Monday, April 22, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Show no tolerance towards intolerance
The world community needs to join hands and send out a clear and loud message that racism, bigotry and xenophobia are a bane that have no place in a sane society.
In a latest incident of racism in football, a video circulated on social media ahead of Chelsea's Europa League match at Slavia Prague this week showed a group of six supporters chanting racist abuse against Egypt forward Mohamed Salah repeatedly.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has not only condemned the disgusting racist abuse aimed at Salah, but has also rightly called for lifetime bans for the Chelsea fans accused of taunting the Liverpool star.
Liverpool has stated that the video showed "vile discriminatory chants" and is "dangerous and disturbing", while Chelsea has issued a statement pledging to use all available punishments against those involved.
The culprits should be identified at the earliest and forced to face the law.
It may be recalled that four Chelsea supporters were previously suspended by the club after Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling was racially abused at Stamford Bridge in December.
Bigotry comes in varied forms. There are many instances of helpless migrants and refugees facing the worst form of hatred.
In a heartfelt briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that during his three and a half decades as an international civil servant, he had never seen such toxicity, such poisonous language in politics, media and social media, directed towards refugees, migrants and foreigners.
Grandi emphasised that the stigmatisation of refugees and migrants was unprecedented and that traditional responses to refugee crises appeared increasingly inadequate.
The best way to tackle the issue is strong political will and improved responses, as enshrined by the UN Global Compact for Refugees, adopted last December.
The UN Security Council has a critical role to play, particularly in terms of solving peace and security crises, supporting countries that are hosting refugees, and working to remove obstacles to solutions.
As indicated by Grandi, the consequences of the toxic language surrounding refugees and migration can be gauged by the example of the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 49 innocent people dead.
The response of the New Zealand government is certainly a good example of effective leadership and how to respond to such toxicity, in a firm and organised manner, restating solidarity with refugees, and reaffirming the principle that our societies cannot be truly prosperous, stable and peaceful, if they do not include everyone.
The UAE, on its part, is a shining example of cultural and religious diversity, which proudly hosts over 120 churches and many other places of worship that belong to religious minorities living in the country.
As part of the "Istanbul Process" regarding the implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution No. 16/18 on combatting intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatisation, discrimination and violence against people for their religion or beliefs, Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and Chair of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Group in Geneva, recently participated in a relevant meeting organised by the European Union.
Al Zaabi well concluded that open communities, which are free from racism and extremist ideologies, can achieve economic, cultural and social successes. That is aptly proved by the UAE’s experience over 47 years.
Attacks in Sri Lanka a barbaric act
Terrorism is a language of the cowards and those with evil mindsets. Terrorists engage in indiscriminate violence and destruction with the wrong notion that they can strangle social harmony and break the unity of peace-loving people around the world.
The series of devastating bomb blasts that ripped through hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka killing or wounding several hundreds of innocent people is an abhorrent, barbaric act that implies the fight against evil mongers needs to be strengthened further.
The dreadful violence violated the sanctity of holy places of worship. Such bloody acts of terror could be avoided by strongly promoting the values of diversity and peaceful coexistence.
The world community should unite more strongly than ever to erase the scourge of terrorism. Countries need to act more vigorously to build partnerships to promote the cherishable values of tolerance and peace.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has echoed the feelings of the entire nation while tweeting: “Terrorists are those who betray worshippers in their places of worship, plant fear in their hearts and try to ignite religious conflicts in societies. Our condolences to the people of Sri Lanka, to the world and to everyone who works tirelessly towards tolerance and coexistence.”
The UAE has always maintained an unequivocal position of denouncing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations regardless of their motivations, justifications and sources.
As the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stated, the international community needs to close ranks and uproot the scourge of terrorism in order to ensure international peace and security.
Sri Lanka had suffered deadly militant attacks for years, especially by ethnic Tamil militants during a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009 when Sri Lankan forces crushed the insurgency. It had witnessed relative peace during the past decade.
There have been reports that Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches." Why did the warning not receive the kind of attention it should have is a question that needs to be answered.
Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations.
This year, it recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
Out of Sri Lanka's total population of around 22 million, 70 per cent are Buddhist, 12.6 per cent Hindu, 9.7 per cent Muslim and 7.6 per cent Christian, according to the country's 2012 census.
The perpetrators of the monstrous act in Sri Lanka should be caught at the earliest and punished severely in order to send a strong message to terrorists that there is no safe place for them on earth.
