Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is DOHA Dead?

The Doha Round of world trade negotiations - also known as the Doha Development Agenda , was launched in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. The talks aim at further liberalizing trade, whilst making it easier for developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to integrate into the WTO multilateral system. It’s the ninth round since the Second World War and the first since the WTO inherited the multilateral trading system in 1995. Progress in negotiations stalled after the breakdown of the July 2008 negotiations over disagreements concerning agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers, services, and trade remedies The most significant differences are between developed nations led by the European Union (EU), the United States (USA), and Japan and the major developing countries led and represented mainly by India, Brazil, China, and South Africa. There have been repeated attempts to revive the talks, so far without success. The failure of Doha has led to the spurt of many bilateral free trade agreements and trading blocks. At present, three major trade deals are either at the final stages of negotiations or already completed. These agreements leave out most of the developing countries particularly the LDCs. Apart from these, many plurilateral agreements have been signed in the WTO forum. Unlike the multilateral WTO negotiations like Doha round which require consensus of all members and therefore nobody can be left out and the interests of poor countries can be taken care of, in plurilateral agreements countries can ‘opt out’. In the 10th ministerial meet in Nairobi, Kenya in Dec,2015, for the first time since the Doha round was launched, the WTO’s 164 members, declined to “reaffirm” Doha’s mandate. The declaration noted that many members reaffirm the DDA while others do not but that “nevertheless, there remains a strong commitment of all Members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues.It also opened the door to discussing new issues and focusing more on delivering smaller packages of trade reforms. It also marked a victory for the US and EU, who alongside other developed economies have argued that clinging to the long-stalled Doha negotiations was making the institution irrelevant in a changing global economy. India and civil society groups, however, said the result in Nairobi was a blow to the world’s poor, arguing that by walking away from the Doha round, which put at least a rhetorical emphasis on development, the WTO was betraying its poorest members. Nairobi again demonstrated the power and influence of the developed countries especially the US. More importantly it showed that the lack of bargaining power of the Global South. It also showed that the world is still some distance away from becoming a genuine multipolar world. Inspite of the emergence of China and other BRICS countries, the global power structure remains intact. It saw the emergence of a ’coterie’ of few countries like US,EU, Brazil, China and India undertaking closed door negotiations to take the final decisions. There was no unity among the developing countries as Brazil mostly took the side of US and EU along with the DG of WTO Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil. India was unable to forcefully defend positions it had articulated over the past two years. It is now expected that the developed countries will bring in the ‘Singapore’ Issues like investment, competition, transparency in government procurement into the negotiating table in the next WTO ministerial conference.

Unite Against Violent Extremism

Jan 20 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)
Unite Against Violent Extremism
Ban Ki-moon

