Monday, January 22, 2018

Recent editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):
Warming planet 
is not cozy news
The situation on the climate front is not pleasant. The trend is actually disturbing.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has cited consolidated data from five leading international weather agencies to confirm that 2015, 2016 and 2017 have been the three warmest years on record.
Last year was the second or third warmest on record behind 2016, and the hottest without an extra dose of heat caused by an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean.
Climate has a naturally occurring variability due to phenomena such as El Niño, which has a warming influence, and La Niña, which has a cooling influence.
Average surface temperatures in 2017 were 1.1°Celsius above pre-industrial times, creeping towards 1.5°C, the most ambitious limit for global warming set by almost 200 nations under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The agreement has been weakened by a plan by US President Donald Trump, who doubts mainstream scientific findings that warming is driven by man-made greenhouse gases, to pull out.
What Trump forgets is that in the United States alone, weather and climate-related disasters cost a record 306 billion in 2017, especially western wildfires and hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma.
Trump’s attempt to promote US fossil fuel industries are unambiguously at odds with the Paris accord's goals of phasing out emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas between 2050 and 2100.
The fresh global data essentially underscores the dramatic warming of the planet and highlights the need for naysayers on climate change to wake up and accept the scale and urgency of the risks that people around the world face from climate change.
Climate change, combined with poverty, eco-systems destruction and inappropriate land use are pushing more and more people to leave home.
Since industrialisation gathered steam in the early 19th century, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by nearly half, from 280 parts per million to 407 parts per million.
The best way forward is to initiate effective collective action to slash CO2 and methane emissions, improve energy efficiency and develop technologies to remove CO2 from the air.
The WMO Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, emphasises that a three-year streak of record hot years, each above 1° Celsius, combined with record-breaking economic losses from disasters in 2017 should tell us all that we are facing an existential threat to the planet which requires a drastic response.
One can only say that he has hit the nail on the head.
No end to plight
of Syrian civilians
Intensification in hostilities across Syria is having a devastating impact on hapless civilians and this is a dangerous trend.
What is worrisome is also that the fighting is severely limiting life-saving humanitarian operations.
According to UN officials, increasing indiscriminate bombing, shelling and fighting in the last few weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to be uprooted.
The deadly violence has severely affected almost all life-saving and economic sectors. Medical and healthcare facilities throughout the country are operating at a fraction of the pre-crisis level.
The reality on the ground is that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in seven years of bloody conflict, countless more are missing or detained, and five million have fled to other countries.
Adding to the worry is the fact that the little resources that internally displaced persons and affected communities had have been exhausted.
In Idlib, armed clashes between government forces, their allies and opposition armed groups have further intensified, with insecurity also spreading to parts of northeast Hama, western rural Aleppo and southern Idlib – forcing 100,000 people to abandon their homes near the frontline and move towards safer areas.
Conditions especially in Idlib are terrible, with many displaced people forced to stay out in the open during the winter period.
In the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, nearly 400,000 people are said to be living in dire conditions suffering severe food, fuel and drinking water shortages.
As per Unicef officials, the first 14 days of the year alone witnessed more than 30 children killed in escalating violence in East Ghouta, where an estimated 200,000 children have been trapped under siege since 2013.
Distressingly, millions of children across Syria and in neighbouring countries have suffered the consequences of unabated levels of violence in the country.
The fighting does not spare even hospitals. The maternity and paediatric hospital in Ma'arrat An Nu'man was attacked three times taking it out of service.
The seven-year conflict continues to push more and more people into the abyss of hunger and despair.
The only way forward is to prevent further violence and enable humanitarian organisations to assist people in need. Every minute matters, as any delay in reaching those in distress, especially those in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, could prove disastrous.
Protecting civilians and allowing delivery of food to families in need is a basic humanitarian duty to which all parties involved in the conflict should adhere.
End brutality
against children
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children, once mentioned Nelson Mandela.
However, the brutality faced by many children in the modern world, especially in the conflict zones, could rattle the heart of any good-hearted individual.
Manuel Fontaine, the Director of Emergency Programmes at Unicef, has highlighted the fact that children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds.
According to Unicef, children have become frontline targets, used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight in conflicts around the world.
Sexual violence, forced marriage, abduction and enslavement have become standard tactics in conflict areas like Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.
In addition to the physical trauma children have had to suffer, far too many children have been subjected to the psychosocial trauma in having to witnesses shocking and widespread violence.
Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and many children have died as a result of lack of health care, medicines or access to food and water, because these services were damaged or destroyed in fighting.
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.
The International Labour Organisation has indicated that more than half of all children – some 73 million – work in jobs that directly endanger their health, safety and moral development.
In Eastern Ukraine, places where children could safely play less than four years ago are now riddled with deadly explosives.
UN officials say that landmines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war threaten the lives of over 220,000 children in eastern Ukraine.
A child has become a conflict-related casualty every week, on average, between January and November this year along eastern Ukraine's contact line, where fighting is most severe.
Landmines, explosive remnants of war and unexploded ordnance were stated as the leading cause of these tragedies, accounting for approximately two-thirds of all recorded injuries and deaths during the period. In most cases the casualties occurred when children picked up explosives such as hand grenades and fuses.
Brutality against children, wherever it happens, cannot be allowed to continue. All parties in conflict zones need to abide by their obligations under international law and end violations and attacks against children.
Treat migrants
with dignity
In less than a fortnight into the New Year, close to 200 migrants or refugees have reportedly died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea and this is certainly is not a positive beginning for such hapless people.
While January 2017 had witnessed some 254 deaths, this week's reports suggest that the start of 2018 may be even deadlier.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported that 81 Mediterranean Sea deaths of migrants or refugees were recorded in the first eight days of the year – five in Western Mediterranean waters off Spain and Morocco, the rest between Italy and Libya.
In the latest, and third deadliest, shipwreck in the Mediterranean, the Libyan Coast Guard rescued three rubber boats with 279 migrants – 19 women, 243 men, 13 boys and four girls – in an operation lasting at least 12 hours.
Small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers are often responsible for the high death rate among the migrants.
The IOM estimates that over 171,300 migrants entered Europe in 2017, compared to a little over 363,500 in 2016.
Sadly, hostility towards migrants is growing around the world. Adding to the endless problems is also the bluntly vulgar language used against them by some of the world leaders.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal.
Austria’s new far-right interior minister Herbert Kickl had also sparked an outcry this week by saying that his government wants to “concentrate” asylum-seekers, employing a word widely associated with Nazi camps.
What is totally forgotten is that migration is a positive global phenomenon.
As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres points out, it powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline.
Leaders like Trump and Herbert Kickl tend to ignore the fact that globally, migrants make a major contribution to international development – both by their work as well as through remittances back to their home countries.
Last year alone, migrants remitted nearly $600 billion, three times all development aid, as per UN statistics.
The importance of treating migrants with dignity and respect should never ever be underestimated. Migration is not a crime. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.
Afghan violence
hits civilians most
Security in Kabul has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb killed some 150 people and wounded 400, mostly civilians.
Unfortunately, even such heightened security has not been able to deter multiple deadly attacks, as the latest 12-hour Taliban siege at a luxury hotel in Kabul that claimed several lives has proved.
The violence came at a time when the hotel was scheduled to hold a technology conference organised by Afghanistan's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Also at the hotel, guests had gathered for a wedding ceremony.
The situation was so scary that people trapped at the top of the building tied bedsheets together and climbed over balconies to escape the assault.
Kabul has become one of the deadliest places for civilians, with the Taliban and the Daesh group both stepping up attacks.
The attack on the hotel is just one of several bloody assaults.
In a village in the northern province of Balkh, Taliban militants went from house to house in the middle of the night, pulling police from their homes and shooting them dead. At least 18 officers were killed.
In Heart, at least eight civilians were killed when a car hit a Taliban-planted roadside mine.
As per the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the number of civilians killed in the war in Afghanistan reached a new high during the first six months of 2017. A total of 1,662 civilian deaths were reported between Jan.1 and June 30, marking a two per cent increase since the previous year’s record high.
Afghan forces have struggled to combat terror since the US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014.
Morale has been further eroded by long-running fears that the militants have insider help — everything from infiltrators in the ranks to corrupt afghan forces selling equipment to the Taliban.
The continued violence resulting in a number of deaths and casualties of civilians indicates that measures against terrorism in the country need to be intensified.
The long-suffering people of Afghanistan deserve peace and prosperity and the world community needs to help them achieve that.
Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
All parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan should uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law. Such heinous attacks that target innocent civilians may amount to a war crime.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy 2018

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 2018..because you are very dear to me:):)