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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - December 2020

Dec 2020

Jul 05, 2021

Tokyo Election Tests Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Ahead of Olympics

  • Residents headed to the polls in Tokyo for a metropolitan assembly vote that could provide clues to how Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his ruling party will fare in a general election expected after this month's Olympics.
  • The election comes less than three weeks before the opening of the games, which are strongly backed by Suga, despite widespread concern about staging the global sports spectacle during a pandemic.
  • Suga's Liberal Democratic Party currently has 25 seats in the assembly, compared with the 45 held by Tokyoites First, a local party formed by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who now serves as an adviser. The Constitutional Democratic Party, the main opposition force at national level, controls eight seats.

Jeff Bezos Steps Down as Amazon CEO

  • Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, will step down as Amazon CEO on July 5, 2021. Bezos chose July 5 as it was exactly 27 years ago on that date in 1994 when he founded Amazon.
  • However, he won't be going far from Amazon and will be the executive chair. The American business magnate will also focus on new products and initiatives.
  • Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person for the fourth year running with a net worth over 20,180 crores USD, now plans to focus on his other ventures that include his rocket ship company, Blue Origin, and his newspaper, The Washington Post.
  • The former head of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Andy Jassy officially took over as the CEO of Amazon.com after the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, stepped down as the e-commerce giant's boss.
  • Jassy joined Amazon in 1997.

Jul 03, 2021

ILO Report on International Migrant Workers

  • International Labour Organisation (ILO) published its report on International Migrant Workers. Report was published amid COVID-19 pandemic and increased global industrialisation that has impacted world's economy by shift in workers crossing borders to look for employment.
  • As per ILO report, number of international migrant workers has increased to 169 million globally. It has increased by 3% since 2017.
  • Share of youth migrant workers (aged 15-24) has also increased by almost 2% (accounting to 3.2 million) since 2017.
  • Migrant workers contribute to their country's economy and send their remuneration home which boost economy of their country of origin too. However, some unskilled migrant workers are vulnerable to violence of human trafficking. In order to provide them protection and management of migrant workers flow, ILO standards on migration provide for tools like Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 and Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949.

Jul 02, 2021

Turkey Quits Violence-on-women Treaty

  • Thousands of people took to the streets of Turkey's largest cities to protest against the country's withdrawal from an international treaty to combat violence against women, a move that has drawn strong criticism from Western allies.
  • The protests came hours after President Tayyip Erdogan defended the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, negotiated in Turkey's biggest city in 2011 and designed to prevent and prosecute violence against women and domestic abuse.
  • The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe against violence against women and domestic violence which was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • The Convention came into force on 1st August 2014.
  • In March 2012, Turkey became the first country to ratify the convention, followed by 34 other countries from 2013 to 2021.

Putin Signs Law Forcing Foreign Social Media Firms to Open Russian Offices

  • President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that obliges foreign social media giants to open offices in Russia, the latest move by Moscow to exert greater control over Big Tech.
  • The Russian authorities are keen to strengthen their control of the internet and to reduce their dependence on foreign companies and countries. In particular, they have objected in the past to political opponents of the Kremlin using foreign social media platforms to organise what they say are illegal protests and to publicise politically-tinged investigations into alleged corruption.
  • A foreign entity, carrying out activities on the internet in Russia, is obliged to create a branch, open an office or establish a Russian legal entity.

Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021

  • India stands at the 20th spot among the top 100 countries that have been ranked in the Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021 by Startup Blink. The country was in the 17th spot in 2019, after which it slid six spots down and stood at 23 in 2020. With this jump, India's start-up ecosystem makes a re-entry into the global top 20 countries again. Like last year, the US, the UK, Israel, Canada and Germany are in the top five spots this year too and continue their lead.
  • The report has a score for each location, which is calculated as the sum of three parameters: quantity, quality and business environment. The quantity parameter comprises elements such as number of start-ups, number of start-up related meet-ups, number of co-working spaces, number of accelerators, etc.

Maria Leptin New President of the European Research Council

  • The European Commission appointed German biologist Maria Leptin as the new president of the European Research Council (ERC), which as Europe's largest basic science funder hands out roughly €2 billion in grants per year. Leptin will be ERC's fifth president; her 4-year term begins on 1 October.
  • Leptin comes to ERC after 10 years leading the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), an intergovernmental research institute based in Heidelberg, Germany, that is funded by 30 countries.

