risks.
Unicef is absolutely right in stating that cyber-bullying can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely, virtually “following” its victims online for life. Bullying and cyber-bullying also feed into each other, forming a continuum of damaging behaviour.
As per data from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the proportion of children and adolescents affected by cyber-bullying ranges from five per cent to 21 per cent, with girls at higher risk than boys.
The need to establish an effective mechanism to develop sustainable means of communication, while maintaining a safe Internet environment should never be underestimated.
The safety of children when they are online is one of the primary concerns of modern times. Parents should guide their children and prevent them from falling prey to fake news or messages posted on social media platforms.
Malicious cyber activity should be fought efficiently and unitedly. Greater coordination among countries is essential to enact a system for fair and safe use of cyber space.
Constant vigil is essential from all sides to protect honest social media users.
Efforts needed to make
food chain safer
Each year, food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals cause more than 600 million people to fall ill and 420,000 to die worldwide, as per UN organisations, and the only best way forward is to forge greater international cooperation to make the food chain safer.
The need to root out dangerous food should never be underestimated as it hampers progress towards sustainable development everywhere. This fact was amply highlighted at the first International Food Safety Conference, in Addis Ababa – organised by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and the African Union.
Contaminated food is to blame for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers -- and the economic impact is huge but often overlooked. Children under five suffer most, comprising 40 per cent of those who fall ill.
Illness linked to unsafe food overloads healthcare systems and damages economies, trade and tourism. The impact of unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies around $95 billion in lost productivity each year.
To move to a healthy diet, a recent report by the EAT-Lancet Commission well suggested that the world double its consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts while reducing at least by half, red meat and food with added sugar.
Facts can be bitter. Many may not know that one-third of the world’s croplands are used to grow feed for cows, rather than fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains which are needed for a healthy human diet. More than half of the world’s population suffers from some form of malnutrition.
The reality is that the world is witnessing changing food systems. Technological advances, digitalization, novel foods and processing methods provide a wealth of opportunities to simultaneously enhance food safety, and improve nutrition, livelihoods and trade. At the same time, climate change and the globalisation of food production, coupled with a growing global population and increasing urbanization, pose new challenges to food safety.
Food systems are becoming even more complex and interlinked, blurring lines of regulatory responsibility, as experts point out. Solutions to these potential problems require intersectoral and concerted international action.
Food safety must be a paramount goal at every stage of the food chain, from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, preparation and consumption.
The international community needs to strengthen political commitments and engage in key actions on food safety as the subject affects each and every individual on the planet.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Dubai a cradle of innovation
Dubai is a city of superlatives. The pursuit of happiness through hard work and the fondness for the Number 1 slot make Dubai the world’s most inspiring and sought-after destination. 
The inspiration springs from the leadership. The objectives of The Fifty-Year Charter, which aims to speed up the journey of prosperity, progress and sustainability in Dubai, well reflect the visionary zeal of the leaders. 
Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has made it clear that Dubai is determined to cement its position as global business capital. Once a goal is set, track record proves that Dubai never fails to achieve it, however hard the path may be.
Sheikh Mohammed’s vision for the next 50 years focuses on building upon the accomplished achievements, to reach a fully integrated city of law and the spirit of mercy and compassion, where its inhabitants enjoy prosperity and progress, as well as creating a conducive environment for future generations.
Foresight is a crucial word in a fast changing world. Whether it’s individuals or nations, those who procrastinate or fail to anticipate are bound to lose.
As Sheikh Mohammed points out, the new era requires keeping abreast of the changes that are taking place in today's world with creative thinking that anticipates the future challenges to ensure that Dubai will maintain its achievements and influential position to become a centre of the world.
The city’s magnetic appeal is also due to its year-round calendar of festivals, events and shopping experiences.
Figures speak volumes about the success story. The Emirate saw 1,777,913 passengers pass through its sea, air, and land ports from Dec.23, 2018 through Jan.1, 2019.
