United Nations Security Council paralysed with Russia’s and China’s vetoes

The delegations of Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations resolution to apply sanctions on Syrian government over the use of chemical weapons during the almost six-year war in the country.

The resolution, which was supported by dozens of states, makes clear the wide divisions that are still latent between Russia and the Trump administration, even when both countries promised to improve ties.

Britain and France proposed it some months ago and it has been the seventh Security Council resolution that the Russian delegation has vetoed in support of President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

The American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, accused Russia and China of putting “their friends in the Assad regime ahead of our global security”. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin has reinforced his opposition, adding that penalties enforced by the Security Council will only obstruct Geneva’s diplomatic attempts to end hostilities in Syria.

Hong Kong facing a sharp political crisis

Last month, during the swearing-in ceremony, legislators Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung refused to declare their allegiance to China and carried blue flags reading: “Hong Kong is not China.” Now China has decided to bar the two young legislators, since “those wishing to hold public office must sincerely and solemnly declare allegiance to China”, as China’s rubberstamp legislature affirmed.

About 13,000 people marched on Sunday to protest against China’s last intervention, ending in clashes with police which led to four arrests.

After the United Kingdom gave Hong Kong to China in 1997, the city maintained its own laws, courts and freedoms not enjoyed in continental China, under a framework known as “one country, two systems”. However, many citizens agree that these freedoms have been diminished in the last years.

In fact, previous dissatisfactions led to nearly three months of street protests in 2014 and to the election in September this year of six politicians who demand greater autonomy for the city.

This action is thought to be Beijing’s most direct intervention in the territory’s legal system since the 1997, and it has set up a new conflict between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps.

UN troops failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

Last Tuesday a report was issued into the performance of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where in July government soldiers went on a killing, raping and looting in the capital, Juba. UN troops failed to respond to the attacks in the Terrain Hotel, which included sexual violence by armed South Sudanese soldiers against civilians. Five United Nations staff members and more than a dozen other humanitarian workers were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a group of independent investigators so as to give light to UN troops’ intervention in the country. The report concluded that there has been “a lack of leadership on the part of key senior Mission personnel” which definitely culminated “in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence.”

The investigation has found that the peacekeeping force, formed by troops from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India, did not operate under a unified command. In fact, it received opposing orders, and the Chinese military abandoned its posts at least two times. Moreover, it has been discovered that rescuers never appeared even though several calls were done to the mission’s headquarters. Consequently, most of the victims were rescued by a private security company the following day.

A month after the attacks in Juba and as a consequence of the ineffective intervention of UN soldiers, the UN Security Council commanded thousands of additional troops in order to reinforce the South Sudan peacekeeping missions.

A new research study shows alarming data about air pollution in Africa

A global policy forum has launched a determining study which reveals that Africa’s air pollution is provoking more premature deaths than unsafe water or childhood malnutrition.  This disquieting situation could create a health and climate crisis similar those happening in countries like China or India.

This has been the first major attempt to evaluate both human and financial costs of the continent’s pollution and it underlines that dirty air could be killing up to 712,000 people a year, compared with approximately 542,000 from unsafe water, 275,000 from malnutrition and 391,000 from unsafe sanitation and lack of hygiene.

Outdoor air pollution from traffic, power generation and industries is increasing more rapidly, especially within the fast-developing countries of Africa such as Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria. The main problem is that there is not nearly enough knowledge of the sources of air pollution and its impact in much of Africa.

Sufficient economic and social developments in countries like China have allowed them to concentrate on solving environmental problems. However, most African states have the need to face other urgent issues such as pandemics and malnutrition, and this does not enable them to give a total focus on pollution problems.

Consequently, the report calls for urgent international action in order to help most African countries deal with such serious issue.

The city of Hangzhou hosts the 11th G20 summit

World leaders have gathered at the annual G20 summit which is being held in China for the first time. This year’s meeting is primarily dedicated to build an innovative global economy which must include emerging economies in order to create a “healthy and coherent” world system.

Therefore, the event’s agenda is essentially being ruled by economic issues. China’s major aim is to promote strategies which will improve global economic governance and strengthen financial, energy and tax cooperation.

However, economic and financial policy is not the only issue that is being discussed these days. World leaders have the opportunity to socialize and address crucial issues on the global agenda, from the current geopolitical crisis to the issue of climate change. In fact, UK Brexit plan, Syrian war, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and the need to definitely eliminate ISIS are some of the matters for which world leaders are seeking effective solutions.

Finally, Chinese President Xi Jinping sees this summit as the perfect opportunity to show the world that China is a powerful nation and thus able to take a guiding role in the world economy.