Western Vaccine Nationalism Risks Prolonging the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Ben Askew | Wednesday 3rd March 2021

Unequal access to healthcare has long been a contentious issue in international politics. According to anti-poverty charity OXFAM, an estimated 90% of people in 67 low-income countries will not be vaccinated against the coronavirus this year due to Western vaccine hoarding. Experts say that failing to vaccinate less developed countries risks prolonging the pandemic.

Western nations have vaccine supplies that far exceed demand. The UK’s 407 million doses are more than enough to inoculate the entire population and those living in crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories. Similarly, The EU has bought over 1.6 billion doses, despite only having a population of 375 million. On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada has secured 188 million doses for its adult population of 32 million.

There is a somewhat reasonable excuse for these mass vaccine procurements: uncertainty concerning the efficacy of vaccines when the respective nations purchased them. However, now that these nations know that they have enough effective vaccine doses, they should donate the surplus to developing economies.

Experts warn that unless poorer countries vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus, the virus will continue to spread, increasing the likelihood of vaccine-resistant mutations emerging. “No one country can feel safe until every country has taken precautions to vaccinate its population,” says World Trade Organisation Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Failing to inoculate less developed nations is wrong and leaves the world open to the threat of vaccine-resistant mutations, but it could also cost the global economy trillions of dollars over the next decade. RAND Europe, a non-profit research organisation, estimates that the cost of allowing COVID-19 to continue circulating will be as high as $1.2 trillion per year, risking the stagnation of the global economy for the foreseeable future.

However, all is not lost. So far, 156 nations, nearly two-thirds of the global population, have joined The WHO COVAX programme, aiming to ensure equitable access to vaccines. Through the initiative, participating countries have guaranteed access to vaccines and the financial support to inject them into their populations’ arms. By the end of 2021, the WHO aims to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the programme. So far, The EU has committed $1.2 billion to the fund, and US President Joe Biden has also pledged to provide over $4 billion.

Vaccine nationalism must not become a game of chess amongst the developed world. The COVID-19 pandemic has so far claimed 2.4 million lives globally, and unless wealthy nations take continued steps to address the far-reaching inequalities in vaccine supply, the world will continue to live with this disease and its consequences well into the future.


Israel – Emirates Peace Deal: To Me, To You, To UAE, to You

by George Wright

Earlier this month, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic peace agreement: Israel will put aside plans to annex disputed territory in the West Bank in return for Emirati recognition of the Jewish state. Other prominent Arab countries will probably follow suit, with Bahrain and Oman also reportedly keen to normalise their relations with Israel. However, this deal is not only the result of a sudden recognition of the similarities between the two nations but also a realisation of the mutual threat of Iran. 

Iran has pursued an aggressive foreign policy, which has posed a continued threat to Sunni and Jewish populations within the Levant and Arabian Peninsula, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution: Whether it’s financing and controlling Hezbollah, which has used the Lebanese government as its puppet for decades, or mobilising the Al Quds force, headed by General Soleimani, which has carried out untold massacres across Iraq. The long-standing feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has evolved into proxy struggles in Yemen and Iraq, is threatening to go nuclear despite American-led sanctions to prevent this. More and more countries in the Middle East are beginning to realise and recognise the age-old maxim: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 

Opponents of the deal have taken the predictable line: that this deal has betrayed the Palestinians, who have been ‘sold out’ by the Emirates and other Arab leaders. This criticism is levelled by Qatari broadcaster, Al Jazeera, which has evolved in the last 20 years to be little more than a propaganda platform for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran. As Turkey and Qatar begin to bend to the will of political Islam, with moves such as the recent decision to revert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, they have started to align themselves more and more with Iran, against the rest of the region. Following the announcement of the peace deal, Turkey is now threatening to sever its ties with UAE.

The UAE has long been a melting pot for the peoples and faiths of the world. Respect for religious freedom is one of the Arab state’s most important principles. As political Islam continues to threaten the leadership of the Gulf States, the UAE has come to realise that they suddenly have mutual allies in Israel, which has long been resisting political Islam, since the Iranian-backed Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007.

