Sunday, October 29, 2017

Recent editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):

Global unemployment

a gargantuan challenge

More than 200 million people are out of work around the world, an increase of 3.4 million since last year, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and this is a matter of serious concern.

In the new addition of its flagship report, “World Employment and Social Outlook 2017: Sustainable Enterprises and Jobs,” the ILO has warned that small and medium sized enterprises has stagnated, the impact of which is worst in developing economies, where more than one in two workers are employed in small and medium-sized firms.

Private sector enterprises accounted for the bulk of global employment in 2016, employing 2.8 billion individuals, representing 87 per cent of total employment.

The sector, which also covers medium-sized firms, accounts for up to 70 per cent of all jobs in some Arab States, and well over 50 per cent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

However, what is alarming is the fact that these companies are struggling to grow.

Data from more than 130 countries shows that small and medium business had faster job growth than larger firms before the global financial slump in 2008.

Disturbingly, from 2009, job creation in the small and medium sector was simply absent, according to the ILO report.

This is an unambiguous signal that governmental intervention is necessary to reverse the trend.

By 2030, there will be about 1.3 billion 15 to 24 year olds on the planet, some 100 million more than in 2015.

In a separate report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has rightly suggested that young people growing up in rural Africa need jobs where they live, so they are not forced to join the growing ranks of poor seeking work in cities or to make dangerous journeys to reach Europe.

Industrial and service sectors in African and South Asian cities have not grown enough to meet the demand, and won't absorb the millions of new job seekers wanting to escape grinding poverty and hunger in their rural homes.

Interestingly, in June, several African governments pledged to restore degraded land, invest in agriculture and create "green jobs" for young people in a drive to reduce unemployment, fight radicalisation, and stem the tide of migration to Europe.

While such a pledge sure rings in some optimism, there is still a long way to go. What is called for is categorical action on the ground.

After all, jobs are a matter that affects each and every individual and families.

Another cowardly

attack in Somalia

The terrorist bombing that took place in Mogadishu on Saturday killing and wounding scores of innocent people is another cowardly and disgusting act which implies that the international community needs to redouble efforts to eradicate terrorism.

What the Al Shabaab extremist group, which claimed responsibility for the attack, does not understand is that it is bound to fail and will be held accountable for its dastardly actions. The entire world is united and determined more than ever now to root out the scourge of terrorism.

The latest attack has come just two weeks after Somalia suffered its deadliest-ever terrorist attack in which at least 358 people were killed in a huge truck bombing in Mogadishu.

After the ruthless Oct.14 terror bombing, Somalis sent a strong message of unity by marching in the thousands through Mogadishu in defiance of Al Shabaab.

This has visibly rattled the terrorist group, which is trying to instill fear in the minds of ordinary Somalis through more cowardly attacks.

But such barbaric tactics will just not work.

If at all anything, such brutal killing of innocent people would only unite Somali people and the entire world more strongly and prompt sterner actions to eliminate the evil of terrorism forever from earth.

While Shabaab militants instantly claimed responsibility for the latest attack, they did not have the guts to do so for the Oct.14 bombing as the toll was too high.

Shabaab terrorists, who earlier controlled almost all of southern Somalia, are already facing fire.

The US military has stepped up military efforts against Al Shabaab this year carrying out as much as 20 drone strikes as the global war on extremism moves deeper into the African continent.

The UAE has always remained a true friend of Somalia and has been extending assistance to the brotherly nation at the time of need.

As per the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, several Somalis who were wounded in the earlier terrorist explosion in Mogadishu have been transported abroad to receive treatment.

A medical aircraft equipped with the latest medical tools transported the Somalis, who are suffering from serious injuries, to Kenya while accompanied by Emirati doctors.

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has sent out a strong message to extremists that “such atrocities will neither deter nor discourage our will to fight the terrorists.” All peace-loving nations stand in total solidarity with Somalia in its fight against extremism.

Plight of Rohingya

far from over

The Rohingya exodus has turned out to be the fastest growing refugee emergency in the world and the troubles for one of the most persecuted communities are far from over.

As of last Sunday, some 603,000 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Bangladesh and thousands more reportedly remain stranded in Myanmar without the means to cross the border, as per UN officials.

The 1.1 million Rohingya have faced decades of merciless discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and denied citizenship since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.

A report by the UN human rights office even accused Myanmar of seeking to permanently expel the Rohingya by planting land mines at the border with Bangladesh where the refugees are sheltering.

