Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Trump’s move adds
fuel to climate crisis
US President Donald Trump’s signing of an order to undo former president Barack Obama’s regulations to curb climate change has come at a time when world temperatures hit record highs in 2016 for the third year in a row.
The main target of Trump’s deeply disappointing action is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants and was key to the US pledge under Paris to cut emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The order also lifts a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.
The Obama administration had imposed the moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year programme must be modernised to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.
Trump has not made it clear whether he would pull out of the Paris Agreement, agreed by almost 200 nations and which seeks a shift from fossil fuels as the cornerstone of efforts to limit heat waves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
The fear is that less action by the United States, the Number Two greenhouse gas emitter, will cause other nations to roll back their own goals.
A report by the US Department of Energy in January said 43 per cent of the workforce in electric power generation, or about 374,000 workers, were employed in the solar sector. Fossil fuels accounted for just 22 per cent of jobs in the sector.
It is heartening, though, that China has promised to stick to its climate commitments. China is the No.1 emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases but also the top investor in solar, wind and other renewable energy.
Beijing has committed to carrying out its pledges under the Paris climate agreement negotiated in 2015.
Incidentally, Trump earlier called climate change a hoax created by China.
China's 2015 spending of $103 billion was more than double the US level of $44 billion, according to the UN Environment Programme.
While a vast investment shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is currently underway with benefits ranging from less air pollution to more jobs, Trump’s move has triggered undesirable turbulence.
It is disappointing that the world’s most powerful country has taken such a dangerous stance on the subject.
With one stroke, Trump has pre-empted earnest global efforts to build a sustainable, carbon-free future not only for ourselves, but also for generations to come.
Verdict against hatred
in the Dutch polls
At a time when extreme far-right and hardline forces are rearing their heads and more countries in the West are opting for walls than bridges, some positive news has emerged from the Netherlands.
Centre-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte has successfully fought off the challenge of anti-Islam and anti-European Union rival Geert Wilders in the battle of the ballot.
Following last year's shock Brexit referendum and Donald Trump's victory in the US, the Dutch vote was being closely scrutinised as a gauge of the rise of populism on the continent ahead of crucial elections in France and Germany.
A win for Wilders would have largely been seen as a boost for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, running second in opinion polls before a presidential election in April and May, and for populist parties elsewhere that want to curb immigration and weaken or break up the European Union.
At 80 per cent, the turnout was the highest in a decade in an election that was a test of whether the Dutch wanted to end decades of liberalism and choose the anti-immigrant path by voting for Wilders.
Good sense prevailed and the poll verdict has left peace-loving people around the world heave a sigh of relief.
Wilders had led in opinion polls until late in the campaign and had hoped to pull off an anti-establishment triumph in the first of three key elections in the European Union this year.
In a serious threat to liberalism, Wilders had even pledged to close the borders to Muslim immigrants, shut mosques and leave the European Union if he won the polls.
The poll results prove that his divisive tone cut no ice with the Dutch voters.
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande has called the result a "clear victory against extremism," and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called it "an inspiration for many."
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who is facing Le Pen in a two-way run-off on May 7, has stated: "The Netherlands is showing us that a breakthrough for the extreme right is not a foregone conclusion and that progressives are gaining momentum."
Incidentally, the euro gained as the results of Wednesday's vote showed a clear win for Rutte.
In a globalised world, what is needed is unity among nations and peoples and not the repulsive separation walls and hate-filled ideologies. The Dutch voters deserve praise for their verdict against divisive forces.
London and Brussels have activated their divorce proceedings, but the path ahead is ostensibly strewn with obstacles.
By triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Britain and European Union (EU) are expected to have a two-year process in which the terms of exit will be negotiated.
Unless both sides agree to extend the deadline, Britain will leave in March 2019.
There are three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million British people within the bloc's nations whose future is entangled with the tough decisions the two sides are expected to make.
Also looming large over negotiations is the so-called "exit bill" Britain will have to pay, estimated to be as much as 60 billion euros.
The first battle lines have already surfaced. France and Germany have put up a common front against British Prime Minister Theresa May's call to negotiate the exit and the new relationship at the same time, setting up a major stumbling block before negotiations even begin.
French President Francois Hollande has made it clear that Britain must agree on the conditions of its exit from the EU before the bloc's members discuss other issues such as a trade deal.
May’s warning that a failure to clinch a deal on trade would weaken the fight against terrorism has not gone well with Brussels.
