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76th UN General Assembly: Climate change, Covid-19, and global unity

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Eborutta, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

The 76th UN General Assembly started on Tuesday 14th September 2021 in New York and the topic was “Building Resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations.” World leaders from across the globe attended this assembly to discuss important issues. Although most world leaders were physically present, others sent in pre-recorded videos, like Iran and China. 

The main topic of discussion in the meeting was the ongoing Covid-19 crisis as well as struggling economies worldwide. This topic of Covid-19 was introduced by the President of Brazil, Jair Bolzano. President Joe Biden of the United States also delivered his first speech on Tuesday addressing the Covid-19 situation, and encouraged the countries to “work together as never before”, as the world stands “at an inflection point in history”. The President also added “we’re mourning more than 4.5 million people — people of every nation from every background. Each death is an individual heartbreak. But our shared grief is a poignant reminder that our collective future will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity and to act together.” 

Along with the US President, many people took to the stage like the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Moreover, the Taliban also requested to attend the meeting by sending the UN secretary a letter, the letter stated that Afghanistan’s permanent representative is Suhail Shaheen, a Doha-based spokesman. Due to the pandemic, only 100 people were allowed to attend this assembly, physically. Moreover, China’s president, Xi Jinping announced that China would no longer be building any coal-fired power plants abroad. The US climate Envoy John Kerry stated about this “we’ve been talking to China for quite some period of time about this. And I’m absolutely delighted to hear that President Xi has made this important decision.” 

The US and Turkey pledged to “stand together as strong partners and NATO Allies”, in the Afghanistan crisis. The ongoing military coup in Myanmar was also talked about in this meeting among world leaders. In addition to that, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that “we plan to submit the Paris Climate Agreement for approval to our parliament next month.” 

There was a lot of talk regarding climate change and it is hoped that serious initiatives will be taken to control this issue. Moreover, other important issues were also discussed in this year’s UN General Assembly like the Taliban takeover. To take sustainable action these discussions need to ensure that actions are addressed to help resolve the challenges of the world. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Politics

Will Pandemic Trauma affect Australian election polls?

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Spending more than half a year in lockdown, Melburnians currently being in lockdown for the sixth time and more weeks in tighter restrictions to come. 

There’s undoubted trauma in the community. We all shared that sense of dread and despair when it became apparent Victoria was facing yet another stint at home.

Pollsters say how this community trauma translates to voting behaviour is yet to be tested. The Delta variant has seen cases soar and some predictions state numbers will reach 1,000 new Delta cases per day. 

After last year’s marathon lockdown, a normal Covid summer was promised. There was something to look forward to out of lockdown, Christmas break, the summer holidays, kids enjoying the sunny beaches, family gatherings with feasts, even crowds at Boxing Day tests.

People need to see a normal life over the horizon, but the Delta variant’s spread at major events is forcing a rethink on how stadiums, in particular, are managed.

Against this backdrop, it seems people do not like to read or hear about politics or even the electoral ramifications of Covid. However strategists from major parties are analysing what it means ahead of upcoming federal and Victorian polls.

People are searching for a glimmer of hope from their leaders.

Voting analysis by state shows the Australia Labor Party (ALP) leading on a two-party preferred basis in Australia’s two largest States of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) and also holding leads in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. The Liberal National Party (L-NP) leads only in Queensland.


The ALP leads strongly in Victoria on 59.5% (down 0.5% points since mid-August) compared to the L-NP on 40.5% (up 0.5% points) on a two-party preferred basis. This result represents a swing of 6.4% points to the ALP in Victoria since the 2019 Federal Election.

The Andrews government has won back some support lost during the pandemic and is in an election-winning position 15 months from polling day.

The findings in a survey by Resolve Political Monitor conducted exclusively for The Age, show Labor has regained support from voters who previously planned to vote for independent candidates.

Since the last survey taken in May-June, the Andrews government’s primary vote has risen three percentage points to 40 per cent.

But the repeated lockdowns triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic have taken a toll on the government’s popularity. Labor’s primary vote is still three points lower than it was at the 2018 poll. The opposition has again failed to capitalise on the repeated lockdowns over the past 18 months and remains on the same primary vote of 35% that it recorded at the 2018 election. That primary vote meant the Liberal-National Coalition lost 11 lower house seats. Labor was decisively returned to government for a second consecutive term.

Paul Strangio, associate professor of politics at Monash University, said the findings suggested the government would be comfortably returned.

