- Seizing the moment at the WHO
- Multilateralism in the new cold war
- What is the ongoing sixth mass extinction?
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
On May 22, 2020, Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, was elected the Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board.
The elevation affords India an important platform to steer the global public health response to COVID-19.
Five elements to India’s policy approach, What can be done?
- India must insist that epidemic prevention and control remain the international community’s foremost priority. As the virus’ chain of transmission is broken, the focus should shift to identifying the animal-to-human transmission origins of SARS-CoV-2.
- India should lean on the WHO secretariat to fast-track the “impartial, independent, and comprehensive review” of the WHO’s – and China’s – early response to the outbreak. The review’s findings should illuminate best practice and highlight areas for improvement, both in the WHO’s leadership and capacity as well as member states’ implementation of the International Health Regulations.
- India must promote the establishment of an appropriate multilateral governance mechanism for ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines for all countries. The envisaged voluntary pooling mechanism to collect patent rights and regulatory test data should be suitably tailored to the needs of crisis, and the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property rights provisions overridden (as is allowed during a public health emergency) to assure affordable vaccine availability.
- India must stay aloof from the West’s campaign to re-seat Taiwan as an observer at the WHA.
- India must lead the call for a permanent global ban on the consumption and trade of wild animals, with limited exceptions built-in for scientific research, species protection and traditional livelihood interests. With two-thirds of emerging infections and diseases now arising from wildlife, the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss must be taken much more seriously.
-Source: The Hindu
Focus: GS-II International Relations
In the new cold war, defined by technology and trade not territory, non-alignment is an uncertain option.
Developments on the International Stage for India
- As chair of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly India can set the global response in terms of multilateralism, not just medical issues.
- In 2021 India joins the UN Security Council (non-permanent seat).
- India will also chair the BRICS Summit in 2021.
- India is set to host the G-20 in 2022 as well.
Clash of values, U.S. and China
- The clash between China and the U.S. at the just concluded World Health Assembly in May marks the end of the multilateralism of the past 70 years.
- The agenda-setting role of the G7 over UN institutions and global rules has also been effectively challenged by WHO ignoring the reform diktat of the U.S. leading to its withdrawal, and characterisation of the G7 as “outdated”.
- The U.S. has also implicitly rejected the G20 and UN Security Council, for an expanded G7.
- Now, Social and economic rights have emerged to be as important as political and procedural rights.
- The U.S. faces an uphill task in seeking to lead a new multidimensional institution as China’s re-emergence is based on technology, innovation and trade balancing U.S. military superiority at a time of declining global trust in free-market liberalism, central to western civilisation.
Non-coercive form: Way forward for India
- For India, the strategic issue is neither adjustment to China’s power nor deference to U.S. leadership.
- The global vacuum, shift in relative power and its own potential, provides India the capacity to articulate a benign multilateralism as a NAM-Plus that resonates with large parts of the world and brings both BRICS and the G7 into the tent. This new multilateralism should rely on outcomes, not rules, ‘security’ downplayed for ‘comparable levels of wellbeing’ and a new P-5 that is not based on the G7.
- National security now relies on technological superiority in artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and space, and not expensive capital equipment, as India’s military has acknowledged. Instead of massive arms imports we should use the savings to enhance endogenous capacity and mould the global digital economy between state-centric (China), firm-centric (the U.S.) and public-centric (India) systems.
- A global community at comparable levels of well-being requires new principles for trade.
- Ancient civilisational values provide the conceptual underpinning, restructuring both the economic order and societal behaviour for equitable sustainable development.
-Source: The Hindu
Focus: GS-II Environment and Ecology
- The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be one of the most serious environmental threats to the persistence of civilisation, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
- The research claims that this extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction.
What is the mass extinction of species?
- Mass extinction refers to a substantial increase in the degree of extinction or when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short period of time. So far, during the entire history of the Earth, there have been five mass extinctions. The sixth, which is ongoing, is referred to as the Anthropocene extinction.
- The five mass extinctions that took place in the last 450 million years have led to the destruction of 70-95 per cent of the species of plants, animals and microorganisms that existed earlier.
- These extinctions were caused by “catastrophic alterations” to the environment, such as massive volcanic eruptions, depletion of oceanic oxygen or collision with an asteroid. After each of these extinctions, it took millions of years to regain species comparable to those that existed before the event.
What is the sixth mass extinction?
- Researchers have described it as the “most serious environmental problem” since the loss of species will be permanent.
- The study analysed 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates and determined which of these are on the brink of extinction because they have fewer than 1,000 individuals. Out of the studied species, they concluded that over 515 of them are near extinction, and that the current loss of species, which is based on the disappearance of their component populations, has been occurring since the 1800s.
- Most of these 515 species are from South America (30 per cent), followed by Oceania (21 per cent), Asia (21 percent) and Africa (16 percent) among others. Further, attributing this mass extinction to humans, they said that one of the reasons that humanity is an “unprecedented threat” to many living organisms is because of their growing numbers. The loss of species has been occurring since human ancestors developed agriculture over 11,000 years ago. Since then, the human population has increased from about 1 million to 7.7 billion.
What can be done to help?
- Significantly, the study calls for a complete ban on wildlife trade as many of the species currently endangered or on the brink of extinction are being decimated by legal and illegal wildlife trade.
- Researchers point out that the current COVID-19 pandemic, while not fully understood, is also linked to the wildlife trade.
Impact on Ecosystem when a species goes extinct
- According to the Center for Biological Diversity, when species go extinct, the impact can be tangible such as in the form of a loss in crop pollination and water purification.
- Further, if a species has a specific function in an ecosystem, the loss can lead to consequences for other species by impacting the food chain.
- When the number of individuals in a population or species drops too low, its contributions to ecosystem functions and services become unimportant, its genetic variability and resilience is reduced, and its contribution to human welfare may be lost.
-Source: The Hindu