Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Don’t turn migrants’ dream into nightmare
When the image of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy, rattled collective human conscience and made global headlines after he drowned on Sept.2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, it was expected that the approach of governments and people towards refugees and migrants would turn more humane.
Alas, that has not turned out to be the case.
Shocking images of a drowned Salvadoran migrant and his two-year-old daughter who died while trying to cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico to the United States have now emerged raising questions whether humanity as a whole is turning compassion-deficient.
The searing photograph of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl's arm around her father's neck, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper             La Jornada, also highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.
Contrary to the portrayal of certain political worlds leaders, migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.
In a touching briefing to the UN Security Council recently, 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.
It should be acknowledged that Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a set a brilliant example of how those seeking refuge need to be treated with dignity and care. 
The US and Mexico are presently implementing tougher policies to stem the flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, travelling north. At least six have died in recent days.
Most migrants insist they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and plan to seek asylum in the US.
However, US President Donald Trump's hardline stance on immigration is visibly driving migrants to take more dangerous routes.
The image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande, will haunt the conscience of all considerate human beings for years to come.
Ramírez’s tragedy highlights the plight of migrants in similar situations. Frustrated because his family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to US authorities and request asylum, he reportedly swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria.
He set her on the US bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Martínez returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away.
With the UN refugee agency indicating that a record 71 million people have now been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the world community cannot anymore afford to turn a blind eye to the crucial issue.
Collective and effective global measures to tackle the root causes of displacements are essential.
It should never be forgotten that migrants are humans too. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.
The question remains how many more innocent lives need to be lost before the world community wakes up to the endless plight of migrants and refugees!
Don’t ignore warming world’s warning signals
Climate change is accelerating faster than efforts to counter it and laxity on the part of the international community could prove disastrous for future generations.
The consolation, though, is the visibly increasing awareness on the subject, especially among youngsters. The protest by thousands of students from across Europe on Friday near a coal mine in western Germany urging governments to take bolder action against climate change sends a clear signal that climate change is now one of the hottest issues on the European political agenda.
Protesters from 16 countries took part in the rally in Aachen, near Germany's border with Belgium and the Netherlands.
What has added to global disappointment is the push by most European Union nations for the world's biggest economic bloc to go carbon-neutral by 2050 being dropped to a mere footnote at a summit on Thursday after fierce resistance from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary .
France and Germany took the right approach of leading efforts for the 28-member EU to lead by example in setting an ambitious new climate goal ahead of UN climate talks in September that US President Donald Trump has abandoned.
Unanimity was needed and last-ditch persuasion efforts in what diplomats described as "impassioned" talks that dragged on for four hours failed to ease fears among the central and eastern European states, including Estonia, that it would hurt economies like theirs dependent on nuclear power and coal.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that ending fossil fuel use by mid-century is a must if countries want to achieve the 2015 Paris climate accord's most ambitious goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.
British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough has stated that climate change is humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years, and he is absolutely right.
The situation is dire because, as Attenborough noted, the issue could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world."
The extreme cold in North America, record high heat and wildfires in Australia, heavy rains in parts of South America, and heavy snow on the Alps and Himalayas should be seen as warning signals.
Even with just one degree Celsius of warming so far, Earth has been bombarded with raging wildfires, widespread crop failures and super-storms exacerbated by rising sea levels.
Climate change has even been damaging polar bears' sea-ice habitats and forced them to scavenge more for food on land, bringing them into contact with people and inhabited areas.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has long promoted clean renewables such as solar and wind while phasing out nuclear power -- but it is still missing its climate goals because of a reliance on cheap coal.
Especially since last year's scorching summer — when drought slashed crop yields, forest fires raged and shipping was halted on dried-out rivers -- many people in Germany tend to agree with the protesters' demand on carbon fuels.
In the United States, ignoring scientists' increasingly urgent warnings, the Trump administration ordered a sweeping about-face last week on Obama-era efforts to fight climate change, easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants. The Trump administration is also proposing to roll back a mileage rule requiring tougher mileage standards for cars and light trucks. 
A growing number of people, governments, cities and businesses understand that climate solutions can strengthen economies and improve air quality and public health. Unfortunately, it looks like there is still a long way to go.
#YouthForGood a noteworthy initiative
The UAE and benevolence are synonymous terms. When the social media helps strengthen the country’s humanitarian activities, it is all the more good.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s launching of a major philanthropic initiative, #YouthForGood, together with the UAE’s Youth Hub and Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, is hugely creditable.
The project is noble especially because it involves youngsters and instills in them virtuous social responsibilities.
The competition calls on UAE-based youth to create a greater impact in local communities, whether through civic engagement, volunteering or charitable partnerships.
#YouthForGood will be open to participants of three to five people over the next three months. The initiative encourages the young people of the UAE to utilise the power of Twitter to launch a creative, engaging and active Twitter account that will fuel philanthropic efforts locally in their community.
There will be huge recognition for the winning team too as it will be awarded with the acclaimed Twitter MENA Award and a Twitter for Good Ads Grant.
Incidentally, the #YouthForGood initiative, the first of its kind in the world, aims to promote the use of Twitter to support humanitarian and social causes and sustain a culture of volunteering among youth in the region and the world.
It forms part of the broader global #TwitterForGood campaign, with the philanthropic mission to harness the positive power of Twitter to bring communities together.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has been among the early adopters of social media in the region and completes a decade of his presence on Twitter this June.
Over the past decade, he has garnered 9.71 million followers on this Twitter account. The Dubai Ruler was on the 11th spot on the list of 'The 50 most followed world leaders in 2018'. He had a following of 9 million Twitter users then.
As Sheikh Mohammed himself commented, "The UAE represents positive change and hope in our Arab region and we are keen to encourage our young people to harness the power of online platforms such as twitter to create a positive impact on their communities. #YouthForGood is a significant initiative in this direction."
Social media has become a part of life. It brings with it huge advantages and has set off a knowledge explosion, knitting the entire world into a global village.
The UAE is among the few countries that have resolutely nurtured the huge positive potential of social media for the good of the society. The country has persistently kept pace with technology drawing praise from the international community.
In fact, the country is the second highest regional investor in Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past 10 years, investing as much as  $2.15 billion in total, according to the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young.
The bulk of this investment went towards social media and Internet of Things, transactions, followed by notable spending across eight technologies, including smart mobile and machine learning.
Shamma Al Mazrui well highlighted the scope of the youth initiative by stating, "The #YouthForGood reflects Twitter’s potential to impact communities by supporting real time communication across borders and barriers. This initiative gives our youth a chance to organise around a common purpose and unite to create a force for good using the power of Twitter."