Current Affairs December 2018

  • It has currently 188 member states, administers 26 international treaties.
  • Non-members are the states of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and Timor-Leste. Palestine has observer status.
  • India is a member of WIPO and party to several treaties administered by WIPO.
    13. Government puts imports of Gold Dore in restricted category
    Source: Economic Times
    What's the news?

    Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has put imports of gold dore in restricted category. This means, now, importer needs a license to import this commodity. Gold Dore:

  • Gold dore is semi-pure alloy of gold and silver which is refined for further purification. Proportions of silver and gold can vary widely. It usually created at site of a mine and then transported to refinery for further purification. Refined gold bars are manufactured from gold dore bar.
  • India, the world's second-biggest gold consumer after China, imports about 900 tonnes of gold a year. The imports mainly take care of demand of the jewellery industry.

    14. World Soil Day
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    World Soil Day is celebrated every year on 5th of December by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations.

  • Observance of this day aims to communicate messages on importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being. It also advocates for sustainable management of soil resources.
  • Theme for year 2018: ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’.
  • In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets which commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.
  • An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform.
  • The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.
    Why December 5 was chosen?
  • The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.
    Facts & Figures:

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

  • Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate
  • 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but we can mitigate this through soil.
  • 95% of our food comes from soil
  • 33% of our global soils are already degraded Soil pollution- concerns:
  • These days pollution is a worry – and soil is also affected. Soil pollution is a hidden danger that lurks beneath our feet.
  • 1/3 of our global soils are already degraded. Yet we risk losing more due to this hidden danger. Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone everywhere is affected.
  • With a growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem which degrades our soils, poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The entity of the problem is still unknown as not certain data are available on a global scale.
  • Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but this capacity is finite. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices.
  • As technology evolves, scientists are able to identify previously undetected pollutants, but at the same time these technological improvements lead to new contaminants being released into the environment.
  • Way ahead:
  • According to the FAO, it is vital to tackle soil pollution to reduce the risk of food security and human health. By preventing soil pollution, we can also address soil degradation, adapt to climate change and stem rural migration.
    15. Study on Air Pollution and its effects
    Source: Times of India
    Why in news:

    Indian Council of Medical Research has released its first comprehensive estimates of deaths, disease burden, and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution in each state of India.

    Key points:

  • One in every eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollution, which now contributes to more disease burden than smoking.
  • The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level were less than the minimal level.
  • In 2017, air pollution accounted for 12.4 lakh deaths in India, which included 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths due to household air pollution. Over half of the deaths due to air pollution were in persons less than 70 years of age. With 18% of the global population, India suffered 26% of premature mortality and health loss attributable to air pollution globally.
  • Around 77% of India’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards safe limit.
  • States in east and north India had some of the highest levels of both ambient particulate matter and household air pollution, especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand. Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab in north India had some of the highest ambient particulate matter pollution exposure in the country.
  • However, the report recognises the increasing public and policy attention to control air pollution in India.
  • Air pollution has become a year-round phenomenon particularly in north India which causes health impacts far beyond the seasonal rise of respiratory illnesses. Air pollution is now the leading risk factor for chronic obstructive lung disease in India, and a major contributor to pneumonia and lung cancer.
  • The report assumes significance as it follows several such reports by the World Health Organisation which have already detailed the major health risks posed by foul air in the country.
  • A special report released by WHO recently at COP 24 said India can get massive health gains— up to $8 trillion by pursuing global warming limit of 1.5 °C.
  • The UN agency had recently also linked air pollution with increasing child mortality. In 2017, India witnessed 1,10,000 premature deaths of children due to air pollution, highest in the world in the category of children under five years of age.
    Way ahead:

    It is important to have robust estimates of the health impact of air pollution in every state of India in order to have a reference for improving the situation. Household air pollution is reducing in India, facilitated by the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. There is increasing political momentum in India to address air pollution.