In this background, it is heartening to note that hundreds of members of the UAE volunteer doctors of the Emirates Programme for Community and Specialised Volunteering participated in the humanitarian missions of the Zayed Giving Caravans, mobile clinics and hospitals, aimed at reducing the suffering of Rohingya refugees.

The volunteers participated to provide the best treatment, diagnostic and preventive services, as well as to build national capacities, to serve children and elderly patients, in line with the directives of the UAE wise leadership to observe 2017 as the “Year of Giving.”

As highlighted by Dr Shamsa Al Awar, Executive Director of Humanity Doctors, the UAE is a leading country in the field of medical humanitarian action through its medical volunteer teams, mobile clinics and hospitals, which managed to help millions of people and provided free treatment to more than seven million people in several countries, including Sudan, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Kenya, Haiti, Pakistan, Somalia, Tanzania and Bosnia.

Just on Monday, the UAE participated in the UN "Pledging Conference on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis" in Geneva, and pledged $7 million to ease the suffering of Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

The most pressing need for thousands of refugees and refugee children is food, safe water, sanitation and vaccinations. Psychosocial support, education and counselling are also urgently needed.

The situation is especially desperate for Rohingya refugee children, who now number more than 320,000 in Bangladesh. The crisis is certainly stealing their childhoods.

The only way forward is for the Myanmar authorities to immediately cease military operations and allow refugees now living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh to return. Myanmar should also allow UN rights investigators access to Rakhine to report on allegations of atrocities.

It’s time we tackled

global pollution

Environmental pollution has turned out to be one of the biggest causes globally of all premature deaths and this is a matter of grave concern.

The fact that an estimated nine million people died worldwide in 2015 due to diseases caused by pollution should ring alarm bells and wake up the world to reality.

The deaths are more than those caused by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and even more disastrous than all violence, as per a major study released in the “Lancet” medical journal.

The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses.

Epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine and the lead author of the report, is absolutely right when he says pollution has never received the desired attention of world leaders, civil society and health professionals.

Areas like Sub-Saharan Africa have yet to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. Soil pollution has received scant attention. There are still plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity.

Asia and Africa need to wake up fast as they are the regions putting the most people at risk.

The news is not good for India either, as it tops the list of individual countries. One out of every four premature deaths in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution.

China, too, has major reasons to worry and needs to initiate remedial action. Its environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness, as per the study.

Several other countries such Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.

Distressingly, it is most often the world's poorest who suffer, as the study points out. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92 per cent — occur in low- or middle-income countries. Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker and industries lean on outdated technologies.

While pollution has considerably negative impacts on human health and ecosystems, what should not be forgotten, as UN experts point out, is that it is controllable and avoidable through political leadership, high-level champions and commitments, as well with local level action.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

UAE doing its best

to tackle food waste

As global hunger mounts for the first time in decades, a commitment to zero tolerance for food waste from both consumers and food industry is the need of the hour. It is heartening that the UAE remains in the forefront in the war against food waste.

While countries marked the World Food Day 2017 on Monday, the UAE has kept up the momentum by opening the second food bank site in Dubai.

It may be recalled that Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, dedicated his Accession Day, January 4, to the launching of the first UAE Food Bank, a non-profit charitable organisation committed to distributing food to those in need while eliminating food waste.

An alarming amount of food purchased by people in the UAE is surplus to their needs. The issue of eliminating food waste globally while simultaneously alleviating hunger is critical, especially when considering that there are 200,000 children born every day in food-deprived households, and many more residing in rural and underprivileged areas.

The noble aim of the UAE Food Bank is to distribute food to those in need while eliminating food waste by collaborating with local authorities as well as local and international charities to create a comprehensive ecosystem to efficiently store, package and distribute excess fresh food from hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.

The Dubai Municipality has been proactive in promoting the cause and has organised several events to create awareness.

The programmes include a social media campaign with the hashtag, #ZeroFoodWaste, food donation drive and competitions focused on the Zero Food Waste theme. The general public is encouraged to use the hashtag #ZeroFoodWaste on social media to promote the theme.

A “Fill up the Fridges” has also been launched through volunteers to ensure that all fridges are full with foods that can be donated to someone else without being wasted.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report states that there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people go hungry.

The UAE has been doing its best to tackle food waste. The rest of the world needs to wake up to meet the challenge.

As Sheikh Mohammed himself well explained: “Feeding others is the essence of compassion, a pillar of our Emirati values and core to Sheikh Zayed’s legacy.”

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