Thousands of youths protest against climate inaction in Glasgow. | Photo Credit: The Times/Jeff J Mitchel/Getty Images

Weekly Recap: Nov 1 to Nov 7

Nov 8: US House of Representatives passes US$1 trillion infrastructure bill, Tigray forces join hands with nine opposition groups in coalition against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega set to win a fourth term in widely-criticised election.

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North America:

  • The United States House of Representatives passed a US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) infrastructure bill on Saturday (Nov 6). It was largely seen as a much-needed win for President Joe Biden, who called it a “monumental step forward as a nation”. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is aimed at rebuilding the country’s ageing public works system targeting the areas of transportation, climate, resources for underserved communities and internet access. However, this victory was not without setbacks as Biden’s larger, US$1.85 trillion (S$2.49 trillion) ‘Build Back Better’ social policy bill was postponed after centrists demanded a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 
  • Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, running for re-election alongside his wife Rosario Murillo who is seeking the vice presidency, is set to win a fourth straight term as reported last Sunday (Nov 7). Ortega, who has been in power since 2007, has been criticised by rights groups and international observers for stifling dissent and arresting 40 opposition leaders. This election, which will determine who holds the presidency for the next term and 90 or the 92 seats in the country’s congress, will also determine Nicaragua’s representation in the Central American Parliament.
  • A US federal appeals court has frozen the Biden’s administration’s proposal for a vaccine mandate last Saturday (Nov 7), citing “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with the order.  The vaccine mandate was intended to push employees working at businesses with more than 100 workers into getting inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine or to get tested weekly. However, the rule has been met with contestation from the country’s Republican officials who considered it a violation of the Democratic administration’s legal authority and have vowed to take legal action. 
  • At least 8 people dead and many others injured after a crowd surge took place during the opening night of US rapper Travis Scott’s concert, Astroworld. Due to reports of an audience member injecting others with drugs, police have involved the homicide and narcotics divisions in their investigation of the events leading to the accident on Friday (Nov 5). The rapper has since tweeted that “[his] prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened”
  • The US Navy has fired three distinguished members aboard a United States Ship (USS) Connecticut nuclear submarine that collided with an underwater mountain in the South China Sea last month. Navy officials commented that the accident that caused 15 sailors to suffer minor injuries, “could have been prevented” by the crew members. The accident took place amid rising tensions in the disputed region angering officials in Beijing who have speculated about the reasons for the submarine’s presence in the region. US Navy officials have yet to provide a full account of the incident. 

South America:

  • Peru confirms a new moderate-left cabinet led by Mirtha Vasquez, a former head of congress and moderate left-wing politician last Friday (Nov 5). The opposition-controlled congress passed the vote 68-56. Mirtha Vasquez does not belong to President Pedro Castillo’s party, the Peru Libre. Several members of Peru Libre voted to reject the new cabinet.
  • Argentina has offered climate action to resolve its debts last Tuesday (Nov 2). At the COP26 United Nations Climate Summit at Glasgow, President Alberto Fernández asked for more flexibility to honour the debt; Argentina owes the International Monetary Fund close to US$46 billion (S$62 billion). Argentina wishes to link part of the payment to green infrastructure investments.
  • The Brazilian senate recommends that President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted for nine crimes relating to how he mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic that killed more than 600,000 Brazilians. President Jair Bolsonaro’s press secretary Fabio Wajngarten is also under investigation for providing false information to the Brazilian public. 
  • Two Mapuche indigenous Chilean inhabitants died after a clash with the Chilean security force last Thursday (Nov 4). The conflict came after President Sebastian Pinera requested congress to extend the state of emergency. Since last month, the area has been under a state of emergency as there has been increasing tension between the Mapuche and the government. The Mapuches are demanding that their lands be returned to them. The land is currently given to private companies and landowners. 
  • The International Criminal Court said last Thursday (Nov 4) that it is set to open investigations on allegations of crimes against humanity in Venezuela. The United Nations have accused President Nicolas Maduro’s security force of excessive force and arbitrary arresting thousands of people during the protest against Maduro’s regime. President Maduro has signed a ‘Letter of Understanding’ and will cooperate with investigations and provide accountability.