  • The findings in the study systematically document the variations among states, which would serve as a useful guide for making further progress in reducing the adverse impact of air pollution in the country.
  • Systematic and sustained efforts are needed to address the variety of sources contributing to air pollution, which include transport vehicles, construction activity, industry and thermal power emissions, residential and commercial solid fuel use, waste and agriculture burning, diesel generators, and manual road dust sweeping.
    16. Global Carbon Emissions
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.

    current affairs december 2018
    Highlights of the study:
  • India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.
  • The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use.
  • The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third. China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.
  • Emissions in the U.S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline.
  • Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
  • Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues.
    Way forward:
  • All countries need to increase their mitigation efforts and levels of ambition to reverse the tide of emissions growth. Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
    About Global Carbon Project:
  • It is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme. It was formed to work with the international science community to establish a common and mutually agreed knowledge base to support policy debate and action to slow down and ultimately stop the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • The Global Carbon Project was established in 2001 by a shared partnership between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and Diversitas. This partnership constituted the Earth Systems Science Partnership (ESSP) which subsequently evolved into Future Earth.
  • It was established to help the international science community to establish a common, mutually agreed knowledge base that supports policy debate and action to slow the rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • The scientific goal of the Global Carbon Project is to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, including both its biophysical and human dimensions together with the interactions and feedbacks between them.
    17. Indian Pavilion at COP-24
    Source: PIB
    Why in news:

    The Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan participated in the inauguration of Indian Pavilion at the 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held at Katowice, Poland.

    Theme of India Pavilion – “One World One Sun One Grid”
    Key points:

  • The Ministry has launched a nationwide campaign in preserving and protecting the environment called the Green Good Deeds Movement.
  • This campaign was prepared to inspire, encourage and involve each and every individual of the society to realize people’s participation in accomplishing the goals.
  • India’s leadership in global climate action has been recognized and PM Modi has been bestowed with “Champion of Earth Award” this year by the United Nations in promoting International Solar Alliance and resolve to make India plastic free by 2022.
  • India is working hard for achieving 175 GW target for installed Renewable Energy capacity by 2022. Resultantly, India stands 4th in wind power 5th in renewable power and 5th in solar power installed. Besides solar and wind power, India is also working on biomass, biofuel and bio-energy.
    18. Accounting methods of climate fund questioned
    Source: The Hindu, PIB
    Why in news:

  • Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, released a Discussion Paper entitled “3 Essential “S”s of Climate Finance - Scope, Scale and Speed: A Reflection” on the sidelines of COP 24 to UNFCCC at Katowice, Poland.
  • ‘Discussion paper’ has criticised the accounting methods used by developed countries to report how much money they have given, so far, to developing countries to address climate change. Background:
  • Accounting procedures, regarding the flow of climate finance, is one of the most controversial issues being debated at Katowice, Poland where countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015, that commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2 degree C beyond pre-industrial levels.
  • In 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries, according to a 2010 agreement in Cancun. What’s the issue?
  • In 2016, developed countries published a road map to $100 billion, which claimed that public climate finance levels had reached $41 billion per year in 2013-14. In 2015, India had disputed this figure arguing it was only $ 2.2 billion. The 2017 numbers also tell a similar story. Only around 12% of total pledges to climate funds have actually materialised into disbursements.
    What has India pointed out?
  • It argues that the definition of climate finance in the UNFCCC has remained “imprecise and incomplete.”
  • The total pledges of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the largest multilateral fund, was a “meagre” $10.3 billion. Further, most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).
  • The growth in the reported climate specific finance actually slowed down from 24% between 2014 and 2015 to 14% between 2015 and 2016. V. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS TOPIC: GS II, INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES 19. SC defers hearing on Rohingya plea Source: The Hindu Why in news:
  • The Supreme Court has recently deferred its hearing on a plea by Rohingya immigrants against the government’s proposed move to deport their them back to their native land of Myanmar.
  • The petition argues that this move violates the constitutional guarantee that the Indian State should protect the life and liberty of every human being, whether citizen or not.
    current affairs december 2018
    About Rohingya:
  • Rohingya Muslims comprise one million out of the 53 million people that live in Myanmar, forming the world’s largest stateless population in a single country and often been called the most persecuted minority in the world.
  • They have been oppressed by the Myanmar government since late 1970s when the government launched a campaign to identify ‘illegal immigrants as per the 1982 Citizenship Law and in this process they have been subjected to serious abuses which forced as many as 250,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh.
  • Recently they have been subjected to a largescale genocide in the wake of attack by its terrorist faction Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
  • Many have settled down in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.
  • The petition filed in the Supreme Court argues that the 40,000 Rohingya in the country have been recognised by the UNHCR in 2016 and given refugee identity cards and this deportment would violate India’s commitment to international conventions that recognise the “Principle of Non-Refoulement” which prohibits the deportation of refugees to a country where they face threat to their lives.
    current affairs december 2018
    Arguments in favour of deportation:
  • Since they are illegal migrants, they infringe on the rights of Indian citizens and are more vulnerable to be recruited by terrorist organizations. This creates threat to the national security.
  • The Foreigners Act, 1946 empowers the country the right to deport a foreign national.
  • India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, nor it has a national law on refugees.
  • Burden on already insufficient resources for huge population of India. Arguments against deportation:
  • India acceded the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1979. India is obliged not to send them back under Article 6 (right to life) and 7 (right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) of the covenant.
  • India has also signed the Convention Against Torture (CAT), Article 3 of which expressly prohibits countries from returning refugees back to countries where they risk being tortured. However, India still hasn’t ratified the CAT, which does not legally obligate it to abide by the provisions of the treaty yet, signing it implies India’s intentions to move towards adhering to the CAT. Plans to deport the Rohingya back to Myanmar reverse this intention.
  • India is also a signatory to the 1966 Bangkok Principles on the Status and Treatment of Refugees, Article III of which expressly bars states from returning or expelling asylum seekers and refugees to a country where their “life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
  • Article 21 of the Indian constitution (right to life) encompasses the non-refoulement principle.
  • Deportation sets a dangerous precedent in illiberal and inhuman state practice. Does it mean India remains unconcerned about refugees?
  • Despite being a non signatory to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, India upholds the principles of and her human rights and the track record regarding this is impeccable in India. India is home to refugees from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tibet etc in large number. What forbids India for taking tough action against Myanmar?
  • Cooperation of Myanmar is important for realizing India’s Act East Policy.
  • Myanmar is a buffer state between India and China and its cooperation is necessary for tackling an aggressive China.
  • A friendly Myanmar is essential for a peaceful north east India as its cooperation is important for handling insurgents like Naga, Kuki etc.
  • A non cooperative Myanmar will impact India’s project in Myanmar. Way forward:
  • The success of India’s diplomacy resides in the extent to which it can induce Myanmar ensure its own political stability, internal security and social harmony. Thus greater diplomatic integration is required.
  • India can choose to help Bangladesh for taking care of the Rohingyas rather than keeping them in India. This will eliminate the problem of threat to national security.
  • Cooperation with China is required for tacking this issue so that Myanmar does not have option to play China card against India. TOPIC: GS II, BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL GROUPINGS 20. India’s Outreach at G20 Source: The Hindu Why in news: Indian recently participated in G 20 summit at Argentina where the country interacted with many top world powers on the sidelines of the summit. Importance of this Interaction: Interaction with US and Japan:
  • This meeting underscored India’s firm commitment to make the Indo-Pacific a region for shared economic growth, prosperity, and security towards realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • Indo-Pacific construct is now at the centre of strategic games in the region.
  • China’s rapid rise and the challenge it is posing to geopolitical stability is at the heart of the evolution of the Indo-Pacific and this trilateral meeting in the summit reinforced the desire of the three states to take it forward.
  • These three nations have been trying to define the exact scope of their engagement and this meeting is aimed a step forward towards the same.
    current affairs december 2018
    Meeting with the Chinese and Russian President:
  • The meeting of RIC(Russia, India and China) has been held after a gap of 12 years and the underlying rationale for this trilateral is quite different from meeting with USA and Japan as the three nations discussed enhancing mutual cooperation in international forums. It goes somewhat different from the present disrupting policies of USA.
  • Together they agreed on the importance of reform and strengthening of multilateral institutions that had benefited the world, including the United Nations, WTO and new global financial institutions.
  • As all these three nations are major export economy of the world, thus in the wake of current era of trade war and withdrawing policies of developed countries like USA this meeting underscores the benefits of a multilateral trading system and an open world economy for global growth and prosperity.
  • It is notable that RIC has been those countries who have been benefited the most in the era of globalization.
  • USAs current challenge to the global economic order has been largely behind India’s outreach to China and Russia. Meeting with other major powers:
  • India’s dialogue with Saudi Arabia resulted in Saudi Arabia’s offer to supply oil and petroleum products to meet India’s growing energy demands at a time of great volatility in the oil market. About G 20 country:
  • It is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies, formed in 1999.
  • Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP) and around 80 percent of world trade.
  • To tackle the problems or the address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits. In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
  • The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its Chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.
  • The first G20 Summit was held in Berlin in December 1999. Objectives: A. Studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. B. It aims to pre-empt balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies. C. It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organisation. TOPIC: GS II, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
    21. India’s Attempt to act on Fugitive Offenders
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    India presented its nine-point agenda before G20 countries, calling for “strong and active cooperation” to deal with fugitive economic offenders comprehensively.