Recent political turmoil in Lebanon, culminating in the Beirut explosion, has left its people desperate for new governance. The Hezbollah-controlled government has lost its grip on power after the entire government resigned this month. As a country of strategic importance in the feud between Israel and Iran, given its proximity to Israel, there will be intense competition to influence its new government. Iran will be keen to keep Lebanon onside to continue attacks against Israel and maintain support for Hamas. Israel will be eager to gain influence so that it can improve its national security. 

What this deal reveals is that despite the heated history between Israel and the Arab States, a more critical threat has emerged in the form of Iran. 

The threat of Iranian expansionism and destruction continues to grow as Hezbollah and Al Quds exert pressure on governments in Beirut and Baghdad and operate militias in the countryside of the Levant. Iran is just a short trip across the Gulf from the Emirates. It has already seized its islands of Abu Masa and The Tunbs, a dispute not easily forgotten by Emirati leadership. Finding allies in the region to counter Iranian expansionism is vital to Emirati and Israeli interests.

The Israeli-Emirati peace deal marks a new chapter in the politics of the Middle East. One with both high risk, but also high reward. How easily will other Arab states recognise Israel and work to contain Iran? 

Why Rishi Sunak Becoming Prime Minister Is Significant for Not Only Britons but Indians All Over the World 

By Olivia Singh | 31st October 2022

Rishi Sunak is now the new Prime Minister of the UK. 193 MPs pledged their support to Sunak and 26 MPs backed Penny Mordaunt, according to BBC News. The pound rose against the dollar after Sunak was announced as the leadership race winner, and the markets reacting positively to his victory proves that he is trusted to stabilise the British economy.  

Sunak has always made it clear that he is proud to be a British Indian Hindu, he will work for the betterment of the British people and take forward his cultural and religious values whilst doing so. When he became an MP, he swore his oath of allegiance on the Bhagavad Gita. He has also stated that he is proud of his cultural and religious heritage: 

“I am now a citizen of Britain. But my religion is Hindu. My religious and cultural heritage is Indian. I proudly say that I am a Hindu, and my identity is also a Hindu.”  

Sunak becoming Prime Minister is significant for Britons and Indians all over the world as he is the first British Indian, Hindu person to become Prime Minister. An Indian-origin person has become the face of Britain and is representing Indians on the world stage like never before. More people from ethnic minority backgrounds in Britain will feel confident to pursue a career in politics, as Sunak is of Indian origin. Sunak’s win highlights the UK’s embrace of cultural diversity and is a time of celebration for many Hindus, especially as he won the leadership race on Diwali.

This is a historic moment and milestone in Britain’s evolution as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Relations between Britain and India also have high potential to strengthen –  Sunak has stated how the UK-India relationship is important and how the relationship can be developed. During a campaign hustings event hosted in north London on Monday evening by the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) diaspora organisation, the former chancellor said he wanted to bring a change in the relationship between Britain and India: 

“We are all very aware of the opportunity for the UK to sell things and do things in India, but actually we need to look at that relationship differently because there is an enormous amount that we here in the UK can learn from India,” he said. 

“I want to make sure that it’s easy for our students to also travel to India and learn, that it’s also easy for our companies and Indian companies to work together because it’s not just a one-way relationship, it’s a two-way relationship, and that’s the type of change I want to bring to that relationship,” he said. 

The University of Oxford-backed British Indian think tank, The 1928 Institute, has said:  

“It is incredible to see a British Indian as PM. Many of our grandparents were British subjects and now to see someone of Indian heritage in the UK’s highest office is truly wonderful.” 

The 1928 Institute has also said that Sunak’s win is a major achievement, however more diversity is still needed in the government – he will be judged by his policies by the think tank: 

“Breaking this glass ceiling is a major achievement but we need more diversity in our government.” 

“We will judge Rishi by his policies and hope that our shared values across the diaspora such as seva, particularly with regards to minority and marginalised communities, are part of his leadership.” 

