1. Indians told to rush from war-hit Kharkiv
In call with Putin, PM Modi discusses safe evacuation of Indians; exit route from Sumy being worked out
Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening. This was the second conversation between the two leaders in the past seven days.
Mr. Modi spoke to Mr. Putin hours after the Indian Embassy in Ukraine issued an “urgent advisory” for all Indian nationals in the war-torn eastern city of Kharkiv and urged them to leave by early evening. Before that, the newly appointed Ambassador of Russia to India assured that Moscow was considering a humanitarian corridor for foreign nationals stuck in Kharkiv.
“The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv, where many Indian students are stuck. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” a government release stated.
The advisory from the embassy in Kyiv asked citizens to proceed to the nearby destinations of Pisochyn, Babay and Bezliudivka “as soon as possible”. The tone of the advisory, which asked Indians to reach the destinations “under all circumstances”, indicates the level of the current military situation in Kharkiv city and its suburbs.
India has been conducting ‘Operation Ganga’ to evacuate its nationals stuck in Ukraine ever since the Russian campaign began on February 24. But the most challenging part of the evacuation lies in the eastern part of Ukraine in cities such as Sumy and Kharkiv where a large number of Indians are stranded.
While Indian officials are working from Belgorod which is located near Kharkiv, concerns remain about a similar exit route in Sumy.
Indian students in Sumy told The Hindu that it is better for them to be evacuated to the Russian city of Kursk, which is located around 130 km from Sumy.
2. UN General Assembly asks Russia to pull back troops
India abstains from voting on resolution
India, once again, abstained as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted 141-5 (35 abstentions) to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling upon Moscow to unconditionally withdraw its troops.
Voting on the resolution occurred after representatives of more than 120 countries, territories and associations, made remarks over two days at a special emergency session of the UNGA.
The session was convened after a similar resolution failed to pass the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday when Russia exercised its veto.
The resolution, co-sponsored by 96 countries, condemns the February 24 “special military operation” [invasion] by Russia. It says no territories acquired through force will be recognised and calls for Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw from Ukraine.
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
The UNGA is a principal component of the United Nations. It is the main governing body of the organisation and is also the most representative body in the UN.
- All the members of the UN are represented in the UNGA, which is sometimes referred to as simply the GA. Hence, it has 193 members (all the UN member countries).
- It meets annually in its headquarters in New York City, generally in the month of September. It can also meet at other times according to the need.
- The UNGA is headed by its President, who is elected for a term of one year.
- It is sometimes called the parliament of the world.
- The UNGA deliberates and decides on important matters such as peace and security, and other international issues.
- It also decides on the admission of new members.
- Decisions are taken by voting. Generally, a simple majority is considered but in case of important decisions, a two-thirds majority is considered. Each member has one vote.
- Unlike the Security Council, there is no veto power bestowed to anyone.
- In 1953, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the eight President of the UNGA, the only Indian GA President to date.
Functions and Powers of UNGA
The functions and powers of the UNGA are described below:
- Considering and approving the UN budget and establishing the financial assessments of member countries.
- Considering and making recommendations on the general principles of cooperation to maintain global peace & security, including disarmament.
- Electing the non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the members of other UN councils and organs and, appointing the Secretary-General, as per the UNSC’s recommendations.
- Discussing questions concerning international peace & security and making recommendations on it (unless the matter is currently being discussed by the Security Council).
- Initiating studies and making recommendations to boost international political cooperation, developing and codifying international law, realizing fundamental freedoms and human rights, and creating global collaboration in the social, economic, humanitarian, educational, cultural and health domains.
- Making recommendations for the peaceful settlement of any situation that could hamper friendly relations among nations.
- The UNGA also considers reports from the UNSC and other organs of the UN.
- In case of threats to peace, and where the UNSC has failed to take action because of the negative vote (veto) of a permanent member, the GA can consider the matter and recommend actions to its members.
UNGA Subsidiary Organs
The UNGA has many subsidiary organs, in the form of commissions, committees, boards, councils and working groups.