Constant upgradation and innovative initiatives, coupled with service par excellence by the staff have paid off, with the Dubai International Airport receiving its one billionth passenger last month. A billion people have taken Dubai to their destination. Dubai is a part of their story for a billion people. And that’s an awesome achievement.
No wonder, the Emirate remains on track to becoming the most visited city for global travel, business and events.
All factors indicate that Dubai is making sustained progress towards its Tourism Vision 2020 goals of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by 2020.
“We must look forward and anticipate the future, so that our country lead globally,” once stated Sheikh Mohammed. That vision is paying rich dividends.
New year should see
end to trade war
 The year gone by cannot be termed as great for global trade. While trade frictions between China and the United States affected business confidence and investment, political uncertainty and slower global growth added to the worry.
In fact, several global stock markets suffered their worst year in a decade. Wall Street advanced in low-volume trading on Monday as revelers gathered to ring in 2019, marking the end of the worst year for US stocks since 2008, the height of the financial crisis.
December was a particularly testing time for US equities. The S&P 500 saw its worst December since the Great Depression and the Nasdaq confirmed it was in a bear market, or 20 per cent below its high.
Asian and European markets too suffered similar losses during the year.
The 2018 Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report, earlier issued by the UN’s development arm in the region, ESCAP, cautioned that an escalating tariff war and resulting drop in confidence next year could cut nearly $400 billion from the global gross domestic product and drive regional GDP down by $117 billion.
The report underscored that neither China nor the US could win a trade war, explaining that both would see significant economic losses.
Washington and Beijing imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on more than $300 billion worth of goods in total two-way trade last year, locking them in a conflict that has begun to eat into profits.
The International Monetary Fund too cut its global growth forecast in October to 3.7 per cent for both 2018 and 2019, down from 3.9 per cent projected in July.
Fortunately, there is some scope for optimism.
The presidents of China and the US have exchanged messages vowing to boost cooperation despite the bruising trade war on the 40th anniversary of the countries' diplomatic relations.
US President Donald Trump, who has frozen the latest planned tariff hike, has indicated  "big progress" after a call with his counterpart Xi Jinping. Xi too has underlined the importance of working with the US "to advance China-US relations featuring coordination, cooperation and stability."
Moving the globe further away from an open, fair and rules-based trade system cannot be termed sensible.
Protectionist and unilateral approaches on trade are not the best way forward and only tend to fuel uncertainty and fear among investors. Uncertainty is a bane and huge hurdle to progress. Co-ordination is anytime better than confrontation.
German hack exposes
cyber vulnerability
While technology brings with it huge advantages, there is a dangerous flip side to it. Private data that has been stolen from hundreds of German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, and released online indicates the extent to which damage could be inflicted by unscrupulous hackers on individuals and organisations.
The fact that the information, which comprised home addresses, mobile phone numbers, letters, invoices and copies of identity documents, was published via Twitter in December but only came to light this week shows that the world needs to recognise the vulnerability of the virtual world and act more vigorously to counter such malicious activities. 
The extent of the damage could be surmised from the fact that among those affected were members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, the European Parliament, as well as those from regional and local assemblies. Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were also affected, as well as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Beyond politicians, the leak also exposed the private data of celebrities and journalists.
Some consolation comes from the fact that preliminary investigation indicated no sensitive information or data from Merkel's office had been leaked.
It may be recalled that last year, the country’s domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said there had been repeated cyberattacks against MPs, the military and several embassies that were allegedly carried out by Russian Internet espionage group "Snake." Computer networks belonging to the German government came under sustained attack and data from foreign ministry staff were stolen.
The fact that no right-wing politicians in the country were targeted in the latest cyber attack gives a twist to the controversy, which needs to be analysed by the investigative agencies.
It is true that such digital attacks are something most countries will have to adapt to in future. The susceptibility of such a powerful nation to cyber attacks hints at problems countries with much lesser facilities and infrastructure could face.
Such cyber crimes are not acceptable anywhere in the world and can only be perceived as an attack on democracy and institutions. Whichever individual or organisation is behind such act should be identified and made accountable. 