For Sunak to reach the stage that he has proves that merit is valued in Britain, no matter what background you come from. Sunak is set to make history as Britain’s first Indian-origin, Hindu Prime Minister. 

Why Political Leaders Around the World Must Pay Attention to Sadhguru’s “Save Soil” Movement 

by Olivia Singh | 13th October 2022

Save Soil is a global movement launched by Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru, to address the soil crisis and land degradation. The Isha Foundation presented the initiative on the 5th of April this year at a UN conference in Geneva and is supported by the World Health Organisation, the UN SDG lab, and The International Union for Conservation of Nature. One of the movement’s main objectives is to show governments worldwide that citizens need policies that revitalise soil and ecology. Political leaders around the world must pay attention to this movement before the whole world faces a food shortage.  

Sadhguru has shared with the world that 52% of the world’s agricultural soils are already degraded. He has made multiple videos on YouTube about the Save Soil movement, and his videos have received millions of views. In his video, Save Soil: Our Very Body | Conscious Planet, he talks about how one of the key issues the world is facing today is soil degradation, stating facts from the United Nations such as how one-third of the world’s soil is already degraded. He also brings forward facts from the World Economic Forum about how there will be 30% less food in the next 20-50 years, which will lead to a serious food crisis on the planet. Across the world, we are all on the verge of desertification. 

Political leaders of countries all around the world must unite and introduce new policies to tackle the soil crisis. More politicians must be passionate about solving ecological issues. Recently, the Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba pledged support to the Save Soil movement. The government of Nepal announced that 30,000 trees will be planted to commemorate Sadhguru’s 30,000km Save Soil journey and that they will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Conscious Planet. Other countries around the world are also pledging their support to the movement. Six Caribbean nations have signed an MoU for the Save Soil movement, these nations are Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis, Guyana, and Barbados. Globally, 80 countries have pledged to save soil from extinction. 

Sadhguru’s 30,000km motorcycle journey across 27 nations for his Save Soil movement was successful, as it brought many political leaders across the world together to commit to saving the Earth’s soil. The movement will be on until policies are changed worldwide, the key objective of the movement is to ensure that there is at least 3-6% of organic content for agricultural soil. 

Leaders of all nations must pledge support to the movement to save our environment and prevent global food insecurity in the future. Notable global leaders have already shown their support to save soil, some of these leaders are the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev who founded Patanjali, and Dr Jane Goodall who is a UN Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.  

It is notable how major Western news outlets didn’t cover Sadhguru’s journey. News of the movement wasn’t covered on any of the major British news networks, although Save Soil is a global movement. The West must join forces with the East, appreciate the work of the global leaders from the East, and work to Save Soil. Ensuring that news spreads about Sadhguru’s work is vital so that globally, policymakers are aware of key problems facing our world and can write policies that protect our world.  

Sadhguru not only speaks on issues concerning the environment, but also about mental health issues, human empowerment, enlightenment, and yoga. Sadhguru is a spiritual leader all political leaders must pay attention to for the betterment of all beings. Saving the Earth’s soil is a priority for everyone; therefore, Save Soil must be given recognition by all world leaders. 

The New Era of the British Monarchy Has Prompted Renewed Demands for the Kohinoor Diamond To Be Returned to India. Will Britain Ever Return the Diamond?

By Olivia Singh | 3rd October 2022

The Kohinoor diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world, it has a gory history of colonial conquest and now stands as a star of the Crown Jewels. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there have been renewed demands made for the Kohinoor diamond to be returned to India. The age-old question stands: Will the British return the diamond to India?

David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the UK, told the Indian TV channel NDTV that this would not be happening, he stated:

“If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” he said. “I think I am afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it is going to have to stay put.”

For the British to return the diamond to India, they would have to be willing to atone for their colonial crimes. Cameron prefers that stolen goods remain stolen for display in the British Museum. Until the British colonial mentality ends, nothing will be returned to looted countries.

