YGA’s international extravaganza: no. 9

Ghurka hunger strike for equal pensions

by Connor Crout

image credit: Thomas_G (Pixabay)

A group of Gurkhas were involved in a hunger strike outside Downing Street for 13 days, protesting against unequal pensions for Gurkhas in comparison to other British Army veterans. It has now ended after the government agreed to discuss the matter, with Ministry of Defence officials meeting the Nepali Ambassador next month.

Gurkhas (from Nepal) have served Britain in numerous wars, including (but not limited to) World War I where over 90,000 Gurkhas served the British army, over 20,000 of them being killed, injured or reported as missing in action.

Gurkhas who retired before 1997 don’t receive as much pension as British-born members of the Army do because the Gurkha Pension Scheme was based on Indian Army rates. The talks next month will hopefully get Gurkha veterans the pensions they deserve.

Five months and counting: Dutch coalition talks resume

by Dylan Nykamp

image credit: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Coalition talks restarted in the Netherlands. Negotiations have been taking place since the general election in March 2021, yet no government has been formed.

The election saw an expected victory for Mark Rutte’s incumbent centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Although, as is usual in Dutch Politics, the VVD fell short of a majority.

Rutte’s plan to repeat a coalition of the centre-left Democrats 66 (D66) and Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) has not been as straight-forward as he’d hoped.

A non-aggression pact on issues including abortion and euthanasia was in place between the D66 and CDA since 2017. But since increasing their seats in parliament, the D66 has refused to extend the deal into a new government. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag has remained insistent on a VVD-D66 coalition involving left-wing parties Labour and GroenLinks rather than the CDA.

Howl of a protest

by Lucas Barker

image credit: Bryce Kane

Farmers across New Zealand have been howling in protest in response to a number of environmental initiatives recently proposed by the governing labour party. Towns and cities across the country were brought to a halt by 57 separate convoys of tractors on 16 July, organised by the protest group Growndswell NZ.

New initiatives include capping the amount of nitrogen farmers can apply to their land, which comes as a result of reports showing that 60 percent of New Zealand’s rivers are polluted due to the leaching caused by nitrogen application.

Other major changes include land being hastily re-categorised to environmentally sensitive or land of Maori importance without consulting landowners, limiting the land’s use. One such owner said that the changes were made by “one woman hired by the council, she made her decisions by driving and viewing from roads”.

Nicaraguan government intensifies attack on the free press

by Toby Gill

image credit: OpenClipart-Vectors (Pixabay)

In 2018, the Nicaraguan government brutally cracked down on protests across the country, and the country’s delicate democracy has been picked away at since. Over 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled into political exile in the last few years and now, with elections on the horizon, Daniel Ortega’s government has once again increased its attacks on the opposition.

Last week, police raided La Prensa’s headquarters, a paper which has been stringently critical of Ortega’s government. The raid was allegedly part of an investigation into “customs fraud” but has been widely condemned as a blatant attack on the press. On Wednesday, PEN International issued a statement demanding a global response in defence of a “free press in Nicaragua”. As the political crackdown intensifies, the future of Nicaraguan democracy lies in the balance.

Motorcycles, mourning and remembered victims

by Rachael Ward

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

The poorest country on the planet has been dealt yet another damning card as bullet-bearing insurgents on motorcycles shot down 37 people in the Tillaberi region of Niger. Among the victims were 13 children, mounting the bloodshed and lost lives to more than 420 innocent civilians in Tillaberi and nearby Tahoua this year.

This particular incident has not been pinned to Al-Qaeda or ISIS as of yet, although the attack bears the marks of both groups who are active within the region. Niger’s government has announced two days of mourning and remembrance in solidarity with the victims and the government’s conviction to fight against terrorism. Yet terrorism continues to torment Niger’s population as tens of thousands attempt to flee in fear of becoming the target for fresh attacks.

A crude development in democracy

by Angel Hill

image credit: drpepperscott230 (Pixabay)

Nigeria’s economy has always been largely dominated by the abundance of crude oil, accounting for 90 percent of export revenue, despite the industry being largely ungovernable due to corruption and poor leadership. This past Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) – a bill that has been in the making for the past 20 years. The new PIB has the potential to pave the way for addressing crucial discrepancies and inefficiencies in the petroleum industry, and allow for an overhaul of the existing frameworks that have poorly governed the production of oil and gas.

This is widely regarded as a democratic step forward in Nigeria’s economic practices, with the introduction of accountability structures. An essential part of the bill was the creation of a supportive environment for host communities as well as new rules for environmental protection.

North Korea sends warning over joint exercises

by Josh Chapman

North Korea has warned the US and South Korea to stop the joint military exercises currently underway. Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong-Un’s sister, has condemned South Korea for taking part in the ‘dangerous’ joint exercises saying that it will boost its own capabilities in response. 

Whilst this may seem like a typical war of words between North Korea, South Korea and the US, there is the potential for it to develop into something more. Due to Covid, international sanctions and extreme weather North Korea is currently in an economic crisis, which Kim Jong-Un has even apologised for.  Analysts suggest that his threats to boost military capabilities are simply a distraction from his domestic blight, but with Biden less likely than Trump to engage in verbal tit-for-tat, these threats could very easily become reality.