"Cyber vandalism," as former US president Barack Obama once dubbed such actions, needs a stronger response. What is called for is an effective system that could help utilise the benefits of digital technology even while protecting against negative impacts.
Give peace a chance
in Afghanistan
It is distressing that senseless violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and ending the 17-year war.
More disturbing is also the fact that civilians continue to bear the brunt of the war.  According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 8,050 civilians died or were wounded between January and September, with use of suicide bombings and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-government elements, accounting for almost half the casualties.
What will rattle human conscience is the fact that 5,000 children in Afghanistan were either killed or maimed within the first three-quarters of 2018.
Children there make up 89 per cent of civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war, such as unexploded shells, mortars or grenades.
On Monday, in the southeastern province of Paktika, eight civilians were killed and 12 wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a market in Janikhail district. The militants are said to have left the bomb in a village square. Among the dead were two brothers aged 10 and 12. A group of children had been trying to remove the explosive device from the ground when it exploded.
The war in Afghanistan is America's longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly a trillion dollars and killed tens of thousands of people.
US President Donald Trump's plan to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan has also added to the confusion.
While many worry that the withdrawal of US troops could lead to political instability and give the Taliban more power, others are hopeful their departure will facilitate peace talks.
Top Afghan officials insist that in the past four and a half years, security has been solely in the hands of Afghans and the final goal as part of those efforts is for Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) to stand on their feet and protect and defend soil on their own.
As per                         The Independent, fatalities in Afghanistan have been significantly higher in the past four years that the ANDSF have spent battling with the Taliban. At least 28,529 Afghan security forces have been killed since 2015, whereas American fatalities are low in contrast.
Whatever the background, all sides involved in the conflict should now work earnestly towards reconciliation and see to it that peace returns at the earliest. The Afghan people have suffered for too long for no mistake of their own.

Monday, December 31, 2018

HAPPY 2019

Smile on your face, dollars in your pocket, peace in your heart, charity in your mind, fulfillment in job and company of adorable friends - wishing you all that and more in 2019..because you are very dear to me:):)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Leave no one behind on health care
Health is a fundamental source of happiness for any human being. Any amount of wealth may prove worthless for an ailing individual. Hence, it is sad to note that the International Universal Health Coverage Day passed by on Dec.12 without many people even realising it.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a resolution urging countries to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) – the proposal that everyone, everywhere should have access to quality, affordable health care - as an essential priority for international development.
The idea is to raise awareness of the need for strong health systems and universal health coverage with multi-stakeholder partners.
A vast section of the world population still lacks coverage for even the most essential health services.
Primary health care plays a vital role in bringing health services closer to people’s homes and communities, thereby improving access. In October, 1,200 delegates from 120 countries gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan, for a Global Conference on Primary Health Care.
They adopted the Declaration of Astana, vowing to strengthen their primary health care systems as an essential step towards UHC.
As World Health Organisation Regional Director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, pointed out at the conference, the Declaration of Astana is a call to step up action, which should empower the world to make primary health care a reality in all our countries.
Active lifestyle is an antidote to health issues and Dubai deserves praise for putting much effort on this front. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, has been actively implementing the vision to make sport a way of life in the emirate.
Dubai has several programmes geared towards motivating individuals and institutions to embrace a physically active lifestyle. The Hamdan Bin Mohammed Order of Merit for Sports Education School is one such initiative that focuses on schools and aims to spread health and happiness among school children through the practice of sports.
The Dubai Fitness Challenge – the flagship fitness movement Sheikh Hamdan launched in 2017, is the world’s only city-wide initiative of its kind that promotes an active lifestyle and long-term wellness and features a varied line-up of fun, social and entertaining fitness activities.
World leaders should take proactive action and work towards making bigger and smarter investments in health. All sectors involved should commit to help move the world closer to UHC by 2030 as envisaged.
Digital push unlocks
key potential of UAE
In a rapidly changing world of technology, countries that lag behind are bound to pay a heavy price. While many nations are just starting to think about utilisation of smart technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), the UAE has been fortunate, thanks to visionary leadership, to have already made rapid strides and lead the digitalisation race in the region.
