International Current Affairs 2017

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Mass coral bleaching occurring in Great Barrier Reef for second year

Great Barrier Reef in Australia’s eastern coast is experiencing an unprecedented second straight year of mass coral bleaching. This is for the first time Great Barrier Reef has bleached two years in sequence.

Earlier in March and April 2016, 2,300-km reef suffered had its most severe bleaching on record due to warming sea temperatures. 

Key Facts
  • Coral Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.
  • The 2016 bleaching was more severe in the northern areas of the bio-diverse site. But now more bleaching was being observed in the central part of the reef, which earlier had escaped widespread severe bleaching.
  • The back-to-back occurrence of widespread bleaching is resulting in decrease in stress tolerance of these corals, which means that they may not fully recover.

About the Great Barrier Reef

It is the biggest coral reef system in the world composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. It was recorded as a World Heritage site in 1981. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, north east of Australia and covers an area of approximately 348,000 sq km. It is credited as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms and is visible from the outer space.

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IORA Leaders Summit held in Jakarta

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Leaders’ Summit was recently held in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia from March 5 to 7, 2017.

The theme of the summit was ‘Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean’.  It was attended by leaders from 21 member states of IORA. From India, Vice President Hamid Ansari attended the two-day summit.

Key Highlights of IORA 2017
  • It drew attention on issues of regional interest such as maritime security, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, fisheries management, people-to-people exchanges, trade and investment and tourism.
  • 21 member states issued a strategic vision document known as the Jakarta Concord. It sets out a vision strengthening the regional architecture to face its challenges.
  • It also issued Joint Declaration of the IORA business Community to build partnership for a sustainable and equitable economic growth.
  • It also adopted IORA Action Plan, a document containing the implementation actions of the Jakarta Concord to strengthen the implementation of priority areas and cross-sectorial commitments.
  • The Declaration on Preventing and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism was also adopted, stating importance of countering terrorism.
  • The member nations stressed on the need to work together in order to eliminate the growth and spread of terrorism and violent extremism. 
About Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  • IORA is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean, established in 1997 to promote IORAcooperation in the IOR.
  • It is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Academia and Business for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
  • IORA comprises 21 member states (including India) and 7 dialogue partners. Besides, Indian Ocean Research Group and the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation have observer status.

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Commonwealth launches Peace in the Home programme to stamp out domestic violence

The Commonwealth of Nations has launched “Peace in the home” programme to help member states tackle domestic violence which still remains a “stubborn stain” on communities, disproportionately impacting women.

The programme was launched on Women’s Day (March 8) and will continue through till 2018 when there is expected to be an accord on ending domestic violence in the Commonwealth.

Key features of the home programme
  • It will build a coalition of governments, businesses, human rights institutions, civil society and individual citizens to choral our efforts to address domestic violence.
  • It will include toolkits to help governments across Commonwealth involve multiple agencies such as schools, hospitals and doctors as well as government and law enforcement agencies to work together effectively
  • It will help countries highlight and share details of initiatives that had been particularly successful at dealing with domestic violence.
  • It will also be a mentoring programme for women and an initiative to address the issue of violence around elections and politics. 

About Commonwealth of Nations

  • It is an international intergovernmental organisation of countries that were mostly former territories of the British Empire and dependencies. It was established by the London Declaration in 1949.
  • Many countries from Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and the Pacific have joined the Commonwealth. Current membership includes 52 counties (including India). Membership is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth. She is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth realms.

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