Asia Pacific:

  • China last Friday (Nov 5), said that it will hold people supporting Taiwanese independence criminally liable for life amid an escalation of tensions between Beijing and Taipei. This punitive measure, which experts say will likely have a “blanket application”, would immediately take the form of restricted travel to the mainland and China’s Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. While it remains to be seen what the full consequences of these measures will be, with many Taiwanese companies doing business with China no longer allowed to use their profits to fund individuals who have been blacklisted.
  • The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte last Friday (Nov 5), hit back at the International Criminal Court (ICC) but took responsibility for the deaths of alleged drug traffickers and several mayors– a result of his deadly war on drugs. He rejected the jurisdiction of the ICC over the Phillippines, a stance his administration has taken since the Philippines withdrew as a signatory of the Rome Statute that created The Hague court on March 17, 2019. The ICC stated that there was a “reasonable basis” for proceeding with a probe it had recently ordered into Duterte’s crackdown that resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings. Data released by the Phillippine government stated the number to be 6,117 killed. However, the exact numbers remain unclear as human rights groups estimate it to be between 27,000 and 30,000.
  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan last Wednesday (Nov 3), unveiled a $709 million welfare programme that would provide food subsidies for about 20 million low-income households. Describing the package as “Pakistan’s biggest ever welfare programme”, Khan stated that the plan would entitle qualifying low-income households to a 30 per cent discount on ghee, flour and pulses. Pakistan, which relies heavily on imports of essential goods, was particularly hit hard by skyrocketing food and energy prices as countries around the world reduced COVID-19 restrictions, thereby triggering supply shortages.
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged last Monday (Nov 1), that his country would achieve net-zero carbon emissions over the next few decades. As the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the US and China and one of the few remaining major economies that had not committed to net-zero emissions, his announcement was one of the most significant of the summit. Modi also made various short-term commitments. These included pledging that by 2030, to have 50 per cent of India’s power generated by renewable energy as well as a 45 per cent reduction in carbon intensity in the economy. Observers noted that while some of its targets fall behind those of the US, Europe and China, Modi’s pledges indicated that India did not intend on falling behind on climate action.
  • Indonesia’s environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Wednesday (Nov 3) said that “forcing Indonesia to zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair”. Making this statement at COP26 at Glasgow, she noted that the pledge to end deforestation, which was agreed to by 127 countries including Indonesia, was at odds with the country’s development plans. The about-face has drawn intense criticism from environmental watchdogs and climate activists, some of whom have said that Jakarta was ‘paying lip-service’. Indonesia’s position as the world’s biggest exporter of palm oil is juxtaposed with it being home to the third-largest expanse of tropical forest cover. Since the 1960s, it has cleared wide swathes of its forested area to make way for plantations. 

Europe:

  • Europe is experiencing a COVID-19 resurgence constituting 1.8 million new cases and 24,000 deaths in the last week. The WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has declared the region the current epicentre of the pandemic last Thursday (Nov 4) as it accounts for 59 per cent of the world’s newly reported infections last week. Dr Kluge attributed the surge in infections due to the relaxation of precautionary measures such as mask-wearing and because of low vaccination rates. The WHO has encouraged individuals to continue practising precautionary measures to slow down the spread of the virus. 
  • The death of a 30-year old pregnant woman in Poland has sparked discourse on the abortion ban in the predominantly Catholic nation. Activists have commented that the woman could have lived if it were not for the country’s near-total ban on carrying out abortions. In October of last year, a constitutional tribunal ruled that terminating pregnancies even with foetal defects was illegal, resulting in tens of thousands taking to the streets to protest against the ban in January of this year. The woman allegedly passed due to septic shock after previous scans showed several defects with the foetus and doctors waited for the newborn baby’s heartbeat to stop. However, the government has said that the woman’s death was not a result of the constitutional ban but rather that of human error. Two doctors who were on duty during the woman’s operation have been suspended by the hospital in the aftermath. 
  • Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg criticised the COP26 climate summit calling it a ‘failure’ during the mass protests in Glasgow last Friday (Nov 5). The march that was organised by Fridays for Future Scotland became one of the largest of a string of demonstrations being held throughout the summit in the city of which was joined by the Swedish activist last Friday. Ms Thunberg called the UN climate summit a  “two-week-long celebration of business as usual” to “create loopholes to benefit themselves”. Activists from other nations including Vanessa Nakate from Uganda also gave speeches, bringing attention to the impacts of climate change in their respective countries. The movement has since gone global as youths around the world are seen carrying out demonstrations on a school day, hoping to raise awareness of climate change. 
  • The EU has warned that serious consequences may erupt if the UK triggers Article 16. The warning came from European Commission (EC) Vice-President Maros Sefcovic amid speculation that the UK has plans to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the following weeks. The Irish administration has also commented that the move would be “reckless and irresponsible”  
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the COP26 summit that countries must be ready to make “bold compromises”. This statement comes amid a growing number of climate change demonstrations held worldwide. Climate talks are set to continue in Glasgow in the coming week as world leaders discuss strategies to limit the 1.5C global temperature rise. Mr Johnson added, “There is one week left for COP26 to deliver for the world, and we must all pull together and drive for the line.”
  • Spanish Palma De Mallorca airport shut down for close to four hours on Friday (Nov 5) after an alleged attempt by migrants to illegally enter the country. The plane that was carrying the migrants was initially en route to Istanbul, Turkey but had to divert to the Spanish city after a medical emergency was recorded on board. 21 passengers were caught fleeing across the runway when the plane landed with local police currently investigating the reasons behind their escape. Around 60 flights were diverted or delayed following the incident. 