A report prepared by the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Campus, a technology hub of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, has stated that the UAE ranks first in the region in terms of enterprise adoption of AI applications with an annual growth rate of 33.5 per cent.
The report quotes PwC’s 2017 forecasts that the contribution of AI to the global economy will increase to $15.7 trillion by 2030, and that AI will contribute $96 billion to (13.6 per cent) to the UAE GDP by 2030.
Incidentally, the UAE ranks first in the Arab world in terms of expected annual growth of AI contribution to the economy at 33.5 per cent.
Perseverance pays and the UAE is reaping the benefits of proactive approach. A glance at the country’s key achievements this year in terms of the overall reinforcement and development of AI applications reveals the depth of the success story.
In January, the Ministry of Health and Community Prevention created a system to manage hospitals that aim to ensure the integration of AI in health facilities, bed management and the "PACE Real-Time Dashboard," as part of the ministry's participation in the Arab Health Conference Exhibition.
Three months later, the country's construction and transport sector declared the start of the implementation of AI in federal road projects, which will reduce project implementation periods by 54 per cent, fuel consumption by 37 per cent, labour dependence by 80 per cent, and the number of equipment by 40 per cent.
On May 11, the UAE adopted 26 mechanisms related to the use of AI in many economic sectors while the University of Dubai signed an agreement with the Roads and Transport Authority to establish a research centre for the roads and transport sector.
To cap it all, in November, a federal law was issued that will enable the UAE Cabinet to grant a temporary licence to implement unregulated but innovative projects based on AI and other advanced technologies, which aims to provide a safe and experimental environment for future technologies.
Smart thinking has certainly paid rich dividends for the UAE.
Pope’s visit will boost
global peace efforts
The UAE is known as a land of peace and tolerance. The UAE model of open-mindedness demonstrates the true image of Islam, which is one of love and brotherhood. Founding Father late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan laid the seeds for such a broadminded approach right at the time of foundation of the nation.
His Holiness Pope Francis’ proposed visit to the UAE in February next year at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has created all-round excitement and for right reasons.
Pope Francis has been revered the world over as a symbol of peace and compassion. He has been campaigning relentlessly for harmony among people of various faiths. He has repeatedly made it clear that hatred has no place in a sane society. Pope Francis is seen by many around the world as more progressive than many of his predecessors.
The visit will also be the Pope’s first to a GCC member country and hence it is bound to be historic.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has echoed the feelings of the entire nation by tweeting: “We welcome the news of Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates next February — a visit that will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world.”
With people from all around the globe living and working in the UAE, the country presents a brilliant model of harmony among communities.
In June, Pope Francis commended the efforts made by the UAE to promote tolerance and strengthen inter-faith dialogue and peaceful co-existence between world peoples. He highlighted in this regard the pioneering humanitarian initiatives championed by the UAE to alleviate the suffering of a large number of world people irrespective of colour, culture, ethnicity, race and religion.
As Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, points out, Pope’s visit will establish and support strong foundations of brotherhood and peaceful coexistence, both regionally and globally.
The theme of the Pope’s visit has been aptly titled "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” The visit would certainly go a long way in strengthening global peace efforts and boosting interfaith dialogue.
Climate deal pleasant
news, now time to act
The world can take comfort from the fact that after two weeks of heated negotiations, nearly 200 nations gathered in Katowice have managed to adopt a set of strong guidelines to ensure the implementation of the terms of 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at containing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
There should be no let-up in follow-up action as the adopted guidelines package, the “rulebook,” is designed to encourage greater climate action ambition and benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable.
Financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries has remained a thorny issue and it is good that the document has set a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year as of 2020.
Another notable accomplishment is that the nations have agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023, and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.
The UAE has rightly called for quick enforcement of the procedures and global standards adopted by the nations.
As Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and head of the UAE delegation points out, the final meetings confirmed the UAE's statement during the conference that time is no longer with us, and the need for decisive climate action has never been more crucial.
