Here are some Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):
Dubai does it again
with EXPOnential feats
“We, in the UAE, have no such word as ‘impossible’; it does not exist in our lexicon,” famously said UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum once. Now the UAE has proved his words true.
Dazzling Dubai entered the Expo 2020 bid late, but emerged as the latest winner with its EXPOnential growth model, based on a cluster of values, including rapid development, innovation, quality lifestyle for national citizens/expatriates and cultural diversity.
The great official support manifested in the directives of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the persistent follow-up from Sheikh Mohammed are the most important drives behind this major accomplishment.
From the enduring tranquillity of the desert to the lively bustle of the souk, this Arab metropolis offers a kaleidoscope of attractions. Biggest, tallest, largest, longest, Dubai has it all.
Expo 2020 is the world's largest and most prestigious exhibition, and Dubai is bringing the event, for the very first time, to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
With the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," the mega event is expected to attract over 25 million visitors and will be a celebration of innovative partnerships for global progress.
Expo 2020 will inject more than AED140 billion in Dubai's GDP. It will enhance Dubai's trade and support its tourism development strategy targeting 20 million tourists and tripling tourism contribution in the emirate's economy by 2020. Around 277,000 new job opportunities are likely in Dubai over the next seven years.
There is a huge post-event advantage too. The total investment in the infrastructure related to Expo 2020 is estimated at AED25 billion. Some of these facilities are permanent and will be utilised for other purposes after the event.
The proposed period for the exhibition is from October 2020 to April 2021. During that season of the year, Dubai usually has pleasant weather.
When it comes to organising international events, the Emirate has the required expertise having hosted World Bank meetings, International Monetary Fund meetings, Dubai Film Festival and Dubai World Cup, to mention just a few.
On the logistics front too, the Dubai has a definite advantage. Approximately, one third of the world's population are only four hours away from Dubai by air, and 66 per cent of the world's population can land in Dubai airport in eight hours flights.
The UAE is the closest to the exhibition values with its cultural diversity that gathers over 200 nationalities living and working in perfect harmony in a safe environment without any discrimination.
The great news from Paris makes the message abundantly clear: The Expo victory asserts UAE's competency to lead development in the region with its world-class infrastructure, highly efficient logistics, modern legislative and regulatory frameworks and a clear vision for the future.
Food is not
meant for trash
A report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) this week has noted that the average UK household throws away the equivalent of six meals every week, costing almost £60 (approx Dhs400) a month. It is hard to digest the fact that some people can be so insensible, especially when the United Nations says that approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. It means that one in every eight people on earth goes to bed hungry each night.
The waste costs the UK £12.5 billion a year, despite a major drive to reduce the problem. The equivalent of 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 5.9 million glasses of milk are thrown away every day, while the equivalent of 86 million whole chickens are discarded every year.
Households in the UK have cut avoidable food waste by 21 per cent since 2007, saving consumers almost £13 billion, but the rate of reduction has slowed in recent years and 4.2 million tonnes is still thrown out which could have been eaten. Almost half of this food goes straight from fridges or cupboards to the bin without making it to the dinner plate.
The per capita consumer waste is around 100 kilogrammes in Europe and North America per year. In Africa, it is less than 10 kilogrammes a year per person. According to UN officials, if food loss and waste can be reduced to zero it would give additional food to feed two billion people. Most food loss takes place in post-production, harvesting, transportation and storage. In developing countries, food waste is mainly related to inadequate infrastructure, while in more developed countries it is largely a problem in the marketing and consumption stages.
There are some countries that take this issue seriously. For example, Germany has taken the lead in fighting food waste in Europe, with the government launching a "Too
good for the trash" campaign last year. The country is also a pioneer in "food-sharing," using the Internet to distribute produce recovered from store rubbish while still in good condition. Innovative and sincere measures by institutions and individuals, besides government and private agencies, are needed to cut global food loss and waste, which in turn can help fight global hunger. Every individual on earth has a role to play in reducing food waste. Shirking responsibility on this aspect will only imply that such individuals are selfish and do not care about the society at large.