Middle East:

  • Egypt reported that they will be raising Suez Canal toll by 6 per cent to all ships entering on Friday (Nov 5), except for cruise ships and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) carriers. Starting from February next year, Suez Canal Authority’s chairman Osama Rabea explained that the increase in toll aims to provide a flexible and balanced marketing strategy, to protect the interest of the authority and its clients and takes into account global economic situations.
  • On Thursday, Houthi rebels captured a key government military base in Marib and forced military troops to withdraw from the area. Most casualties are from the side of the Houthi rebels. 
  • On Thursday, The United Arab Emirates start burning waste to generate electricity. If successful, this will be the Gulf region’s first waste-to-power plant. It aims to reduce its massive waste issues and take the edge off reliance on gas-fuelled stations.
  • On Wednesday, the Israel parliament has approved the government’s two years (2021 & 2022) budget by a vote of 59 to 56 last Friday (Nov 5), an essential triumph for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to avoid the fifth election in three years. This is the first budget that has been passed in more than three years, removing the looming threat to the government’s survival. Shortly after the full package was approved, Mr Bennett tweeted, “Tonight we got Israel back on track.”
  • On Thursday, the United Nations’ Palestine aid agency is on the brink of collapsing due to funding cuts; there is a shortfall of US$100 million (S$135 million). Long-term funding methods also prove unsustainable. The mood in Palestine is sombre, distressed, and hopeless, and citizens also feel a sense of abandonment by the agency. 

Africa:

  • At least 99 people dead and more than 100 injured after a fuel tanker blew up following a collision in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown last Friday (Nov 5). Fuel was still spotted to be leaking from the exploded tanker on Saturday (Nov 6) as hundreds of spectators continue to observe from the street. President Julius Maada Bio has stated that he was “deeply disturbed by the tragic fires and the horrendous loss of life” and said that his government will do “everything to support the affected families”. Following the tragedy, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has commented that the extent of the damage in Freetown has yet to be revealed. 
  • Ethiopia’s Tigray forces announced last Friday (Nov 6) that they will be joining hands with nine other opposition groups in the country to form a coalition against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The announcement comes just days after two towns northeast of Addis Ababa were captured by the rebels. The government has declared a state of emergency last week, calling on residents to prepare to arm and protect themselves. The conflict that began in November last year has resulted in thousands dead, millions displaced and more than 400,000 facing famine. 
  • The UN’s Human Rights Council announced last Friday (Nov 5) that it has appointed an expert to investigate human rights abuses in Sudan following the military takeover late last month. 13 civilians have died and more than 300 have been injured since the takeover. The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet commented “Those responsible for these and other human rights violations must be held fully accountable for their actions”. The council has condemned the coup, calling for the return of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained by the military.
  • Ugandan youth activist Vanessa Nakate delivers a speech during the climate protests in Glasgow last Friday (Nov 5), bringing light to the impacts of the climate crisis in Africa. Her speech offered a promising view, providing hope that change is possible if world leaders are continued to be held accountable for the effects of climate change, stating that “[one day], we won’t have to fight for limited resources” as “there will be enough for everyone”. Ms Nakate has become a leading representative of many youths advocating for climate change in Africa. 
  • The US has urged government employees and US citizens to leave Ethiopia with their families amid the country’s escalation of war and civil unrest.  The US Embassy stated on their website that “The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions.” This comes after Ethiopia’s government declared a state of emergency last Tuesday (Nov 2) as Tigray forces and their allies advance towards the capital of Addis Ababa. Denmark and Italy have also urged their citizen to flee as soon as possible. 

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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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