It is argued by Britain that they are the legal owners of the diamond, and India’s Supreme Court ruled that the diamond was never stolen from India but was obtained by Britain through a legal treaty. Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire who owned the diamond was forced by the British to sign a legal document amending the Treaty of Lahore, which required him to give up all claim to sovereignty and give the diamond to Britain. Singh did not willingly give the diamond to the British, he had to comply with their demands.

The Government of India has demanded the Kohinoor’s return on various occasions. Upon India’s independence in 1947, the government asked for the diamond back. The government made another demand for the diamond to be returned in the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The British government has however always refused to return the Kohinoor to India. In 2010, ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta asked the UK for the Kohinoor and other artefacts to be returned, but once again, the UK refused. If there is a chance of atonement being given to the British for their colonial crimes, they should be incredibly eager to take it. Instead, Britain continues to upset not only Indians by keeping valuable artefacts, but also those from other countries who have had their possessions stolen by the British. South Africans have been demanding the return of the Great Star of Africa diamond, also known as the Cullinan I diamond, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s claimed by South Africans that it’s the world’s largest cut colourless diamond and that it is a cultural artefact that was seized by British colonial troops. Currently, the gem is kept with other jewels in the Tower of London.

It is unlikely that Britain will return the diamond to India or give back any other stolen artefacts in the near future. Currently, Queen Consort Camilla has the Kohinoor in her crown. Until British leaders have the will to atone for Britain’s imperial past, looted objects will continue to be displayed with pride in the British Museum. The British continue to benefit from their colonial past and must acknowledge this without attempting to hide pieces of information about their colonial conquests. Britain’s role in colonisation must be taught in schools, so that future generations fully understand British colonial rule and the long-lasting impact it has had and continues to have on people all over the world. Maybe then, stolen objects and objects acquired by force will be returned to their respective countries in the future.

Climate Migration: How the Human Impact of Climate Change Is the Next Global Crisis Waiting To Happen

By Alex Smith | 30th September 2022

With the threat of climate change causing a multitude of human impacts including driving increased food insecurity, increased exposure to disease, loss of livelihood and worsening poverty, the next global humanitarian crisis is expected to be mass migration as a result of climate change, and our current migration systems are woefully underprepared for it. Unless increased measures are put in place to slow down global warming and richer countries find a working and ethical solution to their already strained asylum systems, the human and societal impacts are set to be disastrous.

There’s no denying the evidence of climate change and the impact it’s having in the real world. With rising temperatures making some parts of the world close to the equator unhabitable, and estimated sea level rises of between 0.29m to 1.1m by the end of the twenty first century (possibly higher if the ice sheets and permafrost melt faster than expected) slowly decreasing the amount of habitable land, it’s clear that alarm bells are ringing. Flooding caused by rainfall in countries such as Bangladesh, which is considered as one of the most vulnerable countries due the impacts of climate change where a large number of people will be displaced as a result, and droughts in Iran where models suggest that soil may be increasingly infertile by mid-century, contributing to increased dust storms and falling agricultural output, are all events which show us the devastation of climate change. It’s no surprise then, that academics can draw links between climate change and migration patterns with various estimates over the years reporting that climate change will be one of the key drivers of population movement and displacement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines climate migration as: “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment as a result of climate change that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do”. Like issues caused by conflict, economically poorer countries tend to be where most of the impacts of climate change are seen and where most climate migrants originate and high-income countries tend to be the preferred destination of those directly displaced. Regions most at risk include Sahel, MENA, Dry Corridor, and South Asia. There are two types of climate migration which have been studied: internal and international. Internal migration is the one most observed at current and is mostly associated with natural disasters such as flooding with studies noting that it’s the most likely outcome for those affected by climate change and other environmental hazards, however, as more and more countries become unhabitable, migrants will have to resort to international migrations as a means of finding habitable accommodation. With worst-case scenarios suggesting that if business-as usual attitudes to climate change continue, nearly one-third of the global population will live in extremely hot (uninhabitable) climates, currently found in less than 1% of the earth’s surface mainly in the Sahara. In rural areas climate change has had impacts on agricultural productivity as well as the presence, frequency, and severity of natural disasters like storms, floods, droughts, and fires. These impacts have severe effects on livelihoods forcing people to move. With the rising sea levels and global temperatures, there could be an expected 200 million climate migrants by the middle of the century.