UN's five-point Plan of Action to fight terror is a practical and comprehensive approach
Violent extremism is a direct assault on the United Nations Charter and a grave threat to international peace and security .
Terrorist groups such as Daesh, Boko Haram and others have brazenly kidnapped young girls, systematically denied women's rights, destroyed cultural institutions, warped the peaceful values of religions, and brutally murdered thousands of innocents around the world.These groups have become a magnet for foreign terrorist fighters, who are easy prey to simplistic appeals and siren songs.
The threat of violent extremism is not limited to any one religion, nationality or ethnic group. Today , the vast majority of victims worldwide are Muslims.Addressing this challenge requires a unified response, and compels us to act in away that solves ­ rather than multiplies ­ the problem.
Many years of experience have proven that short-sighted policies, failed leadership, heavy-handed approaches, a single-minded focus only on security measures and an utter disregard for human rights have often made things worse.
Let us never forget: Terrorist groups are not just seeking to unleash violent action, but to provoke a harsh reaction.We need cool heads and common sense.We must never be ruled by fear ­ or provoked by those who strive to exploit it.Countering violent extremism should not be counter-productive.
Last week, on 15 January , I presented to the United Nations General Assembly a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which takes a practical and comprehensive approach to address the drivers of this menace.
It focuses on violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism.The Plan puts forward more than 70 recommendations for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels, based on five inter-related points:
Number one, we must put prevention first:
The international community has every right to defend against this threat using lawful means, but we must pay particular attention to addressing the causes of violent extremism if this problem is to be resolved in the long run.
There is no single pathway to violent extremism. But we know that extremism flourishes when human rights are violated, political space is shrunk, aspirations for inclusion are ignored, and too many people especially young people ­ lack prospects and meaning in their lives.
As we see in Syria and Libya and elsewhere, violent extremists make unresolved and prolonged conflicts even more intractable.
We also know the critical elements for success: Good governance. The rule of law. Political participation. Quality education and decent jobs. Full respect for human rights.
We need to make a special effort to reach out to young people and recognise their potential as peacebuilders. The protection and empowerment of women must also be central to our response.
Second, principled leadership and effective institutions:
Poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air.Oppression, corruption and injustice are greenhouses for resentment. Extremists are adept at cultivating alienation.
That is why I have been urging leaders to work harder to build inclusive institutions that are truly accountable to people.I will continue to call on leaders to listen carefully to the grievances of their people and then act to address them.
Third, preventing extremism and promoting human rights go hand-inhand:
All too often, national counterterrorism strategies have lacked basic elements of due process and respect for the rule of law. Sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism are often used to criminalise the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organisations and human rights defenders. Governments should not use these types of sweeping definitions as a pretext to attack or silence one's critics.
Once again, violent extremists deliberately seek to incite such overreaction. We must not fall into the trap.
Fourth, an all-out approach:
The Plan proposes an “all of Government“ approach. We must break down the silos between the peace and security , sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian actors at the national, regional and global levels ­ including at the United Nations.
The Plan also recognises that there are no “one size fits all“ solutions. We must also engage all of society ­ religious leaders, women leaders, youth groups, leaders in the arts, music and sports, as well as the media and private sector.
Fifth, UN engagement:
I intend to strengthen a UN system-wide approach to supporting Member States' efforts to address the drivers of violent extremism.
Above all, the Plan is an urgent call to unity and action that seeks to address this scourge in all its complexity . Together, let us pledge to forge a new global partnership to prevent violent extremism.
The writer is Secretary-General of the United Nations

Debt Recovery Tribunals

Debt Recovery Tribunals were setup to expedite recovery proceedings and speedy adjudication of matters concerning debt recovery of banks.
1. Earlier debt recovery cases had to be filed in ordinary civil courts which took years (often 10-15) to be adjudicated.
DRTs have helped reduce the litigation time.
2 Recovery of dues due to banks wasn't given importance by civil courts. DRTs function solely for the said purpose.
3. DRTs are quasi-judicial institutions, with well-laid out duties and powers.
4.Easier filing of applications and less fees. The maximum amount the tribunal can extract as fees is `1,50,000 and the
minimum amount is `12000. After `10 lakh, each lakh will add `1000 in the fees. This is far less than what civil courts charge.
1. DRTs are burdened with huge backlog of cases due to shortage of staff.
2. Cases in DRTs are dragging on for years instead of the mandated 6 months time period.
3.Frequent approval of stay petitions and the abuse of other loopholes mars the effectiveness of DRTs.
4. Shortage of Appellate Tribunals hinders the appeal process.
Setting up of more DRTs and Appellate tribunals , appointing more officials and plugging the loopholes in law will help in strengthening the DRTs and make them more viable.

National Family Health Survey-4

After 11 years, the much-awaited data on India’s health indicators were released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday night. The Phase 1 results from the National Family Health Survey-4 for 2015-16, which covered 13 States and two Union Territories (UTs), are a reason to smile.
In nearly every State, fewer children are dying in infancy, and across all States, more mothers are getting access to skilled ante-natal care. The last round of NFHS data was released in 2005-06.
Other findings are that while anaemia is widespread, rates have declined. Currently, over half the children in 10 States and over half the mothers in 11 States continue to be anaemic. Consistent with the burden of non-communicable diseases in India, over-nutrition or obesity among adults has emerged as a major concern. At least three in 10 women are overweight or obese in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu.
A promising trend in the data shows that women are having fewer children.

Fertility rates
The report states, “The total fertility rates or the average number of children per woman, range from 1.2 in Sikkim to 3.4 in Bihar. All first phase States/UTs except Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya have either achieved or maintained replacement level of fertility — a major achievement in the past decade.”
Findings for the 13 States — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal — and two Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry show that all have rates below 51 deaths per 1,000 live births, although there is considerable variation among the States/Union Territories.