International Current Affairs 2017

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June 17: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year on June 17 to promote public awareness to combat desertification.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had designated June 17 as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought in 1994. It was observed for the first time in 1995. The day is observed globally to promote public awareness on the issue, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious desertification or drought, particularly in Africa.

This year’s theme for World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is “Our Land. Our Home. Our Future“.  This edition will examine the link between land degradation and migration. Among others, Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices are responsible for desertification. They have increased the number of international migrants worldwide who have increased from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development especially the Goal 15 emphasises the need to halt and reverse land degradation.

Desertification

Desertification refers to degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas due to an array of factors. The direct impact of desertification is reduced biodiversity. The reasons are many such as climatic changes such as drought, or human such as overgrazing. Desertification is a major economic, social and environmental problem of concern to many countries in all regions of the world. In 1977, the United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) adopted a Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (PACD).

On 17 June 1994, on the basis of the direct recommendation of Agenda 21, “United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa” was adopted in Paris. The permanent Secretariat of the UNCCD was established during the first Conference of the Parties (COP 1) held in Rome in 1997. It has been located in Bonn, Germany since January 1999.

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India-Afghanistan Air freight Corridor to Open Up Soon

India and Afghanistan are set to operationalize their first air-freight corridor in the coming days. The first flight will be operated by Ariana Afghan Airlines, which is the Afghanistan’s national carrier. The flight which will initially operate once or twice in a month will carry commodities to and from Delhi. Depending upon the supply needs, the frequency of the flight will be increased.

India-Afghanistan discussed the idea of commencing the air-freight corridor during the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit last year.

The key elements of India’s Afghanistan policy include – friendly relations with afghan factions, tacit support for anti-Taliban forces, more focus on economic engagement than military engagement, humanitarian and development assistance etc.

Significance

This development has assumed significance at the backdrop of Pakistan’s denial to use its land for trade between India and Afghanistan. The air freight corridor will be used by the private sector in Afghanistan to increase its exports to the vast Indian market by air with minimum costs. It will also enable the traders to circumvent the obstacles posed by Pakistan in the land route.

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India re-elected to ECOSOC

India has won its re-election to the UN’s principal organ on economic, social and environmental issues for another three-year term. India was one among the 18 nations to win election to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Salient Highlights

India has obtained 183 votes which is the second highest after Japan in the Asia-Pacific category.

Pakistan whose term is also expiring also sought for re-election but lost and got only one vote.

India’s election comes just days after India’s Neeru Chadha got elected to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) by securing 120 votes, which is the highest in the Asia Pacific group.

The current elected members of the ECOSOC who will hold a three year term beginning January 1 2018 are Belarus, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Turkey and Uruguay.

Election 

A country requires two-thirds of the total votes to become a member of ECOSOC. The ECOSOC has a total of 54 members. The Council’s 54 members are elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms. Out of the 54,  14  seats are allocated to African states, 11 to Asian states, 6 to Eastern European states, 10 to Latin American and Caribbean states, and 13 to Western European and other states.

ECOSOC

The Economic and Social Council is the ‘United Nations’ central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.’ EcoSoc is one of the six main UN organs which were established by the UN Charter. EcoSoc is the ‘principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as for implementation of the internationally agreed development goals.’ It supervises ‘the subsidiary and expert bodies in the economic, social and environmental fields.’

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