YGA’s international extravaganza: no. 7

New Kyrgyz ‘false information’ law worries some

by Joe Mawer

image credit: memyselfaneye (Pixabay)

In a region riddled with dictatorships, from Karimov to Nazarbayev, Kyrgyzstan stands almost unique to have some democratic credentials. Unlike its neighbours, where it is normal to see leaders that stay in power for decades, in Kyrgyzstan the time that leaders stay in charge is much shorter. These credentials are under threat according to bodies such as Human Rights Watch, who are warning that the new ‘false information’ law could lead to the state censorship of criticism of the current regime.

The new law proposes that a state authority should have the power to shut down websites that they see as providing false or inaccurate news. With fake news being spread across the world, many states are trying to find ways to combat this. Although there may be great benefits in eradicating this blight, in many cases, such as the one with Kyrgyzstan, this may lead to many crucial human rights being violated.

The battle against Covid in Laos

by Connor Crout

image credit: cromaconceptovisual (Pixabay)

Laos has recently seen an increase in community cases of Covid caused by those leaving quarantine. In response, the quarantine period for those entering Laos has been increased from 14 to 28 days. According to Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, the Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control, 14 days of quarantine at state level will be followed by 14 days of quarantine at district level.

Additionally, the Japanese government has provided Laos with approximately 600,000 doses of Japanese-produced Covid vaccines. The situation in Laos is desperate, as their second wave of Covid, which began in April, ravages through the country. Time will tell whether these new measures will help Laos in their battle against Covid.

Data shows Latvians are not binge drinkers

by Owen Buchan

image credit: Free-Photos (Pixabay)

New data and figures show that few Latvians are heavy drinkers. Data from Eurostat compiled in 2019 looked at EU nations drinking habits. A “heavy episodic drinker” was defined as someone who consumed more than 60g of pure ethanol on a single occasion. According to the data, 16 percent of Latvians are heavy episodic drinkers. Compared to the rest of the EU member nations monthly drinking episodes, Latvia is in the lower end and below the EU average. The overall EU average stands at 19 percent, with Denmark being the highest at 38 percent and Cyprus as the lowest at 4 percent.

These numbers account for all ages ranges but consumption varies by age.  Alcohol consumption increases with age across all nations in the EU. Despite this seemingly below-average level of monthly alcohol consumption in Latvia, 74 million litres of beer was produced last year in Latvia.

Lebanon, a failing state?

by Samiha Hamze

image credit: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (Flickr)

Lebanon, a state that was once one of the wealthiest in the Middle East, is collapsing. A year after the disastrous Beirut Port explosion which completely destroyed the port, Lebanon’s main centre for international trade, the country continues to suffer. More than 50 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and the world bank estimates suggest that the Lebanese pound has devalued by 95 percent. The currency, which was at a fixed rate of 1500 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar, now trades at 22,000 to the US dollar in the black market. 

Due to the crisis, Lebanese civilians are struggling to access needs such as medicine, gas, electricity, food, and even treatment for COVID. Politicians have failed to resolve these issues, and have rather caused it due to corruption. People have protested, but are met with counter protests and army troops shutting them down.

Lesotho agrees tax treaty with Mauritius

by Frank Roberts

image credit: stevepb (Pixabay)

Lesotho has signed a tax treaty with Mauritius to ensure greater taxation is paid by businesses operating within Lesotho via Mauritian subsidiaries. Mauritius faces criticism from many African states, most notably Senegal and Zambia, for maintaining some of Africa’s lowest tax rates causing some of the continent’s poorest nations to lose out on key sources of income.

The previous treaty, signed in 1997, was considered by Lesotho as limiting its ability to pursue ‘shell companies’ based in Mauritius many of which operated within Lesotho’s mining sector. A landlocked state, Lesotho’s primary natural resource is diamonds. The agreement may also signal a willingness from Mauritius to distance itself from a reputation as a ‘tax haven’, an allegation the island nation denies.

Fake news epidemic harming vaccine confidence in Liberia

by Adam Spencer

image credit: Images Credit: Daniel Schludi

Liberia has faced issues with fake news throughout the pandemic, and it is thought this could impact vaccine uptake across the country.

According to a recent poll, 66 percent of Liberians would not seek to get vaccinated against Covid, with 86 percent believing that prayer offers better protection against a Covid infection than vaccination does.

Conspiracy theories have spread at various milestones, including a theory that the government would ‘spray the air’ in order either to eradicate the disease or infect millions with the virus. Issues with fake news became so serious that senior government officials, including the Solicitor General, threatened to shut down any media outlet peddling fake news during the country’s state of emergency.

Stability in Libya hinges on impending election

by Luke Jones

image credit: UNIS Vienna (Flickr)

Over two years on from their originally planned date, Libya have at last arranged presidential and parliamentary elections for 24 December. Initially delayed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army’s attempt to gain control of the capital Tripoli from the UN-backed interim government, democracy is in a precarious position in Libya. Aware of Tripoli’s instability, the UN Security Council stressed the importance of “free and fair” elections in Libya in a statement on 15 July.

A principal challenge for the national government to accomplish this is to provide secure polling stations for regions outside of government control. To achieve this it must circumnavigate various hostile militia factions in eastern Libya which have become de facto leaders, a feat which to many observers appears unattainable.

Casino controversy in Liechtenstein

by Harry Padoan

image credit: Michał Parzuchowski (Unsplash)

With a population of under 40,000, the people of Liechtenstein aren’t used to major political debates. But in recent years, casinos have exploded onto the scene in the principality, causing a rift between the political and religious worlds. Liechtenstein’s liberal economic policies have seen it become a leading financial centre – but some worry that the influence of Austrian gambling companies is a danger to the nation’s reputation. 