“Given the pandemic, Andrews’ standing is remarkably resilient, and Opposition Leader (Michael O’ Brien then and Mathew Guy has replaced Brien, now) position remains dire,” Professor Strangio said.

The latest survey found support for the Greens was relatively steady at 10 per cent. Support for independent candidates dropped from 12% to 9%, with those votes shifting to Labor. Resolve Strategic director Jim Reed said that while Victorians had swung back behind the Labor state government, they had also shown increasing support for the federal Coalition government, reflecting a general support for incumbency during the pandemic.

“It’s not that Andrews’ popularity has increased; it is people returning to support the government, not the leader.” Monash University senior lecturer in politics Zareh Ghazarian agreed, and suggested “incumbents are in the box seat”. “We saw this in state elections in Tasmania, Queensland and WA, as voters were seemingly resistant to change during the pandemic,” he said.

Faith in both federal and state governments has dropped as the pandemic has progressed, incumbency has lost some of its edge. A recent Essential poll found 49 per cent of Victorians thought the Andrews government had managed the pandemic well. It was unchanged since March, despite two more lockdowns.

Over the same period, Victorian voters’ rating of the federal government dropped from 51 per cent to 39 per cent.

Voters who intend to support the Coalition next November aren’t necessarily impressed by Mr O’Brien, but say they want to register a vote against Mr Andrews.

The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 1,106 Victorians in July and August. They were asked to rank who they would vote for at a state election if it were held today. The results had a margin of error of 2.5 per cent.

The survey found most Australians want state leaders to stick to the national cabinet agreement to ease restrictions and open up when vaccination targets are met, with 62 per cent backing the plan and 24 per cent saying states and territories should go their own way.

State and territory leaders remain split on whether case numbers need to be significantly suppressed before the country can open up, which under the national cabinet agreement would begin once vaccination rates hit 70 or 80 per cent.

On Saturday 21st August, Mr Andrews showed some hesitancy towards the plan, saying: “If you don’t actively suppress this virus then when you do open up, we will have scenes the likes of which none of us have ever experienced in our hospitals.”

In Victoria, 61% of voters want Mr Andrews to stick to the national deal, while 25% believe he should have the freedom to follow his plan.

However, at the moment, it’s a hard task for the Prime Minister and premier to deliver. The earlier people get vaccinated, the sooner can they exit from lockdown. But Victoria is behind in vaccinations. People are getting Covid vaccine appointments starting from November 2021. Kids won’t get back to school until the proper ventilation system is introduced in the classrooms as per Andrew’s government plans.

The Prime Minister is not supporting the Victorian government in terms of the rolling out of vaccination systems on an equality basis. People are desperate now. Lockdowns have given a mental stress. Parents are finding it difficult to cope with remote learning, especially with younger kids at home.

To keep the poll up and to win the next state election for the Labour and Liberal parties, it seems as though they can only wait and watch. The next state election is scheduled for 26th November next year.

Reported by

Khola Usman Matee

References

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/victoria-unlikely-to-eliminate-delta-as-pm-backs-nsw-on-reopening-20210821-p58krm.html

https://theconversation.com/coalition-gains-in-federal-resolve-poll-but-labor-increases-lead-in-victoria-166649

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Putin’s United Russia party victorious in elections

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Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to results on Monday, the United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, is set to win after winning the majority of votes. Until now over 99% of ballots are counted and according to the Central Electoral Commission, United Russia won 50% of it. 

This was shocking to the opposing party and the public, so the opposing party accused United Russia of fraud in the election. Their victory means the party will have two-thirds of their deputies in the 450-seat lower house of parliament known as the Duma. All this means that the party can push any law they want without having to rely at all on votes from other parties. Other parties, like the Communist party, won 19% of the votes, the New People party won just over 5% of the votes, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Fair Russia party each won around 7.5% of the votes. This was not unexpected at all. The United Russian party was known to crack down on the members of other parties by jailing them, preventing them from joining elections, and by forcing them to leave the country.  The fact that the Communist party could even earn 19.4% votes is because the people were angry at the government. The anger was caused by price rises in everything, low wages, and the way the government handled the coronavirus pandemic. 