Cut emissions or
pay the price
“It is time to go the extra mile in cutting emissions.” That’s the resounding message emanating from Poland where thousands of delegates from nations and environment organisations around the world have opened two weeks of United Nations climate talks meant to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the opening session that there was a need to guarantee greater climate security for the generations to come.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference comes amid a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming unless humankind changes its atmosphere-polluting, fossil-fuel-burning ways. The UN has set a target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels that provide the backbone of the world's energy supply today. This requires a costly switch to cleaner and more efficient energy, which helps to explain why the UN negotiations have not been easy.
Talks on climate change have been hampered for decades by disagreements between wealthy and poor countries -- most notably the United States and China, the world's biggest polluters - over how to implement measures to slow climate change. Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this 19th round of the annual talks.
Last week, the UN Environment Programme warned the chances of meeting the two-degree goal were swiftly diminishing, while the World Meteorological Organisation said atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a new record high in 2012.
In September, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8 C (8.6 F) this century -- a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts and sea-level rise.
Rich economies have yet to show how they intend to meet a pledge, made in 2009, to muster $100 billion per year from 2020. Environmentalists have repeatedly called for proactive steps from the developed world. Rich countries should provide the necessary funding and technology so that the world can address the climate change challenge.
Mankind is to blame for changes to the climate. The fact is that we are the first human beings to ever breathe air with 400 parts per million CO2. The delegates taking part in the
conference should exert maximum efforts for a positive result, as
the issue they are tackling is a deadly
challenge for humanity. Poland
Disability does not
Across the world, persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society. What most people forget is that over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.
Dec.3 marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and there have been calls around the globe to remove barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society.
It is known that persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest and lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support systems, as well as have a higher rate of mortality.
The UN General Assembly in the recent years has repeatedly emphasised that the genuine achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals, requires the inclusion and integration of the rights, and well-being, as well as the perspective of persons with disabilities in development efforts at national, regional and international levels.
Interestingly, the United Nations has now launched an Accessibility Centre at its New York Headquarters, as part of ongoing efforts to enable the full participation of persons with disabilities in the work of the organisation. The new centre, which was made possible by contributions from the Republic of Korea, will provide cutting-edge tools for the visually and hearing impaired to access documents and participate in meetings, as well as charging stations for electronic wheelchairs.
The Accessibility Centre will enable persons with disabilities to participate in the inter-governmental processes, and reinforce the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force in 2008.
As of October this year, 158 countries have ratified the Convention, which asserts the rights of people with disabilities to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.
Disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda of most countries. The significance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities should be taken seriously and not just as another token initiative. Efforts should be intensified to assist those who live with some form of disability reap the benefits of development and fully participate in society. A more accessible world for the disabled people where they live without any stigma should be the ultimate goal.
Need to tame the
Nov.14 (Thursday) passed off as just another day with most people not realising that it also marked the “World Diabetes Day” coinciding with the birthday of Frederick Banting, who along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems.
The number of people estimated to be living with the disease has now risen to a new record of 382 million this year. The vast majority have type 2 diabetes - the kind linked to obesity and lack of exercise - and the epidemic is spreading as more people in the developing world adopt Western, urban lifestyles.
The latest estimate from the International Diabetes Federation is equivalent to a global prevalence rate of 8.4 per cent of the adult population and compares to 371 million cases in 2012. By 2035, the organisation predicts the number of cases will have soared by 55 per cent to 592 million.
The disease poses a challenge to countries across the globe. China, India and the United States top the list for the most cases of diabetes per country; around 24.4 million Americans had the disease in 2013. But islands in the Pacific have the most alarming rates of prevalence. The Middle East and North Africa currently have the highest rates of adult diabetes prevalence compared to other world regions.
It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
But not all is lost. The good news is that diabetes is imminently treatable, with cheap generic drugs that are available, and with lifestyle change.
The battle to protect people from diabetes and its disabling, life-threatening complications should be intensified. A robust strategy involving all parts of society should be evolved to improve diets and promote healthier lifestyles. The health sector and government authorities should not be caught napping, but take this startling revelation by a World Health Organisation official seriously: “One dies every 10 seconds from diabetes.”