Tag: Coronavirus

How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide
Geopolitics

How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide

Personal interactions have a way with relationship building in the diplomatic circuits. The walks, the tea sessions, the dining and meeting with spouses- there are many examples which help build bonds of trusts amongst the leaders of great nations.

But with the pandemic having restricted much of social meetings, virtual meetings are ruling the roost. But is virtual diplomacy really working out its way into the hearts of the leaders?

Indeed, there are consequences of social distancing and then virtual diplomacy. You have to depend on the earlier effect you might have left on the other person. It is difficult to give the same kind of impression and feeling again. According to Sven Jurgenson, Estonia’s ambassador to the U.N., “Face-to-face interactions are a key aspect of building diplomatic relations.

Right now, diplomacy seems to have been put on halt due to the pandemic and social distancing protocols which have to be adhered to. We will have to learn to adapt to this.”

Social distancing requirements and restrictions on movement have been seen to have effect on decision making processes at many levels. While virtual meetings are doing their work, the effectiveness maybe put to question.

For example, the functioning of the 15-member Security Council and the 193-member General Assembly, the two most important bodies in the multilateral system isn’t as effective as they would want it to be. The council has indeed, made a number of important procedural decisions, such as the prolongation of mandates for peacekeeping missions.

But what has been affected is strategic actions like inability to remotely cast and verify votes. Currently, the remote voting process takes up to three days. Xavier Sticker, the French ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna for example feels that sensitive issues are difficult to be addressed without in person interactions. “Diplomats have to be careful about discussing sensitive topics over phone or in a videoconference,” he explains.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again found it difficult to get Iran on the same page, virtually. They are intending to be able to start atleast some partial personal meetings by June end.

The pandemic seemed to have hit the diplomatic channels in EU the worst. As a bloc, they are accustomed to many meetings. Many ministers admitted to a particular news agency that first few weeks were paralyzing. Videoconferences only started becoming functional when there was no other option to be seen. But that also, among European ministers was seen to be not that efficient as face-to-face meetings in Brussels are most popular to get things done. During in-person meetings, representatives of the bloc’s member states sit around a table and are able to get up and make progress on other issues while statements are made that do not concern them directly.

There is a lot of simultaneous and informal work which is also done over the personal meetings. That has been stopped and many EU ministers feel less efficient on virtual set ups.

Indeed multilateral negotiations have become slow and painful for many nations. But many leaders and governments are also forced to accept that evolution is the only way to move ahead in such times of restrictions and safe keeping.

Eurozone: flash estimate, inflation drops to 0.1% in May
Europe

Eurozone: flash estimate, inflation drops to 0.1% in May

In May, due to the effects of the coronavirus emergency, the annual inflation rate in the 19 Eurozone countries fell to 0.1% compared to 0.3% in April: this was the first estimate released on June 1st by Eurostat. The performance of the index was affected by the 12% drop in energy sector prices (-9.7% in April). A 3.3% increase was recorded for food (3.6% in April). In May, according to Eurostat, inflation in Italy – the most affected country by the new coronavirus pandemic – was negative (-0.2%) against the + 0.1% recorded in April.

According to financial experts, the European Central Bank could announce Thursday hundreds of billions of euros in new bond-buying to keep fighting the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, as EU governments prepare to wrangle for months over a joint response. While some policymakers have urged dropping the ECB’s self-imposed limits on buying government debt to stoke increase and inflation, the meeting is also the first since a ruling by Germany’s Constitutional Court requesting restraint of the central bank’s powers.

ECB board member Isabel Schnabel reaffirmed last week that the size but also the composition and duration of PEPP could all be increased, with some analysts forecasting an extension from the end of this year to September 2021. As well as Thursday’s policy moves, eyes will be on June’s quarterly growth and inflation estimates from ECB staff, as January-March figures were compiled before the virus hit.

Bank president Christine Lagarde previously announced that the eurozone economy would contract by between eight and 12 percent in 2020, before a hoped-for strong rebound next year. Governors will encounter less than a month after a German Constitutional Court (GCC) ruling that a 2.6-trillion-euro bond-buying scheme launched in 2015 may not have been proportionate to its price stability goal and demanding clarification.

If the ECB cannot satisfy the judges, the German Bundesbank, the central bank, may not be able to participate in bond-buying. While finding a face-saving resolution to the immediate legal headache, policymakers must also consider how court challenges might limit their future options. Bank of France governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau last week said the so-called capital key, under which the ECB buys countries’ bonds in line with their stakes in its capital, is an “uncalled-for constraint”.

Free of limits, the central bank might choose to buy more Italian, French or Spanish debt to keep financial conditions on an even keel across the eurozone. But the self-imposed capital key rule was also shaped to avoid just the kind of legal tripwire that has sprung up in Germany. According to Lagarde, the GDP will drop more than during the last great financial crisis: the drop was between -4 and -5%, now it will probably be double. It will depend on how quickly we exit the lockdowns, on the gradual recovery, on the sectors affected. The president of the ECB added that she still does not believe in a new crisis of the single currency.