Not only was the election labeled as being rigged, but some Moscow-based communists called the public for a protest on Monday evening as well. However, the area where the protest was supposed to be held, was sealed beforehand by the police to prevent such incidents. The reason that some people believe that the election was not fair, is because candidates opposing United Russia had been ahead in more than half of the 15 districts that voted, but lost after the electronic votes were added. One of the communists, Mikhail Lobanov stated that “with such a colossal number of violations, the results of the State Duma elections cannot be recognized as clean, honest or legitimate.” A Foreign Office spokesman said that “(Russia had sought to) marginalize civil society, silence independent media and exclude genuine opposition candidates from participating”, adding “(in) a serious step back for democratic freedoms in Russia.” The European Union and the USA also condemned the votes.

The way that the United Russia party won votes was unethical and unfair. Even if the election wasn’t rigged, they prevented other parties from joining the elections, which is just as reprehensible.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Why Canadians can expect to head to polls on 20th September

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Coastal Elite from Halifax, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Canada an election is called every four years, so why did Justin Trudeau call an election halfway through the term?

Following in his father’s footsteps, Justin Trudeau was elected as the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada in 2019, forming a minority liberal government. Unaware that in the next year he would have to deal with a pandemic leading to severe economic turmoil, social and political unrest, his government frantically tried to deal with this pandemic as effectively as possible. However, on 12th August, his government announced a snap election. One of the motivations behind this snap election is that since his government is a minority government, he relies on other parties to pass legislation. 

Seeking approval from Governor-General Mary Simon for the election, it has been announced that Canadians can elect their 24th Prime Minister this fall. After this announcement, there have been several comments made by various political leaders. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh did not hold back his thoughts, while he expressed that Trudeau is focused on keeping his friends and family happy. As the fourth wave of Covid-19 continues to flare up across the country, a letter addressed to Trudeau calls his actions selfish since his main priority should be to help Canadians overcome this adversity rather than heading to the polls. Since the Liberals have a minority government, ministers from Trudeau’s party are frustrated because they are unable to pass legislation, needing support from all parties, in return blaming the NDP. Conservative party leader, Erin O’Toole, also believes that Trudeau should not be rushing into an election as the fourth wave threatens the health and wellbeing of Canadians. He says that “Mr. Trudeau always seems to put his self-interest ahead of the interest of Canadians.” 

What has each of the majority parties promised? Starting with liberals, Justin Trudeau has promised to make sure that every Canadian has access to healthcare that will accommodate everyone. In hopes to invest $10 billion to decimate long hospital times and an additional $3 billion to hire 7,500 doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners. Economically, he hopes to support Canadian businesses by focusing more on the relief programs and extending the Canada Recovery Hiring Program to assist Canadians in getting back on track. With the wildfires that destroyed homes and towns in British Columbia, Trudeau’s government will join hands with the private sector to lower insurance premiums that would save Canadians’ money.

The leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh has promised a better tomorrow. Promising to make life more affordable, he wants every Canadian to have access to affordable healthcare and ensure that no Canadian is denied pharmaceutical drugs, regardless of location, age and gender. Besides healthcare, he ensures that if you elect him, everyone can have a home while giving immediate relief to those who need it. With the rise of tuition costs for post-secondary students, his party promises that he will forgive up to $20,000 in student debt ending interest charges on student loans and doubling non-repayable Canada student grants. With the discovery of unmarked graves under residential schools this year, New Democrats ensured to undertake the responsibility of working on reconciliation and work with Indigenous communities across the country. 

The Conservative party of Canada has made it clear that it is going to make it a priority to recover the 1 million jobs that were lost during the pandemic by helping young Canadians and women. The Conservatives will ensure that Canada is ready to face future pandemics, including the elevated risk of bioterrorism threats, by being prepared to take quick action. With the heightened effects on mental health that Covid-19 has had, O’Toole promises to boost funding to the provinces for mental health care, provide incentives to employers to supply mental health coverage to employees and create a nation-wide, three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

Now it is up to you to decide which government you want in power. Early polls show that the Liberals are in the lead, but it is too soon to know the outcome of the election. As election day creeps closer, it will be up to Canadians to determine who runs the country for the next four years.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Iran’s water crisis – both political and critical

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Human life, plant life, animal life; in fact, every form of life that makes up our planet’s precious ecosystems depends upon water. This “Blue Gold” makes up 71% of the Earth, the human body itself being 60% water. Access to water is thus a fundamental right needed for survival, but its scarcity is endangering multiple regions across the globe. 

