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13th April – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Wanted, a collective national endeavour
  2. WTO expects global goods trade volume to slump by as much as 32%
  3. Women’s safety during lockdown

WANTED, A COLLECTIVE NATIONAL ENDEAVOUR

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Some excerpts from the article on “What can be done?”

  • We are all in it together and representatives of all political parties should work together to deal with what we are told is the severest crisis since Independence.
  • The Centre must have the State Governments as equal partners while taking decisions. The most productive effort will be an equal partnership between the Centre and the States.
  • We can surely be more generous with how we can support the millions who have been brutally affected by the stop to most economic activity. Centre can also give the States more resources for their health services and expanded welfare programmes.
  • Uncertainty and fear among the people calls for assurance from the highest levels on a regular basis, indeed every day, about what is being done.
  • India must be unique in the world for increasing social tensions in such times. After many members of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi were found infected, an intense wave of Islamophobia has swept the TV channels and social media.  The result is social ostracism in parts of the country, economic boycotts and an open expression of hate.
  • The economy cannot be operated with an off-on switch. It is going to be a long and hard process to rebuild the economy and rescue the livelihoods of millions of people in rural and urban India that have been weakened, if not destroyed altogether. That is why we need a collective national effort at reconstruction.

WTO EXPECTS GLOBAL GOODS TRADE VOLUME TO SLUMP BY AS MUCH AS 32%

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The WTO released its outlook for global trade last week – Projecting merchandise trade to plummet by anywhere between 13% and 32% in 2020.

Details

  • Economists at the WTO appear certain that the disruption and resultant blow to trade will in all likelihood be far worse than the slump brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008. .
  • The tight restrictions on movement and social distancing norms across geographies have led to severe curbs on labour supply, transport and travel and the shuttering of whole sectors from hotels and non-essential retail to tourism and significant parts of manufacturing.
  • The WTO expects all regions, save Africa, West Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, to suffer double-digit declines in exports and imports this year even under its “optimistic scenario”, which postulates a recovery starting in the second half.
  • The WTO and the IMF chief have pointed to the fact that unlike the recession that accompanied the global financial crisis just over a decade ago, the current downturn is unique.
  • Global supply chains have increased in complexity, especially in industries such as electronics and automotive products, making them particularly vulnerable to the current disruptions, with countries that are a part of these value linkages set to find trade more severely impacted.

Silver Lining

  • A small sliver of silver in this bleak outlook for services trade is the role that the WTO sees for information technology services as companies try to enable employees to work from home and people order essentials and drugs online and socialise remotely.
  • India’s IT exporters have been busy supporting their overseas clients’ business continuity plans in the face of the pandemic and may find this hand-holding at a time of dire need earning them loyalty-linked business when economic activity revives.

Conclusion

  • A rebound in global economic activity will require trade to flow freely across borders as vitally as any fiscal or monetary stimulus.
  • The world will be best served if nations do not turn insular and erect new barriers to the movement of goods, services and people in the aftermath of the pandemic.

WTO

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  • It is the largest international economic organization in the world.
  • The headquarters of the World Trade Organization is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments.
  • The WTO prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.
  • Trade-related disputes are resolved by independent judges at the WTO through a dispute resolution process.

The WTO and the United Nations (UN)

  • Although the WTO is not a UN specialized agency, it has maintained strong relations with the UN and its agencies since its establishment.
  • The WTO-UN relations are governed by the “Arrangements for Effective Cooperation with other Intergovernmental Organizations-Relations between the WTO and the United Nations” signed on 15 November 1995.
  • The WTO Director General participates to the Chief Executive Board which is the organ of coordination within the UN system.

Functions of WTO

  1. Trade negotiations: The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. They spell out the principles of liberalization, and the permitted exceptions. They set procedures for settling disputes.
  2. Implementation and monitoring: WTO agreements require governments to make their trade policies transparent by notifying the WTO about laws in force and measures adopted. Various WTO councils and committees seek to ensure that these requirements are being followed and that WTO agreements are being properly implemented.
  3. Dispute settlement: The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly.
  4. Building trade capacity: WTO agreements contain special provision for developing countries, including longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase their trading opportunities, and support to help them build their trade capacity, to handle disputes and to implement technical standards.
  5. Outreach: The WTO maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, other international organizations, the media and the general public on various aspects of the WTO and the ongoing Doha negotiations, with the aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities.

WOMEN’S SAFETY DURING LOCKDOWN

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction to Domestic Violence during crisis

  • It is well-documented that during a war, a natural disaster or a pandemic, women’s bodies bear the worse brunt of the crisis.
  • Now, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations recognises domestic violence against women as a “shadow pandemic”.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a huge spike in domestic violence against women in China, Australia, France, the U.K., Spain, and Bangladesh, among others.
  • In India, too, the National Commission for Women has reported a large increase in distress calls from victims of domestic violence since the pandemic broke out.
  • Domestic violence against women is already widespread and under-reported in India.

Home, not safe for many

  • The national strategy against COVID -19 emphasises that home is the safest place to be.
  • Ironically, for domestic violence victims, home is the most unsafe place to be quarantined as they are forced to live with their abusers.
  • Although asking people to stay at home is an effective and welcome anti-COVID-19 strategy, home is not the safe haven it should be for many women because abusers have increased access to their victims and survivors have decreased or no access to resources.

How is the current crisis making it worse?

  • Women are most often the caregivers for those quarantined at home and already infected with the virus, which makes them more vulnerable to contracting the disease.
  • The victims are not only unable to speak out because they are quarantined at home with the perpetrators, but also because the lockdown prevents them from seeking help outside.
  • Tragically, traditional forms of support are now not available to domestic violence victims. They don’t go to their parental homes for fear of infecting elderly parents.
  • Shelter homes are crowded and so they are vulnerable to greater infection there.
  • The police force is already overburdened with ensuring that people comply with the lockdown.
  • Hospitals do not have the space or time to look at domestic violence cases.

What is Domestic Violence?

  • Domestic violence can be verbal, financial, psychological and sexual. It includes the abuser withholding financial or medical assistance.
  • Domestic violence is rooted in the inequities of power and control.
  • The abusers feel an enormous loss of power and control over their own lives due to the pandemic. They vent their frustration on the women in the house.
  • Mental health issues arise out of isolation as well as reactive depression, but instead of recognising these issues and seeking help, people become violent.

Protecting victims – Way Forward

  • Nevertheless, it is vital for policymakers to address the needs of these women who are playing an indispensable role on the front line in the war against COVID-19 — as health workers, sanitation staff, caregivers, scientists, and as long-suffering housewives.
  • Priority measures to help domestic violence victims, without detracting from the overall anti-COVID-19 strategy of lockdown, should be initiated by the government, and steps to protect victims of domestic violence be made a part of overall anti-COVID-19 action plans.
  • UN Women has said that “helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or Internet.”
  • The electronic media can raise awareness in regional language infomercials, since domestic violence is a crime under the Indian Penal Code.
  • SOS messaging to police already exists in several cities, but this should be enhanced with geolocation facilities.
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