The commissions of the UNGA are:
- Disarmament Commission
- International Law Commission
- International Civil Service Commission
- United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine
- United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
- United Nations Peacebuilding Commission
3 9 in 10 Indians think wife must always obey husband: study
Pew Center report on gender roles released
While Indians accept women as political leaders, they mostly favour traditional gender roles in family life, says a report released by the Pew Research Center, a Washington DC-based non-profit.
The study, titled “How Indians view gender roles in families and society” and released on March 2, is based on a survey of 29,999 Indian adults conducted from November 2019 to March 2020.
According to the report, while 55% of Indians believed that men and women make equally good political leaders, “nine-in-ten Indians agree with the notion that a wife must always obey her husband”.
Indian women were only slightly less likely than Indian men to agree with this sentiment (61% versus 67%). Although most Indians expressed egalitarian views on gender roles, with 62% saying that both men and women should be responsible for child care, traditional norms still held sway, with 34% convinced that child care “should be handled primarily by women”.
Similarly, while a “slim majority (54%) says that both men and women” should be responsible for earning money, as many as 43% believed that earning an income is mainly the obligation of men. Also, 80% of Indians agreed with the idea that when there are few jobs, men should have more rights to a job than women.
While Indians valued both sons and daughters, nearly 94% said it is very important for a family to have at least one son, with the corresponding figure for daughters being 90%.
About 64% of Indians also said that sons and daughters should have equal rights to inheritance from parents. But while four-in-10 adults said that sons should have the primary responsibility to care for ageing parents, only 2% said the same about daughters.
The report, noting that prevalent gender norms “are part of a wider phenomenon in Indian society where, for a variety of historical, social, religious and economic reasons, families tend to place higher value on sons rather than daughters, found that 40% of Indians saw “sex selective abortion as acceptable in at least some circumstances”.
However, 42% found this practice “completely unacceptable”.
Noting that Indian women are typically not much more likely than Indian men to express egalitarian views on son preference and gender roles, the study found that similar views prevailed among young Indian adults (18 to 34) relative to their elders.
The Pew Center report also compares gender attitudes in India with its findings in the rest of the world.
The study, noting that a global median of 70% said that it was very important for women to have the same rights as men, found a similar ratio in India, with 72% of Indians saying gender equality is very important.
However, Indians were less likely than people in North America (92% median), Western Europe (90%), and Latin America (82%) to place a high value on gender equality.
They were more likely to do so compared to sub-Saharan Africa (48% median) and the Middle-East-Northern Africa region (44%). In South Asia, Indians were more likely to bat for gender equality than Pakistanis (72% to 64%).
The survey found that Indians with a college degree were less likely to hold traditional views on gender roles, although this did not extend to all gender-related issues.
4. IPCC sounds another climate warning
How will the world recover from the ecological catastrophe caused due to rising world temperature ?
The scientific assessment is that between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change. This includes people living along coastlines that are threatened by cyclones and floods.
Currently, between 3% and 14% of the entire world’s population face a very high risk of extinction at even 1.5° C, with devastating losses at higher temperatures.
Climate Resilient Development is the answer to these problems as it would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will raise sufficient climate finance.
The story so far: On February 27, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a major report that reviewed the scientific evidence on natural, ecological, social and economic spheres, concluding that climate change has already produced irreversible losses and damage to land, coastal and marine ecosystems.
This new report, which assesses the prospects for the planet if global average surface temperature exceeds 1.5°C from the pre-industrial era, warns of severe consequences to food supply, human health, biodiversity loss and integrity of the natural environment, if carbon emissions from human activity are not sharply reduced, and governments lack the political will to review their policies.
What are the key features of the report?
Using the time-frames of near-term, mid-term and long-term effects of climate change caused by average temperature exceeding 1.5°C, Working Group II proposes urgent actions that the world’s leaders must take. The WG II report titled “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” is among three specialist publications that contribute to the overall Assessment Report 6 of the IPCC due in September 2022. One report was published last year.