However, many states view climate migrants themselves as the issue rather than climate change or even deny climate refugees asylum eligibility. In the same vein of views towards refugees during the recent European migrant crisis, climate refugees are often considered a threat to national security and image with the state security frame viewing immigration as a threat to the territorial integrity of the destination state, challenging its fundamental notion of sovereignty. Furthermore, economically developed countries tend to make migration policies around their own national interests, prioritizing admission of persons who will contribute to economic growth, meet labor shortages, or have close family ties in the destination country. This obviously negatively impacts rural low-skilled refugees and can leave them homeless with no option of safe accommodation.

So, what’s the solution and how do we prepare? Some studies suggest the single most effective way to reduce the man-made attributions to climate migration in the US is by adopting policies at both the federal and state levels that rapidly reduce carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions and to work with other major economies through bilateral and multilateral engagement to do the same. In taking these steps, it’s expected that limiting global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees would likely prevent up to 150 million people from permanently losing their homes to sea level rise by the end of the century. Secondly, across the globe, countries should aim to invest in sustainable development which mitigates the impacts of environmental hazards with the fourth IPCC report suggesting “maintaining and enhancing both resilience and adaptive capacity for weather related hazards are critically important policy and management goals”. Economically developed countries should also adopt policies to recognise climate migration as a means of asylum eligibility and grant them protection. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the phrase ‘climate refugee’ is being used increasingly less, with the more preferred phrase ‘climate change induced migration’ used in order to create less of a securitisation stigma around the subject.

Although we can never truly stop the natural causes of climate migration, we can do our best to limit those who suffer the consequences of man-made causes and prevent those in lesser economically developed countries from being left without the basic human needs of food, water, and shelter.

Rishi Sunak vs Liz Truss: Who Should Become the Next Prime Minister?

By Olivia Singh | 30th August 2022

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are the final two candidates in the race to become Prime Minister. Out of the two candidates, who should become the next Prime Minister?

Whilst Sunak was Chancellor of the Exchequer during the pandemic, he protected the jobs of millions of Britons by creating the Furlough scheme. Although there were Britons that lost their jobs during the pandemic, Sunak successfully prevented widespread job losses. As well as this, many businesses were given grants to sustain themselves. Sunak states that if he becomes Prime Minister, he will tackle inflation and deliver much-needed tax cuts. Looking at Sunak’s impactful experience as Chancellor during unprecedented times and his promises, it is evident that he has the skills needed to know what it takes to rebuild the economy and restore trust as Prime Minister.

Sunak is also keen on protecting women’s rights, ensuring they can enjoy the same freedom many men take for granted in feeling safe from abuse. Sunak pledges to make downblousing a criminal offence and launch a major crackdown on grooming gangs, stating: “As prime minister I will go further. I will make it a criminal offence if you harass women by taking intimate images of them without their consent and will introduce a major crackdown on grooming gangs.”

Truss has proposed to work on creating a National Domestic Abuse Register to tackle repeat offending by men, however she has been accused of treating her role as minister of women and equalities as a ‘side hustle’ by the chair of a group of MPs.

Truss’s experience in politics is notable, she has over 20 years of experience working in politics and is currently Foreign Secretary. Truss has recently been focusing on the threat the UK faces from Russia and UK’s relations with the Gulf. Although Truss has more political experience than Rishi Sunak – does it necessarily mean that she is better suited to be PM?  Truss continued to show support for Boris Johnson even though it was revealed he appointed Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip knowing his allegations of sexual assault, her support of Boris Johnson will not help Truss to gain the public’s trust for her as a moral leader.