Biden in best position for any U.S. Presidential candidate, Will he be able to leverage it?
Americas

Biden in best position for any U.S. Presidential candidate, Will he be able to leverage it?

United States is gearing up for 2020 Presidential elections amid the mist of coronavirus pandemic and fire of latest civic unrest across the nation following death of George Floyd in police custody sparking anger against the black Americans violence.

Latest polls conducted by ABC News and Washington Post show the clear lead of former Vice President Joe Biden against President Donald Trump. The polls indicate Biden ahead by a 53% to 43% margin keeping the registered voters into account.

The polls are a clear indication of how Joe Biden is in the best position for any Presidential contender, ever since the electronic polling began in 1930s.

In more than 40 polls done in May, each one of them showcased Biden leading ahead of Trump. This makes him the first challenger since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to lead in every poll in May.

Also, Biden has been leading in average in every single poll for any month. His average has never dipped below 4 points. This puts Biden in strongest position for any Presidential challenger.

The most impressive point is the consistency of Biden’s lead, the latest ABC news/ Washington post polls being the latest examples. In May, Joe Biden rose up by 6 points in polls on an average.

The fundamental result of each of these polls is indicative of one thing – unpopularity of President Donald Trump. He is clearly not a favorite. The approval-disapproval rating of Trump in ABC news/ Washington Post polls was -8 points. His average is -10 points. In fact, in the past three years of his Presidentship, Donald Trump has never had a positive approval rating.

The only two other Presidents who had negative approval ratings and they ended up losing the reelection were Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

This year has been the ultimate test of President of the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic hitting the country and practically sweeping the economy and lives has been troublesome and an ultimate nightmare. And with the latest civil unrest with protesters on streets with slogans of “Black Lives Matter” post a series of violence against Black Americans has been the last bit. When the country is in need of a true leader to dilute the situation and bring calm, the acts of President Trump have only been unsettling. From neglecting the WHO recommendations to fight the pandemic spread and flaunting “non-masked” attire in public, to tweeting controversial statements regarding latest protests, President Trump has failed the litmus test of a true President.

Keeping these scenarios in mind and popularity of former Vice President Joe Biden, it would be no surprise if he emerges as the new President of United States. But next few months are real test as campaigns will pace up. It is to be seen if Biden can continue to dominate the polls and win the electoral elections.

In South Korea, artificial intelligence is monitoring the health of the elderly
Asia Pacific Focus

In South Korea, artificial intelligence is monitoring the health of the elderly

The country is starting to channel its success in controlling the pandemic through technology into other aspects of healthcare.

South Korea was at one point an epicentre of the coronavirus. But with aggressive testing and extensive use of technology, they have been able to fight back. They have been lauded as a success story globally and this has also made their citizens more malleable to sharing their health data. This is apparent in the new enterprises springing up, like an experimental remote care service, where senior citizens are monitored 24/7 by voice-enabled smart speakers. This has especially become very popular since South Korea has an aging population, many of whom are poor and isolated from their families due to the virus.

Currently more than 3,200 people around the country have opted for this service, most of them are over 70 and living alone. The speakers listen to them throughout the day, monitoring for signs of danger while also using search words to look out for indications of loneliness or insecurity. The in-built artificial intelligence Aria also processes voice commands that can be used to look up news, music or general search. The devices can also quiz the residents to test their memory and cognitive functions, which can be used in recommending treatments.

Further, social workers who can also tap into the app if necessary and make calls or visits when something abnormal is detected or the device hasn’t been used in more than 24 hours. The government has exhibited keen interest in such technology as it can maintain quality welfare services for the elderly without the need for too much human involvement.

This is of course fraught with privacy concerns but the South Korean government is keen to allow businesses to access such information because they see data-driven enterprises providing a major boost to the pandemic-battered economy. Privacy activists and medical professionals who have been resisting such regulations so far have also been over-ridden by the mass adoption of such devices and apps in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The public is now accustomed to handing over private health data for the benefit of both themselves and the community at large. Since the outbreak the government has been using mobile phone data, CCTV cameras and credit card records to find potential virus carriers. Tracking apps have been used to monitor quarantined individuals and the location history of patients have also been made publicly available.

UAE continue to help countries in need, together we win against COVID-19
Middle East & Africa

UAE continue to help countries in need, together we win against COVID-19

Friends recognize each other in times of need, the ancient Romans said. And that is why the United Arab Emirates and its leadership have not hesitated in extending a helping hand to neighboring and distant countries in need among the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the UAE has sent over 646 metric tons of aid to 55 countries, supporting more than 646,000 medical professionals in the process.