The water concerns in Iran have been noticeable since the early 2000s. The crisis has not cropped up from nowhere. A major drought in 1999 laid bare the nation’s vulnerability to water scarcity. Villages had to be evacuated and there were national water shortages. By September 2001, Iran’s largest body of water, Lake Hamoun, completely dried up. A lack of political commitment to tackle the issues that this raised, has put the country’s water in jeopardy. Decades of blunders, corruption, oversight, and sanctions are boiling over. Over 28 million people (of Iran’s total population of 85 million) are living in water-stressed areas. 

Recent Protests 

Uncertainty over Iran’s future water supply has led to widespread public discontent. Sink holes, dust storms, desertification, soil erosion, pollution and numerous other forms of environmental devastation are on the rise. The water crisis recently gained media attention when protests broke out mid-July in the Khuzestan region. The protests continued for 10 days. Tragically, 12 citizens lost their lives to Iran’s security forces, and more than 350 people were detained. The regime disrupted phone and internet networks to suppress the protests, which spilled over into many cities beyond Khuzestan.

Protesters could be heard chanting, “I am thirsty!” Yet, their legitimate concerns were met with violence. Protesters were unfairly labelled “seditionists” by authorities. One witness remarked that security forces “shot at people indiscriminately” despite demonstrations being peaceful, and asked, “Why are they shooting at us? We were not even carrying rocks and sticks. We just chanted that we wanted water.” 

Khuzestan is economically and strategically important for Iran, but it is also rife with grievances. Despite Khuzestan being water-rich, its large rivers have been blocked by badly-planned dams to divert it for agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses elsewhere, in addition to hydroelectricity. Some of its wetland areas have been destroyed by road construction and basins made for oil exploration. This has gnawed away at the livelihood of Khuzestan’s population; the majority of whom are ethnically Arab. Tensions have long been fraught between them and the Persian-dominated local and national governments. Many of the Khuzestanis consider the diversion of resources a “systematic” discrimination that has drained their province. 

Inaction and Poor Governance 

Local Iranian authorities have failed to tackle the public’s growing water demands. The amount of water Iran consumes daily is similar to that of countries like France and Denmark. The critical difference, however, is that these European countries are not at risk of water scarcity. With around 90% of Iran’s wetlands drying up, the economy, food, and water security are all in danger. Efforts to reduce water consumption are long overdue. 

Moreover, much of the technology in rural areas and smaller towns is outdated and underdeveloped. Decades of unsustainable development include the hyper-construction of dams, interference with natural watercourses and sources of irrigation, plus disregard of expert opinion. Bad planning is exemplified by the Gotvand Dam built in 2012 upon salt beds. This has led to the build-up of salt deposits which have increased the River Karun’s salinity by 12%. A staggering 370,000 hectares of agricultural land have been adversely affected. 

Corruption is likewise aggravating this crisis. Unqualified officials have at times been appointed to direct water-related structural projects. Water resources have sometimes been diverted in the interests of politicians. Academics who have tried denouncing this selfish profiteering have been harassed or even arrested, exposing the tyrannical nuances to the ecological crisis. 

Alarming Statistics

Issa Kalantari, the head of Iran’s Environmental Agency, warns that 70% of the country’s population is facing severe water shortages. This has already started affecting electricity, as power cuts rise due to the lack of hydroelectric power. With summer temperatures in some regions now hitting 50 degrees Celsius and above, it comes as no surprise that people are using their AC units more. These devour huge amounts of electricity. 25% of Iran’s power comes from dams, but this past year, these dams have been less than half full. 

The situation is dire. Rural communities have been hit hardest as the agricultural sector depends on water. Drought has meant crop failure, ruined agriculture, and destroyed livestock. Agricultural intensification and evaporation resulting from ineffective irrigation methods has further strained water resources. Due to water and energy subsidies from the state, farmers have had little incentive to improve their water efficiency. This is a major oversight given that the agricultural use of water accounts for 92% of Iran’s water consumption. 

The Future of Iran’s Foreign Policy 

Both the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war devastated Iran. Coupled with ongoing western sanctions, the country has frequently been prevented from advancing technologically. The US in particular has been determined to stop Iranian oil exports, forcing Tehran to search for other sources of income. This has exacerbated the water crisis as alternative industries like mining and petrochemicals are very water-intensive. In a bid to remain as self-reliant as possible, Iran has unfortunately become even more water-stressed by diversifying its economy in a non-ecological manner. 