According to an exclusive Sky News poll, Truss is leading Rishi Sunak by 32 points in the race to be Prime Minister. Truss has promised tax cuts, which is a key reason why many would vote for her to become the next PM. Economists have warned however that tax cuts will strain the public purse and push up government spending. Sunak plans to tackle inflation and deliver a 20% tax cut by the end of the decade. Key political figures have shown their support for Sunak, stating that he has the skills needed to lead the country. Gove supports Sunak and agrees that tax cuts are not the answer to tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

Gove states: “The answer to the cost-of-living crisis cannot be simply to reject further ‘handouts’ and cut tax.”

He adds: “I know what the job requires. And Rishi has it.”

Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley, states: “Rishi’s plan will help people, tackle inflation, and grow the economy.”

Sunak has valuable experience in managing the country’s finances during COVID-19 and has the skills needed to rebuild the UK economy. The country undoubtedly needs Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, he has proposed good policies to help decrease violence against women and will prove to be one of Britain’s most excellent political leaders.

Is this the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson?

By Thomas McLinden | 2nd February 2022

It can be quite safely assumed that Boris Johnson’s tenure has been nothing short of dull. The electrifying, unavoidable presence of Johnson in Number 10 is the final piece to the melodrama entitled Boris Johnson’s political career. Having swooped to the rapturous applause of Brexiteers by bearing the flag of Britain’s eventual departure from the EU, Johnson now finds himself in a precarious position, with turbulence growing in Number 10.

Johnson is certainly no stranger to facing political scandals, neither is he averse to using any tactic available to him to evade scrutiny and accountability. Allegations of sleaze have erupted within the Tory party in recent weeks. With problems mounting for Johnson in recent months, this seems to be the beginning of a new storm facing Number 10.

The resignation of backbencher Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, having violated parliamentary lobbying standards, is the first of several embarrassments for the government in recent weeks. The government’s response to this was textbook Boris Johnson, an attempt to cover Paterson’s tracks and change the rules to sweep the issue further under the carpet. By doing this, Johnson has attracted anger from both sides of the Commons. Former Prime Minister Theresa May was amongst critics, describing the government’s actions as “plain wrong”.

This is simply the tipping point of the storm of troubles facing Johnson. The emergence of claims that Conservatives held numerous Christmas parties last year, whilst the country was plunged into lockdown, has stirred anger from the public and MPs alike. Discontent about the government’s behaviour, with many seeing it as hypocritical and insensitive. The impending investigation threatens to add further fuel to the flame, particularly if it is found that coronavirus laws were broken.

This revelation has led to a major political storm in Westminster. Opposition parties and some of Johnson’s own MP’s have led the allegations the government are undermining public trust. This comes at a time when the communication between the government and the public is crucial.

This increasingly strained position comes at a difficult time for the Prime Minister. Cases of the Omicron variant are soaring, with the pressure piling on Johnson to act swiftly to ensure the stability of the NHS. Johnson’s position is not made any easier. Opposition to more lockdown measures by many on Conservative benches puts Johnson in a precarious position. The Prime Minister must decide whether to appease those opposed to more restrictions or risk cases continuing to rise exponentially.

The North Shropshire by-election in December proves to be a sticking point for Johnson. A Tory stronghold, the Liberal Democrats gained a 34% swing, to take a seat held by the Conservatives for the past 200 years. Johnson faces mounting pressures when it comes to the electability of the Conservative Party, particularly given the party’s defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, earlier in the year.

Amongst all this controversy, the heights of an 80-seat majority in 2019 for the Conservatives seems a long time ago. Instead, the polls paint a far different picture to 2019, with Keir Starmer leading the Labour Party to an increasingly consistent lead over the Conservatives in recent week’s opinion polling.

A deadly combination of a slide in the polls and controversy attracting furore amongst the public and party MP’s is certainly Johnson’s biggest challenge to date. Calls for Johnson’s resignation from his own side gaining traction is now becoming a much more likely scenario. Particularly with cabinet ministers Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak being tipped as potential successors to Johnson’s throne.

Johnson will most likely spend the early part of the new year mulling over how he can once again lead a Tory surge in the polls whilst simultaneously winning back public trust after a damaging spate of affairs. With that said, whether this will be possible, even for a politician so renowned for winning and getting his way will remain to be seen. What can be taken for certain is that he won’t face an easy ride in doing so, with Labour taking advantage in the polls, a scandal difficult to erase from the minds of the public and a pandemic threatening to spiral out of control once again.