While EU officials have cautioned Britain against using security as a bargaining chip in the talks, Brexit minister David Davis has denied the statement is a threat.
There have been huge business fall-outs as well. Since May's Brexit notification, the prestigious Lloyd's of London insurance market has declared it would open a new Brussels subsidiary to ensure smooth operations in the EU.
Several banks have also announced plans to increase their operations in continental Europe as a safeguard once Britain leaves the single market.
A first response from the EU to Britain handing in its notice is expected to come from EU President Donald Tusk on Friday when he issues draft "negotiating guidelines."
Outspoken US President Donald Trump has been vocal in his support of Britain’s vote to leave the EU. He has even hinted that other countries may follow suit.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is clearly not amused. He has mentioned in a lighter vein that he is ready to encourage Ohio or Texas to leave the United States should Trump continue to celebrate Brexit.
Considering the complexities involved in the divorce process, what is certain about the future path of Brexit is uncertainty.
UAE’s special care for
kids with disabilities
The UAE Cabinet’s approval of a national strategy to promote the rights of children with disabilities and a strategy for motherhood and childhood demonstrates the leadership’s aim to achieve happiness for all segments of the community based on a vision towards building a happy and sustainable society.
The Strategic Plan for the Rights of Children with Disabilities 2017-2021 is derived from the UAE vision 2021 and the idea is particularly noble because it aims at providing a long healthy life, an optimal education system and an integrated lifestyle.
The strategy is the first of its kind at the federal level and has come after a detailed study involving a number of relevant organisations across the country.
Incidentally, a national task force will develop action plans and coordinate the implementation of the strategy.
As Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum himself outlined, the UAE attaches special importance to supporting children with disabilities and enabling them to play a constructive and effective role in the development and the achievement of UAE national agenda and vision for 2021.
The strategic plan aims to provide the best quality medical care and social services to children with disabilities and contribute to their integration into society.
It may be recalled that earlier Dubai took measures to cater to disabled passengers at all terminals of Dubai Airports, including Al Maktoum Airport, by installing special counters that help make travelling through the airport easy, enjoyable and comfortable.
The move turned out to be the first in the Middle East and one of the few in the world.
The sixth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) this week hosted a special interactive session for people with disabilities.
The session concluded with several valuable recommendations that provide people with disabilities an opportunity to express their abilities. The recommendations included the need to involve people with hearing disabilities and mobility challenges in all initiatives that help enable them and reflect their requirements and rights.
One of the recommendations focused on teaching the sign language in schools, so that all members of society can communicate seamlessly in sign language with people with disabilities towards building a happy and sustainable society.
People with disabilities represent an integral component of UAE’s society and have the right to enjoy a happy and dignified life like other community groups. It is heartening that all effective measures are initiated to validate this point.
Need to accelerate
Syria peace efforts
The brutal war in Syria has entered its seventh year and it is highly unfortunate that no concrete peace solution has as yet emerged.
The Syrian people have watched huge parts of their country reduced to rubble. The suffering of civilians has been enormous.
According to UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O‘Brien, almost five million people – the majority of them women and children – have fled the violence and deprivation and are now living as refugees.
Thousands of people who set out on perilous journeys to escape the war also perished on the way.
More than six million people are displaced within Syria. They are among the 13.5 million people in Syria who are in dire need of humanitarian aid.
UN officials stress that families and entire communities are struggling to meet their most basic food needs. While food shortages worsen, an endless supply of bombs and artillery shells continue to extinguish lives. A generation of children in Syria has known nothing but brutal conflict.
It is in this background that the need to accelerate the peace efforts gains extra significance.
The UAE has been one country that never hesitates when it comes to making a positive and effective contribution to alleviate the suffering of others.
Speaking at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva, has made it clear that the country supports all recommendations that could pave the way to resolving the conflict in Syria.
These include ending blockades, halting indiscriminate attacks on populated civilian areas, funding and supporting humanitarian operations and delivery of aid to affected areas, the immediate and unconditional release of detainees, and facilitating access to the missing as a result of enforced disappearances.
Generosity has remained a hallmark of the UAE. It should be noted that the UAE has provided $800 million in humanitarian aid since the outbreak of the conflict six years ago, and is preparing to receive 15,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
There is a dire need to stop all acts of violence against civilians and provide safe corridors for the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people in besieged areas.
As the UAE Ambassador has suggested, neighbouring countries need to stand by Syria and provide additional support to absorb refugees and displaced persons to alleviate their suffering.