Jul 01, 2021

UN Urges US to Remove Iran Sanctions

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed to US President Joe Biden's administration to lift or waive all sanctions on Iran as agreed under a 2015 deal aimed at stopping Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.
  • In a report to the UN Security Council, Guterres also urged the United States to "extend the waivers with regard to the trade in oil with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and fully renew waivers for nuclear non-proliferation projects." The 15-member council will on Tuesday discuss the secretary-general's biannual report on the implementation of a 2015 resolution that enshrines the nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China.
  • Guterres' appeal to Washington comes amid talks to revive the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in return for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.

G20 Adopts Matera Declaration

  • The G-20 Foreign Ministers have adopted the 'Matera Declaration', which asks the global community to step up efforts to contain the effects of the pandemic on lives and livelihoods, build inclusive and resilient food chains and ensure adequate nutrition for all.
  • Meeting for the first time in the format of "Joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Development Ministers" after the G20 Foreign Affairs Ministers' Meeting in Italy, the declaration concurred with the UN's 'Zero Hunger' goal set for 2030.
  • The G20 ministers recognised that poverty alleviation, food security, and sustainable food systems, are key to ending hunger, encouraging social cohesion and community development.

China Turns on World's Second Biggest Hydropower Dam

  • The Government of China officially turned on the first two generating units of the Baihetan Dam, the world's second-biggest hydroelectric dam, to start generating energy. The Baihetan Dam is set up on the Jinsha River, in southwestern China.
  • The dam is a 289-meter-tall (954-foot-tall) double-curvature arch dam, having 16 generating units.
  • Each unit will have to generate a capacity of 1 million kilowatts, making it the second biggest in size after the "Three Gorges Dam" opened in 2003 on the Yangtze, with 22.5 million kilowatts of generating capacity.
  • Through the Baihetan Dam, the Chinese government aims to curb surging fossil fuel demand by building more hydropower capacity.
  • Both the dams have been built by the state-owned Three Gorges Group Corp., the world's biggest investor in hydro, solar and wind generation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping Pledges Reunification with Taiwan

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to complete reunification with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to smash any attempts at formal independence for the island, taking a tough line on the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party.
  • China considers democratically-ruled Taiwan its own territory, and under Mr. Xi has stepped up efforts to assert its sovereignty claims, including regularly sending fighter jets and bombers close to the island.
  • While China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, Mr. Xi called for a process of peaceful reunification.
  • Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said that it was working on a response to Mr. Xi's comments.
  • Most Taiwanese have shown no interest in being ruled by China. Taiwan's government says only the island's people can decide their future, and has decried Chinese pressure.

Jun 30, 2021

Angela Merkel Pushes for European Union Talks with Russia

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the idea of holding a European Union meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, arguing it would offer an opportunity to confront Putin with European concerns.
  • The idea was rejected last week by eastern EU members. At a summit on Friday, EU leaders agreed only to "explore formats and conditionalities of dialogue with Russia". There was no mention of any high-level meetings or plans for a summit with Putin, an idea that Germany and France had pushed. The outcome reflected deep divisions in the 27-nation EU's approach to Moscow.
  • The EU is concerned that Putin is turning increasingly authoritarian and wants to distance himself from the West. Both EU and the NATO military alliance are struggling to bring Russia back to the table.

Former S. African President Zuma Sentenced to Jail

  • The apex court in South Africa sentenced the country's former President Jacob Zuma to 15 months' imprisonment for contempt of court after he walked out of hearings of the Commission of Enquiry into State Capture in November last year and refused to return to it.
  • The court also said that the sentence could not be suspended. The Commission, which is investigation allegations of corruption and bribery at state and parastatal institutions, had asked that Zuma be sent to prison for two years.
  • Zuma has repeatedly said that he would rather go to jail than cooperate with the Commission.

India Jumps to 10th Place in Cybersecurity Index

  • India entered the top 10 of a global cybersecurity ranking of countries, ahead of China at No.33, and Pakistan at No.79. India improved its ranking from 47 to 10 in the United Nation's ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA). The US is ranked first, followed by the UK.
  • The rankings come at a time when the government has been dealing with several instances of cross-border cyber attacks.
  • The International Telecommunications Union, or ITU, which is a specialised agency under the UN, said in the report that the ranking is based on four pillars: legal measures, technical measures, capacity building measures and organisational measures.

Atul Keshap to be US Chargé d'Affaires in India

  • Atul Keshap will be departing for New Delhi to serve as Chargé d'Affaires, ad interim, following the retirement of US ambassador to India, Daniel Smith.
  • Keshap served previously at the US embassy and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia. A career member of the US Foreign Service, he has also served as the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives
  • Keshap's appointment will reinforce the close US partnership with the Government and people of India, demonstrated by our collaboration to overcome global challenges like the Covid pandemic.
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