Gambling in any form was illegal in Liechtenstein until 2010, with some politicians hoping for a return to such a policy. As a result, the government has drafted new gambling regulations to be implemented in 2022, with the hope that money laundering won’t see conditions worsen. 

Lithuania seeks financial aid from EU following influx of migrants

by Toby Gill

image credit: Lāsma Artmane

In past years, the Lithuania-Belarus border has been reasonably stable, with migrants travelling from Minsk often making the journey into Lithuania. However this year, Belarus has been accused of “weaponising” migrants amid a surge in border crossings. Traditionally, the number of crossings has remained relatively steady, with only 74 migrants arriving in Lithuania in 2020. 

Conversely, as of Tuesday there have been over 4000 recorded border crossings into Lithuania in 2021 alone. The border authorities fear up to 10,000 more migrants may arrive by the year’s end. This has led Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė to announce plans for a physical barrier, the cost of which is expected to exceed €100 million. 

The EU has condemned Belarus for the migrant crossings and has promised millions in aid to Lithuania, but officials worry whether the aid will come fast enough to alleviate the crisis. 

Luxembourg lucks out with post-pandemic employment figures

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Gabrielle Henderson

Soaring ahead in a stabilised style, Luxembourg’s employment rates show signs of economic fortune. As rates of employment in most other European countries plunged, Luxembourg’s economy is a source of jealousy as its employment rates rose by 2 percent. The large financial industry within the country allowed it to readily adapt to restrictions through homeworking. It’s major sectors scarcely suffered from closures hastened by the pandemic as eight in ten witnessed employment trickle up.

Public services particularly benefited from an above-average boost as employment within the sector climbed up by five percent. To top off the impressive employment rates in Luxembourg, the country also recorded the second lowest decline in working hours that the country has ever seen, with a mere 4 percent dip. Luxembourg appears to be the anomaly among its European neighbours as the prospect of a post-pandemic world nears.

Climate change creates “horror film” famine in Madagascar

by Max Bedford

image credit: Fifaliana-joy (Pixabay)

Enduring its worst drought in 40 years, over a million people are food insecure, while over 400,000 are experiencing a famine. This has seen the World Food Programme’s Chief describe the Madagascan famine as a “horror film” and place it on the worlds ‘highest alert’ hunger list. It is estimated that $76.8 million will be necessary to get Madagascar through the famine and the lean season that begins in October. 

The famine is largely due to a rain-shortage that Madagascar has faced for the last few years, the monsoons that the Madagascan economy relied on have been replaced by sandstorms that turn fertile land barren. The UN suggests that this is due to manmade climate change and is largely irreversible. It is expected that Madagascar will only be one of the first nations heavily affected by climate change.

International cooperation results in wild dog introduction

by Josh Chapman

image credit: Charles Sharp

An international reintroduction project has culminated in a pack of African wild dogs being reintroduced in Malawi. The animals are critically endangered, where their main threats come from habitat loss and hunting. As such, there has not been a stable pack in Malawi for over 20 years. 

African Parks, a reintroduction NGO based in South Africa who supported the project, have released over 4000 animals into the wild since their founding in 2003. They sourced the dogs from different packs in Mozambique and South Africa to ensure genetic variation. Cole du Plessis who coordinated the project is confident that the reintroduction will be successful, calling it ‘an absolute win’ for Malawi.

The head of African Parks, Angela Gaylard, praised the cooperation between Malawi, South Africa and Mozambique, and is hopeful that it will lead to more cross-border collaborations in the future.

Malaysia revokes Covid restrictions despite spike in cases

by Jessica Pender

image credit: cromaconceptovisual (Pixabay)

The relaxed protocols allow vaccinated individuals to dine in, attend sports events, and travel between states. As of 1 August, roughly 34 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated.

The rulings previously mandated mask-wearing as well as fines for breaching movement restrictions. The national state of emergency was to last until mid-August. The government has been questioned for lifting the emergency measures as the decision was made against the advice of the nation’s Health Ministry. Furthermore, opposition leaders such as Democratic Action Party Deputy Chairman Gobind Singh Deo questioned why they were not informed of the decision. 

6 August saw 20,889 new cases reported in Malaysia, a new record that brought the total number of cases to 1,224,595. However, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin stated that the nation could potentially return to full economic activity by October.

New rhetoric in the Maldives

by Hannah Boyle

image credit: MEAphotogallery (Flickr)

Recent focus in the Maldives has been on the #IndiaOut campaign, sparking around Maldives Independence Day. The relationship between the Maldives and India has been slowly deteriorating as citizens challenge Indian military currently stationed in the Maldives.

While President Solih has attempted to reduce anti-India sentiment, Ambassador for New Dehli, Sunjay Sudhir, has recently requested extra security measures as bomb threats surface on social media, as well as calls for protests outside the High Commission of India. 

Solih continues to push for a mutually beneficial relationship with India despite national tension, accepting economic aid from India to handle additional costs associated with the Covid pandemic, providing over $500 million in aid. Foreign policy positions continue to change under Solih as he adjusts discourse and rhetoric.

Six patients die as a consequences of continued conflict in Mali

by Katie Nuttall

image credit: Moussa Kalapo

Militants and government troops in central Mali have been preventing the entrance and exit of people from Songo village since July, leading to the death of six patients earlier this week that had required critical care from outside of their village. Local authorities reportedly communicated the necessity to evacuate these patients to federal authorities, however nothing was done in response. 

The town, Diabaly, has been a battleground between militants and government troops in the past. Mali’s interim president Colonel Goïta took office this May after leading the country’s second coup in less than a year, and political stability has not been restored. Last month, he was attacked by two armed men in what has been labeled an assassination attempt, with his accused assassin dying in custody less than a week later.

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