    Details of the Agenda:
  • Cooperation in legal processes, such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders, and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime should be enhanced and streamlined.
  • Joint efforts by G20 countries to form a mechanism that denied entry and safe havens to fugitive economic offenders.
  • India suggested that the Inter-Governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) be called upon to establish international cooperation that led to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between the authorities and financial intelligence units.
  • FATF should be tasked with formulating a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders. It should also develop a set of commonly agreed and standardised procedures related to identification, extradition and judicial proceedings for dealing with fugitive economic offenders. Financial Action Task Force (FATF):
  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.
  • It is a policy-making body which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
  • The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
  • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.
  • In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse. TOPIC: GS II, BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL GROUPINGS 22. India- EU Relations Source: The Hindu Why in news: European Union has recently released its strategy paper on India after 14 years which reflects that EU has taken India’s priorities seriously. Details of the strategy paper:
  • It lays out a road map for strengthening the EU-India partnership, which is seen as a shift from the absence of a clearly articulated strategy.
  • It underscores key focus areas such as the need to conclude a broader Strategic Partnership Agreement, intensifying dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia, strengthening technical cooperation on fighting terrorism, and countering radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorist financing.
  • Developing “military-to-military relations with India including joint exercises and deployment of an EU military advisor to New Delhi, with a reciprocal arrangement from India.
  • It is noteworthy that EU, which has been traditionally shy of using its hard power tools, recognised the need to develop defence and security cooperation with India.
  • Upgrade the yearly dialogue and establishing regular bilateral, as well as trilateral dialogues with Africa, to discuss security, economic issues, as well as connectivity.
  • Deepening cooperation in the context of Broad-based trade & investment agreement (BTIA).
  • Encouraging legal migration through various tools to harvest the Indian talent pool and entrepreneurial spirit.
  • EU’s resolve to provide India the status of data secure nation. Why this shift?
  • USA’s attempt to turn the global liberal order upside down that is so dear to the Europeans.
  • China’s rise is challenging the values which European Union. China has huge dominance in the EU market but it has kept its market close for it. Moreover, the proposed Belt and Road initiative is an upcoming threat to them.
  • Need for strengthening capacity of maritime nations in Indian Ocean and East Africa.
    current affairs december 2018
    Current status of India EU relations:

  • EU is India’s number one trading partner with 14% of total trade in goods in 2017. However, India was EU’s ninth largest trading partner, at only 2.2%.
  • Even as the EU emerged as India’s largest trading partner and biggest foreign investor, the relationship remained devoid of any strategic content.
  • India and the EU have not fully built a partnership that can be instrumental in shaping the geopolitics of the 21st century despite sharing a congruence of values and democratic ideals.
  • European Union’s big-brotherly attitude on political issues and ignorant of the geostrategic imperatives of Indian foreign and security policies which resulted in limited partnership which largely remained confined to economics and trade. Issue related to Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA): It is the proposed Free Trade Agreement between India and EU. 14th round of talks has recently concluded but both the sides have some issues which have still needs more negotiations. A. EU’s concerns:
  • India’s protectionism to automobile sector
  • India’s Intellectual property regime with the provision of compulsory licensing and manufacture of generic medicine
  • Duty and tariff protection in areas of wine, spirits and dairy products. B. India’s concerns:
  • European Union’s heavily subsidised agro industry which hurt Indian farmers.
  • EU Import restriction.
  • Movement of skilled professionals
  • Issues related to technology transfer. Way forward:
  • Where individual nations of the EU started becoming more pragmatic in their engagement with India, EU has to realise the changing world circumstances also especially post Brexit era.
  • As the EU shifts its focus to India, India should heartily reciprocate this outreach because India needs resources and expertise from the EU for its various priority areas, such as cybersecurity, urbanisation, environmental regeneration, and skill development.
  • India should reap the benefit coming from EU’s grant of data secure nation to India.
  • India should strengthen the strategic relationship with EU as the region in which it seeks India’s cooperation is also strategically important for India. TOPIC: GS II, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS 23. UN Climate Conference COP 24 Source: The Hindu Why in news:
  • UN Climate Conference of Parties-24 recently took place in Katowice, Poland with special focus on carbon neutrality and gender equality.
  • Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015, that commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2o C beyond pre-industrial levels is expected to be signed among the nations.
  • India has criticized the accounting methods used by developed countries to report how much money they have given, so far, to developing countries to address climate change. current affairs december 2018
    India’s view:
  • According to India, definition of climate finance in the UNFCCC has remained imprecise and incomplete and there was no clarity on whether the developed countries’ commitment to ‘provide funds’ meant funds committed or those that made it to their intended recipients.
  • Month:

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