North Macedonia’s EU headache continues

by Harry Padoan

image credit: NATO (Flickr)

Since they began their bid to join the European Union back in 2004, North Macedonia has faced frequent hardship. A dispute over the nation’s name with Greece, settled in 2019 was seen as a major concession by the government in Skopje, although issues have continued to mount.

 Earlier this month, Bulgaria exercised its right to veto accession talks between the EU and North Macedonia, citing cultural disputes as the reason for such a decision. Bulgaria has claimed that North Macedonia continues to suppress the rights of those who identify as Bulgarians, but many experts sense that the move will destabilise the Balkan region. 

Norwegian economy returns to pre-pandemic levels

by Adam Spencer

image credit: Michael Fousert

The Norwegian economy has managed to make a recovery from the economic decline brought on by the Covid pandemic.

According to Statistics Norway, the Norwegian economy grew 0.7 percent in June 2021, which has indicated that the economy has not only seen the worst impacts of the pandemic, but that it has recovered to the levels of March 2020.

Whilst others have said that the rise is not as big as perhaps wanted, it is clear that the growth has resulted in an increase in confidence in the Norwegian economy. Industrial commerce has risen to the highest level since 2007, whilst the plan to increase interest rates from pandemic levels has only been strengthened by the news.

Oman establishes national hydrogen alliance

by Jessica Pender

image credit: akitada31 (Pixabay)

The alliance, named Hy-Fly,  is set to include 13 institutions such as government agencies, oil and gas operators, and research institutions. Oman plans for the alliance to diversify energy resources within its Oman Vision 2040 economic transformation project. The project is intended to be a response to the worldwide demand for clean fuels.

Companies under the plan are to include Oman Shell, Oman LNG, OQ, BP Oman and TotalEnergies Oman. Construction of a green hydrogen plant will begin in the Arabian Sea in 2028.

Turkey and Pakistan agree on coordination for Afghanistan

by Owen Buchan

image credit: Hamid Roshaan

The Turkish and Pakistani Foreign ministers have agreed to bilaterally coordinate regarding the situation in Afghanistan after a phone call. This follows several emergency calls between the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the President of Turkey shortly after the situation in Afghanistan unfolded.

The exact nature of this agreement between Pakistan and Turkey has not been disclosed but the agreement is set to have key priorities. These include ensuring that Pakistan remains a peaceful and stable nation that protects the rights of its citizens. The foreign ministers are hoping that moving forward and bringing about an inclusive political solution will be the best move. This will include international support and cooperation but some form of resolution is greatly needed for these nations so close to Afghanistan.

Palau-Taiwan travel corridor reopens after Taiwanese Covid outbreak

by Max Bedford

image credit: ohancock (Pixabay)

The Palau-Taiwan travel bubble has reopened after closing in May to avoid the spread of a new Covid outbreak in Taiwan. While the travel corridor has been restricted to those already vaccinated and those with appointments to become fully vaccinated, it has managed to boost tourism between the two nations and is expected to continue as more of the population becomes vaccinated.

There have been further attempts to boost tourism by Palau’s Ambassador to Taiwan who has begun offering $50 travel vouchers to incentivise travel to the nation, as well as offering 2000 vaccinations to prospective tourists as a reflection of the two nation’s ‘long standing friendly ties’. It is expected that the nations will continue to work together to vaccinate their populations and reignite their respective tourism industries.

Tensions remain high in Jerusalem and West Bank

by Samiha Hamze

image credit: scottgunn (Flickr)

After nearly three months since the attacks that took place between Gaza and Israel which left 256 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, tensions remain high. The attacks occurred after clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis triggered in response to the home demolitions occurring in Occupied East Jerusalem. Although a ceasefire was agreed upon, this did not include stopping the home demolitions. 

Al Bustan, an area in Occupied East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood is facing a crisis where 1500 residents are facing home demolitions in order to build a new biblical park. Hebron, in the West Bank is also being targeted. The Al Tell family in Zanura had nearly 4000 acres confiscated by the Israeli authorities in order to build new settlements. The continuous settlement expansion in Palestinian territories complicates the chance of peace between both groups in the future.

Panama classified as ‘carbon negative’

by Luke Jones

image credit: Austin Neill

Panama is one of only three countries in the world classified as ‘carbon negative’, the others being Bhutan and Suriname. The term takes the concept of carbon neutral one step further; it means that Panama removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it admits. This has been attributed in large part to Panama’s forests which capture carbon dioxide and cover 63.4 percent of its territory, the highest of any Central American country.

Panama presents a strong case for reforestation to other climate change-tackling countries. Despite this record, Panama appears to continue to be resolved to confronting climate change, as seen with the Panama Canal Authority’s pledge last April to make its operation carbon neutral by 2030.

Death penalty may return to Papua New Guinea

by Frank Roberts

image credit: JulesR (Pixabay)

The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea has rejected a stay of execution provided to 14 prisoners by the National Court, allowing the first executions to take place in the country since 1954. The country, beleaguered by some of the highest crime rates in the world, formally reintroduced the death penalty in 1991.

The 15 prisoners, convicted of sorcery-related murders, are still able to apply for clemency which can be granted by an advisory committee comprising of five individuals from different professions. Moreover, the method of execution has yet to be determined. Last year, Papua New Guinea was one of 38 UN member states (there were also 34 abstentions) to vote against the resolution which declared a moratorium on the death penalty. 

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