Global response to hunger remains poor
The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation, once stated John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, the global war on hunger is losing steam and the unpalatable truth is that as many as 113 million people in 53 countries experienced high levels of food insecurity last year, as indicated by a new, joint UN and European Union (EU) report.
It is upsetting to note that too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. Hunger is the world’s most solvable challenge and all that is called for is conscientious action through collective initiatives.
With all the technological advancements and economic progress that the world has witnessed, if millions of people are still forced to go to bed on an empty stomach, then it can only be seen as a blot on humanity.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and EU “Global Report on Food Crises 2019” shows that the number going chronically-hungry has remained well over 100 million over the past three years, with the number of countries affected actually rising. That is indeed disheartening.
According to the report, nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger come from just eight countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. And although there were 11 million fewer people believed to be in food crisis in 2018 compared with 2017, in 17 countries, acute hunger either remained the same or increased.
With an additional 143 million people in another 42 countries just one step away from acute hunger, rapid remedial measures are the need of the hour.
Conflicts and climate-related disasters have proved to be big villains. Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018, and that number excludes 13 countries — including North Korea and Venezuela — because of data gaps.
Climate variability and extremes are already undermining food production in some regions and if action to mitigate disaster risk reduction and preparedness is not taken the situation will only get worse.
Achieving zero hunger by 2030 is one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals adopted by member states in 2015. UN officials had earlier cautioned that world hunger rose in 2017 for a third consecutive year due to conflict and climate change, jeopardising the global goal.
The rising numbers living in slums exacerbate the challenge. About one-third of the urban population is in slums with limited access to welfare benefits and safety nets, which impacts on their food security, nutrition and livelihoods.
World leaders should not waste time but act together so as to tackle the issue by implementing peace and climate resilience initiatives.
WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, has correctly highlighted the importance of attacking the root causes of hunger: conflict, instability, impact of climate shocks.
Boys and girls need to be well nourished and educated, women need to be empowered and rural infrastructure strengthened in order to meet the Zero Hunger goal.
Programmes that make a community resilient and more stable will also reduce the number of hungry people. And one thing we need world leaders to do as well, as Beasley suggests, is step up to the plate and help solve the conflicts, right now.
Conserve every drop or land in deep waters
Every form of life on earth depends on water for subsistence. Access to water underpins public health and is critical to sustainable development and a stable and prosperous world. Yet, World Water Day 2019, marked on March 22, passed by indistinctly without many people even realising its significance.
A 16-nation study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) into how water supplies affect children caught up in emergencies has highlighted that a lack of safe water is far deadlier for children than war in more than a dozen conflict-affected countries. This should serve as a wake-up call for action by the international community. 
The study also shows that children under five are on average more than 20 times more likely to die from illnesses linked to unsafe water and bad sanitation, than from conflict.
According to the report, every year, 85,700 children under 15 die from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH), compared with 30,900 from conflict. Some 72,000 under-fives die annually from similar illnesses linked to WASH-access problems, compared to 3,400 from war-related violence.
The challenge is widespread could be surmised by the fact that the Unicef data covered as many countries as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
By the end of the 2017, conflict, persecution or human rights violations forcibly displaced an unprecedented 68.5 million from their homes. Disasters displaced another 18.8 million. As UN officials point out, such mass displacement places strain upon natural resources and water-related services at transition and destination points for both existing populations and new arrivals, creating potential inequalities and a source of conflicts among them.
Population and economic growth have placed unprecedented pressures on water, with water scarcity affecting over 40 per cent of the world's people. The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region in the world, with over 60 per cent of the region’s population living in areas with high or very high surface water stress, compared with a global average of about 35 per cent, as Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and water Authority (DEWA), points out.
Citizens and residents of the UAE are fortunate as the wise leadership attaches great importance to water security, which is one of the seven strategic sectors of the National Innovation Strategy, and one of the main pillars of UAE Vision 2021. The UAE water Security Strategy 2036 aims to ensure sustainable access to water during both normal and emergency conditions.
In 2010, the UN recognised the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognise the right to water for all people.
Water issues call for global solidarity and joint measures. What is needed is solid commitment. All members of society should conserve natural resources, especially water. Governments and relevant organisations should coordinate to provide sustainable solutions to use water more efficiently and raise awareness about its challenges. All measures should be taken to ensure water security for future generations.