London vs Beijing: How a pathway to British Citizenship has ignited a diplomatic dispute over Hong Kong

Ben Askew | Thursday 8th April 2021

Hong Kong has long been a valued bridge between China and the West. Over the past 18 months, however, the former British colony has increasingly become a stage for China to showcase a more aggressive foreign policy.

Last summer, the Chinese Communist Party passed The National Security Law. The piece of legislation permits mainland Chinese police to operate within Hong Kong. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has labelled the controversial new law as a “serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration”. The Declaration, signed in 1984 by Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, transferred Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China, establishing “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong became part of China but maintained its own economic and administrative systems. 

Hong Kongers greeted the new law with outrage, with tens of thousands of protesting on the city’s streets. The Vice-Chairman of China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Wang Chen has stated that China has introduced the law to tackle the “increasingly notable security risks” in the special administrative region, but British Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb has argued that China is “curtailing” the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. In recent years, Hong Kong has been the scene of mass protests, which worries neighbouring Mainland China, where citizens do not have the right to protest against the Government. The city has a strong pro-democracy movement, which aims to loosen Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong’s leadership and maintain the freedoms eroded by Chinese interference – namely the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democratic elections. The unrest in 2019 amounted to “one of the largest mass protests in history”, and campaigners were even nominated for the Nobel peace prize in February by US lawmakers.

The British Government recently responded to the new law by introducing a visa pathway scheme, which offers some Hong Kong residents the right to live in the U.K. and a pathway to British citizenship that is not otherwise as easily available. Those eligible include those who hold a British National Overseas (BNO) Passport and their dependents. Up to three million Hong Kongers have received an offer to join the scheme – 70% of its population – and experts expect that around 300,000 will take it up over the next three years. 

Over the past few weeks, the Chinese government has attempted to halt the use of the BNO, instructing 14 governments to stop accepting the passport as a valid form of identification. What has followed has been a series of rebuttals by China, which has argued that the west has fabricated claims of western claims of autocratic Chinese interference in Hong Kong. A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry has said that the U.K. has “no supervisory power or so-called moral responsibility for Hong Kong after Hong Kong’s return to its motherland and has no qualification or legal basis to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs”.

Only time will tell whether the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, alongside possible Western sanctions against China, will have an impact on the ground, but for now, what remains is a diplomatic war of words between China and the U.K., with Hong Kong bearing the brunt of the damage.

Vested interests and a celebrity echo chamber stand in the way of revolutionising Indian farming

Pranoy Roy Choudhury | Wednesday 7th April 2021

Farmers in India have been protesting for months over three new laws passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020. Although largely peaceful, these protests have turned violent several times. In December, tens of thousands of farmers congregated in New Delhi, the country’s seat of power, attacking law enforcement and damaging public property. The police responded by firing tear gas and water cannons. And in late January, protestors deviated from a pre-sanctioned route and tried to overcome police barricades with deadly weapons, including swords. The confrontation saw the injury of over 300 police and over a thousand farmers. In what the farmers say was an attempt to “suppress the voice of disagreement”, the government blocked internet access at locations outside the city. After 11 rounds of talks and the Indian Supreme Court’s suspension of the laws, the protests rage on. Why?

The farmers demand a complete repeal of the laws, an unreasonable demand that neglects the need for reform. At present, farmers are only allowed to sell their crops at what’s known as an “Agricultural Produce Market Committee”, where the government guarantees them a minimum price. Farmers have campaigned for an increase in these prices for years, but to no avail. Simply put, the government cannot afford to give a pay rise to such an inefficient sector. India’s agricultural market accounts for just 17% of its GDP but 30% of the Indian budget. The new laws propose allowing farmers to sell their crops outside of government-regulated markets (Mandis) while also providing proper legal mechanisms to ensure farmers are protected. Farmers would be able to sell their produce for a higher price than they currently can at the Mandis. “The farmers should get the advantage of a big comprehensive market that opens our country to global markets”, believes the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi

The protests generate many headlines, but the new laws are not nearly as controversial as they may seem. Only 3 out of 29 Indian states oppose the new laws. Punjab is the most vocal, which is unsurprising when we look at who benefits the most from the Mandis.

