Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Recent editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):
US veto another blow
to peace process
The vetoing of a draft United Nations resolution rejecting President Donald Trump's unilateral decision to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital is yet another historic blunder by Washington.
The United States stands completely isolated on the subject.
The support for the resolution even from US allies like France, Italy and Japan lucidly indicate American isolation.
Trump's decision has deviated from decades of US policy and international consensus that occupied Jerusalem's status must be sorted out through dialogue.
The text, tabled by Egypt, merely reiterated the United Nations' position on occupied Jerusalem and would have affirmed that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.
The text would also have called on all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in occupied Jerusalem.
A negative vote – or veto – from one of the Council's five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States – blocks passage of a resolution.
The draft was rejected despite support from the other four permanent members and from the 10 non-permanent members.
Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace process, has rightly stated that the security situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory has become more tense in the wake of Trump's decision.
The region has been witnessing increasing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre even went to the extent of praising the Egyptian draft as a "good text" and correctly argued that without an agreement on occupied Jerusalem, there would be no peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
On the ground, Israel's illegal settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territory have been continuing, with significantly more units advanced and approved this year.
For instance, as per UN officials, in East Jerusalem, the increase has been from 1,600 units in 2016 to some 3,100 in 2017.
Thanks to American belligerence, the Palestinian leadership has been forced to cancel meetings with Vice-President Mike Pence and look for the establishment of a new mechanism to achieve peace.
Trump’s moves have only increased the uncertainties about the future of the Middle East peace process.
The status of occupied Jerusalem must be decided only through negotiations and certainly not by the unilateral decisions of a third country.
Not good to take light
pollution lightly
World's nights are increasingly getting brighter thanks to the growing popularity of LED lights, but that should not be considered heartening news.
The global increase in light pollution brings with it dire consequences for human and animal health. Nighttime lights disrupt our body clocks and are said to even raise the risks of cancer, diabetes and depression.
As per the findings made by GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences (GRCG) using data from a NASA satellite, and published in the journal of                         Science Advances, from 2012 to 2016, the surface area of the planet that is artificially lit at night time grew by more than 2 per cent each year.
Scientists say that people’s sleep could be impaired as a result, which would be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
The ecosystem is also at risk, with the changes impacting the migration and reproduction patterns of birds, fish, amphibians, insects and bats.
The rate of growth observed in developing countries was much faster than in already brightly lit rich countries. Asia, Africa and South America, for the most part, saw a surge in artificial night lighting.
Physicist Christopher Kyba of the GFZ GRCG, who led the research, rightly insists that the issue isn't just the LED lights themselves, which are more efficient because they need far less electricity to provide the same amount of light. Rather, it's that people keep installing more and more lights.
Kyba and his colleagues have come out with some valuable suggestions. They recommend avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible — choosing amber over so-called white LEDs — and using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking lots or city streets.
For example, dim, closely spaced lights tend to provide better visibility than bright lights that are more spread out.
Ecologist Franz Hölker of Germany's Leibniz-Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries has also cautioned that in addition to threatening 30 per cent of vertebrates that are nocturnal and over 60 per cent of invertebrates that are nocturnal, artificial light also affects plants and microorganisms.
Besides other challenges, light pollution competes with starlight in the night sky for urban residents and intensely interferes with astronomical observatories.
The world needs to wake up to the truth that unchecked use of artificial lights at night has its own serious consequences.
Brighter lives with dimmer nights are anytime better than the other way around.
Protect civilians from
violence in Somalia
A report released by the United Nations has highlighted that the armed conflict in Somalia continues to exact a heavy toll on civilians, damaging infrastructure and livelihoods, displacing millions of people and impeding access to humanitarian relief for communities in need. The matter is too serious to be ignored.
The report – “Protection of Civilians: Building the Foundation for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Somalia” – covers the period from January 1, 2016 to October 14, 2017.
Civilians are paying the price for failure to resolve Somalia's conflicts through political means.
During the reporting period, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia documented a total of 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries, with 60 per cent of the casualties attributed to Al Shabaab militants, 13 per cent to clan militias, 11 per cent to State actors, including the army and the police, four per cent to the African Union Mission to Somalia, and 12 per cent to unidentified or undetermined attackers.
“Parties to the conflict are simply not doing enough to shield civilians from the violence. This is shameful,” says UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, and he is absolutely right.
Civilians were the victims of unlawful attacks – by being directly targeted and through the use of indiscriminate bomb and suicide attacks – by non-State groups.
Such attacks, which are prohibited under international human rights and humanitarian laws, are in most cases likely to constitute war crimes. It is imperative that the perpetrators are identified and held accountable.
The worst incident on a single day was the twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu on Oct.14, attributed to Al Shabaab by Somali government officials and in which at least 512 people are officially recorded to have died as of Dec.1.
The UAE has always stood by brotherly countries at their time of need and Somalia is no exception.
The “For You, Somalia” campaign launched under the umbrella of the Year of Giving saw a UAE ship carry 1,700 tonnes of food supplies, provided by the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation to alleviate dire living conditions and assist those affected by drought, sent to the port of Berbera in Somalia.
The Emirates Medicine Bank contributed to providing medical aid to 5,000 underprivileged children and elderly people by increasing medicinal stocks in the Zayed Giving Initiative clinics and mobile hospitals in Somalia.
Innocent Somali civilians need to be protected. The world community should step up help and support Somalia in its reconciliation efforts.
Plight of children
in South Sudan
A new report entitled “Childhood Under Attack” by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has highlighted the plight of children in the world's youngest country, South Sudan, and it makes distressing reading.
As the conflict in the country enters its fifth year, more than half the children of South Sudan are in the throes of tragedy – victims of malnutrition, disease, forced recruitment, violence and the loss of schooling.
Leila Pakkala, Unicef's Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa, correctly points out that no child should ever experience such horrors and deprivations.  Yet, children in South Sudan are facing them on a daily basis.
The situation in the country is worrisome. Half of the 12 million population need aid to cope with the effects of war, hunger and economic decline.
The conflict, which erupted two years after the country won independence from Sudan, was sparked by a feud between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. Fighting has raged mostly along ethnic lines.
This week, South Sudan and the United Nations appealed for $1.7 billion aid to help avert starvation amid the civil war, but aid groups point out that bureaucracy, violence and soaring fees are preventing them from reaching those in need.
Already about 4 million South Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes. Nearly 1.9 million are internally displaced and about 2.1 million have fled to neighboring countries.
Distressingly, up to 85 per cent of internally displaced are women and children.
As the Unicef report reveals, years of insecurity and upheaval have had a staggering impact on children, threatening an entire generation.
The numbers tell a grim story.
Almost three million children are severely food insecure; more than one million acutely malnourished; 2.4 million forced from their homes; two million out of school, and if the current situation persists, only one in 13 children are likely to finish primary school.
Moreover, an estimated 900,000 children suffer from psychological distress; more than 19,000 have been recruited in into armed forces and armed groups; and more than 2,300 have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013 – with hundreds of rape and sexual assault incidents against children having been reported.
As UN officials insist, South Sudan's children require a peaceful, caring environment. The country’s children and women face the risk of grave violations and abuse and need to be protected.