Al Zeyoudi correctly alerted the world that the warning signs are becoming more evident and dramatic – the devastating forest fires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes are now the norm rather than the exception across the globe.
Such climatic catastrophes make it clear for world nations that they have no choice but to intensify their efforts to cut down carbon emissions and expedite climate adaptation measures.
The UAE has implemented robust initiatives on the ground such as the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Noor Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest solar power plant that is being built in the UAE capital at a cost of Dhs3.2 billion.
The UAE has also, through its government and semi-government entities, helped deploy renewable energy solutions across the world.
While the UAE stays focused on addressing the climate challenge, other nations need to do their bit too.
The best solution lies in experimenting with models that have proved successful in reducing the effects of climate change, across several sectors.
Road safety should
be global priority
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates road traffic deaths continue to rise, with an annual 1.35 million fatalities, and this is a matter of huge concern.
Also worrisome is the trend wherein road traffic injuries are the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years, as per the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018.
These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility, as WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, points out. There is no excuse for inaction especially because this is a problem with proven solutions.
It should be noted that of the total number of road traffic deaths, 90 per cent occur in low and -middle-income countries. The risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. The rates are highest in Africa (26.6 per 100 000 population) and lowest in Europe (9.3 per 100 000 population).
Globally, pedestrians and cyclists need to take extra care as they account for 26% of all road traffic deaths. Motorcycle riders and passengers also account for 28% of all road traffic deaths.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals seek to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents and to provide access to safe, affordable and sustainable transport systems as well as improve road safety for all. Efforts should be intensified to achieve those goals.
Fortunately, there is some scope for consolation. Despite the increase in the overall number of deaths, the rate of death compared to the growing number of people and cars in the world has stabilised in recent years. In the last report, based on data from 2013, the number of road traffic deaths was estimated at 1.25 million annually.
The implication is that existing road safety efforts in some middle and high-income countries have mitigated the situation. This is largely due to better legislation around key risks, including speeding, drinking and driving, besides others.
Vehicle safety regulations should ensure that all new motor vehicles meet applicable minimum regulations for the protection of occupants and other road users, with seat belts, airbags and active safety systems fitted as standard equipment.
Road safety has not been receiving the attention it deserves.  There is a need for greater efforts to reduce road traffic deaths worldwide. Stakeholders should step up efforts to achieve global road safety targets.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
World cannot afford
to lose war on hunger
Some 821 million people, or one of every nine people on the planet, suffered from hunger last year, marking the third consecutive annual increase, according to the UN's latest hunger report.
If this statistics does not rattle the collective conscience of humanity and persuade the world to initiate remedial measures, what else will?
As global hunger mounts obstinately, a commitment to zero tolerance for food waste from both consumers and food industry is the need of the hour.
An estimated 155 million children under five years old are chronically malnourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
What most people tend to forget is that small actions could make a big difference when it comes to tackling global hunger.
It is estimated that globally some 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year. A reduction in that shocking figure presents what the UN Habitat agency calls “an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.”
The UAE, on its part, deserves praise for being a key point in providing food supplies to the entire region.
As Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Hareb Almheiri points out, the UAE has taken major steps to guarantee its future food security as a national priority, through adopting a series of relevant policies.
The UAE has established a national committee responsible for achieving sustainable development goals and developing agriculture policies to encourage the production of high quality food products through utilising the latest agricultural technologies, as well as for developing national standards for food markets and products.
Khalifa Ahmed Al Ali, Managing Director of the Food Security Centre, is right when he says that the paradigm shift achieved in food security by the UAE is not limited to local level. Its impact has reached abroad as the UAE has supported and implemented many agricultural, livestock and fishery development projects globally.
The country's livestock exceeded 4.5 million, which in itself provides an important aspect of food security related to meat, dairy products and others.
The world population is expected to reach 9 billion in 2050. Farmers need to find new productive ways to farm food and diversify their crops.
Everyone has a role to play in achieving ZeroHunger. People, organisations and governments should do their bit. 
The good news is it is possible and merely calls for responsible action from all sides. Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger.