12 out of the 17 most water-stressed states in the world are located in the Middle East and North Africa. Therefore, though this is the worst water crisis in Iran’s modern history, it is unfortunately not a situation limited to Iran. Despite fragile relations between Iran and its Arab neighbours, there needs to be greater dialogue on the environmental crisis. All the Persian Gulf states depend upon oil and gas exports. This contributes to climate change but simultaneously aggravates the region’s vulnerability to its consequences. In addition to diversifying their economies, the Gulf states need to cooperate to take on the immediate challenges relating to water. 

The share ecology and water challenges should pave a path for collaboration between countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran. They need to share their technological expertise to ensure development is sustainable. The Biden administration is also interested in pushing this cooperation on the environmental front to help deescalate tensions with Iran. It is estimated Tehran needs $30 billion plus 10 years to solve the water crisis. Debilitating US sanctions, high inflation, and the ongoing pandemic all make this seem beyond reach. Water scarcity and higher temperatures will likely cause vast climate migration, with nearly 50 million Iranians projected to become climate migrants.

Some progress has been made. Iran has invested in desalination facilities and cooperated with the UN to train farmers with water-efficient techniques. The state has also sponsored adverts on TV to explain why and how households should save water. Equally, the Iranian state must uphold the rights of its citizens and not ignore the genuine concerns protesters recently voiced. Internationally, it must strive to collaborate with its neighbours, prioritising environmental issues over frictional political tensions. Diplomats must focus on mutually advantageous cooperation on water-related tensions. This can save the region’s ecosystems, and every form of life dependent on it. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Nadia is a Languages Graduate, a tutor and a traveller, with a keen interest in justice, sustainability and debunking widespread social misconceptions.

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Politics

Swedish Prime Minister will resign in November 2021

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Bengt Nyman from Vaxholm, Sweden, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven announced on Sunday 23rd August 2021, that he will be stepping down from the role of prime minister in November 2021, after holding the position for seven years. 

“I will resign from my position as party leader at the November congress and therefore from my post as Prime Minister,” Lofven stated at a meeting.

The early announcement of his resignation could be in favour of  his party’s election chances next year. Lofven stated he wanted to give his successor “the best possible chances” of preparing for the 2022 general elections.

Mr. Lofven, 64, served as party leader for nearly a decade. His resignation announcement came as an unexpected surprise for Sweden, as he had previously indicated his desire to lead his party in the next election campaign.

During a speech on Sunday, Lofven told the audience that the decision to step down had “matured for some time.” He added “Everything has an end.”

According to Ewa Stenberg, political commentator at the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, it was a wise decision on Lofven’s part. “Lofven’s not a good election campaigner or debater” she stated.  

In June, Mr Lofven became the first ever prime minister to lose a motion in Parliament. He lost a confidence vote in Parliament, which was initiated by the Left party. The no-confidence vote was as a consequence of a clash over housing market policy.The Left Party said it lost confidence in Lofven due to a proposal to put an end to rent controls on the latest built properties.

It is still unclear as to who would replace Mr. Lofven as prime minister of Sweden, although it is speculated that the finance minister, Magdalena Andersson, is a potential candidate.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Zambia faces social media blackout amidst elections

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Zambian citizens have complained about the shutdown of various social media sites following the presidential and parliamentary elections. The government has taken military and technological action to control the voting process in Zambia this year, sparking huge concern amongst residents. It began with restrictions on WhatsApp but later was extended to other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Due to the dangerous situations that can arise in Zambia during election periods, social media was previously a means of essential information on safety and regulations. Not only is this information unavailable, but people are also enduring difficulties in regular communication. Voter turnout reached an unpredicted high on Thursday, as voters still waited to cast their ballot long after the closing at 6PM local time. 

A police spokeswoman on national TV stated “Social media may spark a lot of violence… If social media is not responsibly used then it can cause a lot of harm to our country especially at this time when results will be announced.” The government appears to have its own reasons underpinning the ban of social media, such as the prevention of cyber crimes. Netizens, however, feel their privacy and freedom of speech is being invaded. Members of the public question the extent government’s should be allowed to interfere in the social media and online spheres of a person’s life. There is no indication of the duration of this blackout and resident’s have been forced to opt for solutions such as VPN services to maintain contact on social media platforms. 

Election results are expected, but the restrictions have raised some concerns about the fairness of the elections. The government is yet to comment on the social media blackout and its implementation during the elections.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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