The scientific assessment is that between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people “live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.”
This includes people living along coastlines that are threatened by rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods. Clearly, India has several populous coastal cities, including Mumbai and Chennai, which play an important role in manufacturing, exports and services, and the IPCC’s assessment points to the need for a policy review to help them adapt.
The IPCC’s conclusions are classified as having ‘very high confidence’ to ‘low confidence’ based on the strength of the evidence. One area where the data inspires ‘high confidence’ is human pressures on habitat. “Globally, and even within protected areas, unsustainable use of natural resources, habitat fragmentation, and ecosystem damage by pollutants increase ecosystem vulnerability to climate change,” it says. Taken as a whole, less than 15% of the world’s land, 21% of the freshwater and 8% of the ocean are protected.
What are the threats?
Food production as a fundamental determinant of human well-being and progress faces a climate threat. On this, the scientists contrast agricultural development contributing to food security with “unsustainable agricultural expansion, driven in part by unbalanced diets” as a stressor that increases ecosystem and human vulnerability, leading to competition for land and water.
The prognosis for a 2°C (or worse) warmer world is severe and the report says that with higher global warming level in the mid-term (from 2041-60), food security risks due to climate change “will be more severe, leading to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America and Small Islands.”
There are adaptation options, however, which should form part of inclusive policy. These include raising food output through cultivar improvements, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, farm and landscape diversification, and urban agriculture.
Applying the principles of agroecology (a holistic approach using ecological and social concepts for sustainable agriculture), ecosystem-based management in fisheries and aquaculture, and use of natural processes can improve food security, nutrition, health, livelihoods, biodiversity, sustainability and ecosystem services, the IPCC report argues.
In the current situation, between 3% and 14% of all species on earth face a very high risk of extinction at even 1.5°C, with devastating losses at higher temperatures. This too will have an impact through ecological catastrophes.
Are there any policy prescriptions?
Sounding a warning, the report says that between 2010-2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability. South Asia is a hotspot, as it has among the largest absolute numbers of people displaced by extreme weather, along with South East Asia and East Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa.
There are pointers for India. Heavy rainfall has increased in most of the Indian subcontinent, and Chennai, along with Chittagong, Dhaka and Mumbai, as well as the Gangetic Plain and the Delhi – Lahore corridor are seen as future migration hotspots.
Some possible remedial measures are Heat Health Action Plans that include early warning and response systems for extreme heat. Water-borne and food-borne disease threats in populous settings can be met by improving access to potable water, reducing exposure of water and sanitation systems to flooding and extreme weather events, as well as improved early warning systems.
The IPCC calls for mainstreaming of adaptation actions into institutional budget and policy planning, creating statutory processes, monitoring and evaluation frameworks and recovery measures during disasters. Moreover, introducing “behavioural incentives and economic instruments that address market failures, such as climate risk disclosure, inclusive and deliberative processes strengthen adaptation actions by public and private actors,” it says.
What options exist for climate resilient development?
In the IPCC’s assessment, the window of opportunity to keep the rise in temperature to below 1.5°C is narrowing. There already exists a consensus that under existing pledges by governments who signed the Paris Agreement, this goal is impossible, and the average temperature could rise as high as 3°C, with catastrophic consequences.
Climate Resilient Development is the answer, and it would align all pathways towards sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, institution of measures to absorb much of the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere, and raise sufficient climate finance for adaptation.
Here, the IPCC says the global trend of urbanisation offers an immediate, critical opportunity to advance climate resilient development. Coastal cities and settlements play an especially important role.
What cannot work, however, is energy-intensive and market-led urbanisation. Neither would weak and misaligned finance, as well as a misplaced focus on grey infrastructure, rather than ecological and social approaches. Wrong policies in areas such as housing could, in fact, lock in maladaptation, particularly affecting poor communities. Poor land use policies, siloed approaches to health, ecological and social planning also affect resilient development. The rest of the current decade is crucial in steering the world towards a low carbon pathway, the report adds.