Declining wildlife
a mounting concern
Every human being has a responsibility to protect the planet that we live in, as much as we do for our individual homes. Unfortunately, reckless human activity — how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives — is taking a heavy toll on wildlife and the natural resources we need to survive.
In what would rattle collective human conscience, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has stated that from 1970 to 2014, 60 per cent of all animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — were wiped out by human activity.
For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80 per cent. Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same period, as per the WWF's "Living Planet" report.
It does not give cozy comfort to note that the earth has lost almost half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years and that a fifth of the Amazon has actually disappeared in 50 years.
The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse, as WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini points out. The consolation, though, is the reasons for the crisis are known and corrective measures are possible. What it calls for is collective will.
As far as the UAE is concerned, the country is fortunate that its Founding Father, late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, himself was an ardent nature lover and conservationist who laid a strong foundation for environmental protection.
Though the UAE is situated in one of the most arid regions, it boasts alluring mangroves, wadis, salt marshes and lagoons.
The UAE’s idea of conservation was exemplified by an incident last year when an entire project venue was shifted to rescue a bird. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, were travelling to a forest area when they spotted a houbara bustard bird laying eggs near a project site. They immediately ordered to shift the project to another part of the area to protect the bird and its eggs.
There is a dire global need to reduce carbon emissions, prevent habitat loss and fight climate change. Destroying nature at this pace would have dangerous consequences on human beings. It’s better to wake up before it’s too late.
N-treaty spat makes
world less safer
At a time when the world looks increasingly divided on multiple issues, US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit a Cold-War era treaty that helped eliminate a class of nuclear weapons marks a huge setback for arms control and makes the world less safer.
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.
US authorities believe Moscow is developing and has deployed a ground-launched system in breach of the INF treaty that could allow it to launch a nuclear strike on Europe at short notice.
While such an apprehension is legitimate, Washington would do better to make Russia see sense by talking and making it adhere to the treaty rather than withdraw from it.
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.
As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), at the  start  of  2018  nine  states —United  States,  Russia, United  Kingdom,  France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — possessed  approximately 14,465 nuclear  weapons.
Russia and the US together still account for nearly  92  per  cent of all  nuclear  weapons. Despite making limited reductions to their nuclear forces, Russia and the US have long-term programmes under way to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missile and  aircraft  delivery  systems,  and  nuclear  weapon production  facilities.
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) last year was seen as a timely acknowledgement of the world’s genuine concerns over nuclear weapons.
ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organisations in 100 countries, vigorously campaigned for a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July last year.
ICAN's Executive Director Beatrice Fihn sent a loud message: "Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop."
There is simply no alternative to dialogue on nuclear arms control. Risk-reduction measures, including transparency in nuclear-weapon programmes and further reduction in all types of nuclear weapons is the best way forward. For that, leaders need to keep the dialogue process alive.
Air pollution, the
invisible killer
As many as 93 per cent of children under the age of 15 — a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five — breathe dangerously polluted air, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and this is hugely worrisome news.
It’s as good as saying that almost all children on the planet are affected by foul air.
With exposure to toxic air killing some 600,000 children under the age of 15 each year, silence cannot be an answer to the challenge posed by the silent killer. 
Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives, as WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, points out. This is absolutely inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.
The situation should be considered serious especially because when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.
Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer. Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
Children are particularly vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.
It should, nevertheless, be acknowledged that some countries are taking a serious note of the issue and initiating corrective measures.
Norway’s capital Oslo, for example, is paving a fossil-free, electrified path in its push towards improving air quality. The city has implemented methods of recycling waste into heat and electricity and offers cyclists precedence over private cars.
China is moving in the right direction by ordering 1.18 million residential households in 11 cities located in three central provinces to switch to natural gas heating this winter as part of the anti-air pollution campaign.
World leaders should commit to act against this serious health threat. As experts point out, all countries should work towards meeting WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the health and safety of children.
Governments should adopt measures such as reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the uptake of renewable energy sources.
Exclusive use of clean technologies and fuels for household cooking, heating and lighting activities can certainly improve the air quality within homes and in the surrounding community.