While the Indian government established the Mandis to prevent farmers’ exploitation, the government-regulated markets have achieved the opposite. Like most middlemen, the Mandis started cartels, setting prices of goods at their discretion, much to the farmer’s detriment. On the other hand, Punjab has significantly benefited from the Mandis as their farmers cultivate the most significant share of rice and wheat, the two products covered by the enforcement of minimum pricing.

There has been a mixed response from the international community towards the reforms and the resulting protests. The IMF’s chief economist Gita Gopinath highlighted the importance of the reforms in achieving increased incomes for farmers. Meanwhile, pop star Rihanna shared a CNN article supporting the farmers coupled with the tweet “why aren’t we talking about this?”. An immense backlash from the Indian public ensued towards Rhianna, who has also been promoting her brand Savage X Fenty whilst posing semi-nude, sporting a pendant with the Hindu God Ganesh. Reports of alleged child labour in India to mine mica for Rhianna’s beauty line have also emerged. Other international voices who have spoken against the reforms include climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who stands in solidarity with the farmers, despite their emphatic demands to remove fines for stubble burning that has resulted in Delhi having one of the poorest air qualities in the world, a fact which completely counters the environmental philosophy which should underpin contemporary climate activism. 

The message of how vital the need for reform is to the future of Indian farming finds itself lost in an echo chamber that prioritises the convenience of virtue signalling over a self-evident good.

Princess Latifa’s Plight: How Gender Inequality Prevails in the 21st Century

by Eden Singh | Thursday 11th March 2021

In recent years, Dubai has undergone a remarkable transformation from a desert to a global metropolis. However, there has been no such transformation in the rights that women enjoy in the city. Emirati women, like countless other women, continue the fight against sexist laws and customs. The plight of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, exemplifies this fight.

“I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to travel or leave Dubai at all,” Latifa said in a video she recorded before embarking on her heroic quest for freedom three years ago. She and her friend Tiina Jauhianen fled Dubai seeking political asylum. Deplorably, eight days later, Latifa was abducted and returned to Dubai. She is making headlines again after releasing another video recording, this time revealing that her father is imprisoning her.

While being held hostage by her family, Latifa had secret communication with the outside world, but that has stopped. There is now a deep concern for the Princess’s life. #FreeLatifa, a group campaigning for the release of Latifa and women’s rights in the UAE, has urged the UN to visit the Princess immediately. The UN has requested the UAE government to provide them with proof that Latifa is alive, but the only response received by the UN is a statement from the Dubai royal family claiming that the Princess “is being cared for at home”. Kenneth Roth, head of the human rights charity, Human Rights Watch, argues that the royal statement is a cover-up and cannot be trusted until we hear from the Princess herself.

“The phenomena of sexism and misogyny are global.”

As’ad AbuKhalil, research fellow, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies

Princess Latifa’s story is a reminder of gender inequality in the Middle East. However, as As’ad AbuKhalil, a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, says, “the phenomena of sexism and misogyny are global, not peculiar…to the Middle East”. Significant gender disparities exist. According to the UN, more than two-thirds of the world’s 786 million illiterate people are women. In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working, and in 49, there are no laws to protect women from domestic violence. To most of us, these are merely statistics. It is the reality for millions of women worldwide.

Reading about stories like that of the Princess enables those of us who had the privilege of an education, have the freedom to travel, and the liberty to express ourselves to imagine what life would be like without those fundamental human rights. It also reminds us to be thankful for the strength, determination, and courage of the women who fought for them.  

Here are five small but significant steps you can take to promote gender equality both at home and internationally:

The women who came before us endured a long struggle for the rights that we enjoy today; that won’t be over until every woman in every corner of the world enjoys the same rights.