On May 25, the UAE sent an aid plane carrying six metric tons of medical supplies to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to assist approximately 6,000 medical professionals as they work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. An aid plane departed from Dubai last week delivered seven metric tons of medical supplies to Union of the Comoros, assisting 7,000 medical professionals.

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, ADFD, also delivered the third shipment of classroom seating supplies to Sudan. Catering to the needs of 150,000 students across the country, the support aims to help Sudan advance its educational infrastructure. ADFD dispatched 540,000 tonnes of wheat worth $150 million to Sudan to meet its urgent food needs.

According to UAE official news agency, taking the total value of assistance provided by ADFD to support the educational sector in Sudan to AED55 million (US$15 million), the latest shipment includes seating supplies for 400,000 students in various states of Sudan. This shipment is part of the US$1.5 billion aid package approved by the UAE in April 2019 to support Sudan’s economic and financial stability. As part of this grant, the UAE deposited US$250 million into the Central Bank of Sudan to foster the country’s economic and financial stability.

The aid package also included US$11 million support for Sudan’s agricultural sector, as well as 136 tonnes of pharmaceutical and medical supplies to support the country’s healthcare sector. All these aids aimed to help the country accelerate sustainable economic and social development.

“We are honoured to extend assistance to Gambia today as part of the UAE’s efforts to enhance the campaign against COVID-19 throughout Africa.” Omar AlMeheiri, Charge d’Affaires of the UAE Embassy in Senegal, said commenting recent UAE humanitarian aid to Gambia, including 4 thousand of medical supplies and personal protections for 4,000 doctors and nurses. “Protecting frontline medical professionals around the world is a main pillar of the UAE’s strategy to help other countries overcome this crisis,” he added.

Also, the Prime Minister of Albania Edvin Rama has sent a message of sincere thanks and appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, expressing his gratitude to the UAE’s support for his country after the UAE sent seven metric tons of medical supplies to Tirana on May 15.
On the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, with the monitoring of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent, ERC, the ERC distributed 770.4 tonnes of food aid to the residents of Hadramaut Governorate, Yemen, during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The ERC intensified its relief and humanitarian efforts to help residents, under the framework of an urgent humanitarian plan to aid families directly affected by the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. They distributed a total 18,000 food parcels benefitting 90,000 people. In detail, it distributed 2,500 food parcels weighing 107 tonnes to 12,500 people in the districts of Adh Dhlia’ah and Dawan, as well as 1,400 food parcels in Hajr District weighing 5,992 tonnes, benefitting 7,000 people. Since the beginning of 2020, the ERC has distributed 25,410 food parcels weighing 1369.128 tonnes in Hadramaut, benefitting 127,050 needy families.

The numerous initiatives undertaken by the UAE leadership, to globally combat the spread of COVID-19, confirm that UAE’s assistance has only humanitarian purposes. The Emirates offered their genuine and unconditional help to all populations in need, without considering the political orientation of their governments. This global approach on fighting the common enemy, called COVID-19, allowed to save millions lives around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is a colossal test of leadership, UAE showed decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, and for all, confident that we can be stronger together.

US may reconsider joining WHO, but with ‘conditions’: Top US official
Americas

US may reconsider joining WHO, but with ‘conditions’: Top US official

The White House on 31 May said that it might reconsider joining the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, the US government has attached condition to its decision to revise its decision on WHO. The first condition for rejoining is the world health body should limit its reliance on China, and secondly, the organization must put an end to corruption.

Earlier on 29 May, the US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from WHO. Ever since the COVID crisis broke out, the US has accused the WHO of sharing misinformation about the viral disease, in collusion with China.

The novel corona virus has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide. The US National Security Advisor Robert O Brien, in an interview with a news channel, said that WHO must initiate reforms, out an end to corruption, and reduce reliance with China.

Defending Trump’s decision to leave the world health body, O’Brien said that the world organization should have reacted quickly to check the spread of the virus from China.

Following the termination of WHO membership, the US intends to spend the $400 million on other public health organizations with worldwide reach.

O’ Brien said the amount which earlier US used to spend on aid to WHO, will now be given to health workers in Africa through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a US government initiative to mitigate health concerns such as HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save people affected by such diseases. Similar aid will be provided to international NGOs such as the Red Cross and the Doctors without Borders.

In addition to that, the aid money will also be donated to hospitals engaged in fighting severe diseases.

O’Brien shared how the US government and the US citizens’ tax money is used in Africa to protect people from HIV/ AIDS. According to him, the WHO isn’t saving the lives of African people who have HIV/ AIDS.

The top official from Trump administration accused the communist government of China of controlling WHO.

Speaking on the recent escalation of tensions between the US and China, the advisor spoke about the US policy on Hong Kong. O’Brien said the US would take “proportionate” measures to check China’s growing ambitions about Hong Kong.

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