Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):
Children are supposed
to study, not work
At a time when they are supposed to be busy studying in schools, an estimated 152 million children around the world are busy working to earn for their families and this is a blot on humanity that needs to be eradicated.
According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, more than half of all children – some 73 million – work in jobs that directly endanger their health, safety and moral development.
A majority of the children cited between the ages of five and 17 work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, forestry and livestock.
The report, “Ending child labour by 2025: A review of policies and programmes” has indicated poverty as the main cause of child labour in agriculture, together with limited access to quality education, inadequate agricultural technology and access to adult labour, high hazards and risks, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agricultural activities.
There is also a perceptible link between child labour and armed conflicts.
The incidence of child labour in countries affected by armed conflict is 77 per cent higher than the global average, while the incidence of hazardous work is 50 per cent higher, according to the report, which noted the use of Syrian refugee children in the work force throughout the world.
Another worrisome trend is that violence against children is pervasive in homes, schools and communities.
According to a Unicef report titled, “A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents,” about 300 million, or three-quarters, of the world’s two- to four-year-old children experience either psychological aggression or physical punishment, or both, by their caregivers at home.
The reprehensible violence comes in varied forms: Babies slapped in the face; girls and boys forced into sexual acts; adolescents murdered in their communities.
As per UN officials, data from six countries reveals friends, classmates and partners were among the most frequently cited perpetrators of sexual violence against adolescent boys.
Globally, every seven minutes, an adolescent is killed by an act of violence. In the United States, adolescent boys from African American or black non-Hispanic populations are almost 19 times more likely to be murdered than non-Hispanic white adolescent boys.
Children are inheritors of the future. They deserve a better and peaceful planet. Every society has a major responsibility to protect children.
As experts point out, the best options to eradicate the bane of child labour are; boosting legal protection and inspections of work places, strengthening social protection and investing in free, quality education.
Sharjah books space
in readers’ hearts
The roaring success of the 36th edition the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which attracted a record-breaking 2.38 million visitors over its 11-day run, is an unambiguous indication that technology cannot easily erase the power of print.
The figure compares to 2.31 million visitors that attended last year.
To cultivate the love for literature among people by enriching their experience of the written word has been the mission of the event and it has been leaving a deep imprint in the hearts of visitors.
Over the years, the SIBF has transformed into a literary carnival. For those on intellectual pursuit anywhere in the world, Sharjah has now embossed itself as a must-visit destination.
The world’s third largest book fair brought the literary world together by featuring more than 2,600 events and ensuring the participation of 400 authors, intellectuals and literary luminaries from as many as 64 countries.
The Dhs206 million book sales figure represented an increase of 17% over 2016 and was achieved in part due to the high volume of sales of children’s and foreign books and the retail performances of new exhibitors.
Incidentally, both footfall and book sales figures for SIBF 2017 turned out to be the highest in the fair’s 35-year history.
The book fair this time witnessed another interesting and surprise feature. Chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE Cabinet held a special session at the SIBF to address a selection of political and economic topics.
It is the first time that a Cabinet held a meeting at a book fair to approve the nations federal budget.
What makes the fair rewarding for the visitors is the participation by a number of renowned authors, poets, intellectuals, artists, and journalists worldwide, beside the Arab World. This time too an impressive galaxy of prominent Arab cultural and literary luminaries enriched the fair with their presence.
The hashtag ‘#SIBF2017’ recorded more than 1.3 billion impressions in English and Arabic, signaling the global stature that SIBF enjoys.
As Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority Ahmed Al Ameri pointed out, the overwhelming success achieved by SIBF proves that it is not just a book fair, but a great cultural project that brings together different nationalities on the grounds of human dialogue and discourse.
Knowledge and reading are undoubtedly the noblest way for people to communicate with each other.
Endless plight of
Discrimination, exclusion and persecution are stark realities for many of the world’s stateless minorities and the never-ending suffering endured by the persecuted Rohingya Muslims is just one glaring example of that.
Distressingly, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are stateless, including three million officially, a status that deprives them of an identity, rights, and often jobs, as indicated by a special report, “This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship,” released by the United Nations.
As the report clearly notes, more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups.
Muslim Rohingyas in Buddhist-majority Myanmar form the world's biggest stateless minority, with some 600,000 having fled violence and repression since late August and taken refuge in Bangladesh.
Other stateless groups — many of whom have lived for generations in their homelands — include many Syrian Kurds, the Karana of Madagascar, Roma in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba of Kenya.
It’s not that all’s lost.
Some 30,000 stateless people in Thailand have acquired nationality since 2012 and the Makonde, a community of 4,000, became Kenya’s 43rd officially recognised tribe last year. But that’s hardly enough. More action needs to be initiated on these lines.
According to Melanie Khanna, head of UNHCR's statelessness section, the world is seeing reductions in Thailand, in central Asia, in Russia, in Western Africa. But the numbers are not nearly as substantial as they would need to be for us to end statelessness by 2024.
The worst affected are children. Stateless young people are denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.
One young woman in Asia earlier told UNHCR researchers that she had been unable to take up job offers as a teacher because she was stateless and could only find work in a local shop.
Statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.
Their protracted marginalisation could build resentment, increase fear and even lead to displacement.
The international community should ensure equal nationality rights for all. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness, as UN officials point out.
Dire need to step up
Scientists have warned that time is running out on our ability to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 C, and the world better wake up to this serious challenge.
A don’t-care attitude will affect each and every individual on the planet.
Corinne Le Quere, Director of the Tyndall Centre for climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia and lead author of a major study detailing the findings, has stated that carbon dioxide emissions that drive global warming, flat since 2014, are set to rise two per cent this year, dashing hopes they had peaked.
Global CO2 emissions from human activities are estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017.
Earth is overheating due to the burning of oil, gas and especially coal to power the global economy. Deforestation also plays a critical role.
This year's increase was mostly spurred by a 3.5 per cent jump in Chinese carbon pollution. Declines in the United States (0.4 per cent) and Europe (0.2 per cent) were smaller than previous years, while India, the No.3 carbon polluting nation, went up 2 per cent.
Amy Luers, climate policy advisor to former US president Barack Obama and executive director of Future Earth, is absolutely right in asserting that the news about emissions rising after a three-year hiatus is a giant leap backward for humankind.
Even heritage sites are not spared.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which released a report at UN climate talks in Bonn, climate change imperils one in four natural World Heritage sites, including coral reefs, glaciers, and wetlands — nearly double the number from just three years ago.
The number of sites at risk has actually grown to 62 from 35 in 2014, when one in seven were listed.
Worryingly, among the ecosystems most threatened by global warming are coral reefs, which bleach as oceans heat up, and glaciers, which melt.
Both the Artic and Antarctica are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
The implication is that efforts at reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases have so far been vastly insufficient. The global economy is not shifting quickly enough from fossil fuels to low or zero-carbon energy.
There is a dire need to accelerate climate action as well as raise ambition to do more.
Gen Next deserves a greener planet. Depriving them of cleaner oxygen would only reflect greed, apathy and selfishness on the part of the present generation.