ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting

Why in News

China is going to host Foreign Ministers Meeting from the 10 ASEAN countries, with Beijing pushing for closer economic cooperation and aligning COVID­19 recovery efforts.

Key Points

  • During recent visits to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, China’s Defence Minister called on both countries to reject “military alliances” — a term that some Beijing are using to describe the Quad, but a label that the group rejects.
  • China­ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting would mark the 30-year anniversary of relations and also “focus on combating COVID­19, promoting economic recovery, and better dovetailing strategic plans”.
  • A vaccine passport connecting China and ASEAN countries is also being discussed.

Economic Cooperation

  • Deepening economic cooperation, particularly following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, would be China’s focus, even as it grapples with disputes over the South China Sea.
  • After the first Quad leaders’ summit held in March and the announcement of a regional vaccine initiative, many Chinese analysts framed ASEAN as a key space where Chinese and Quad initiatives may rub-up against each other.
  • The framing of the Quad as “an Asian NATO” by Beijing has been criticised by the group’s members.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  • It is an intergovernmental organization of ten Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • It is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its members.
  • The group has played a central role in Asian economic integration, spearheading negotiations among Asia-Pacific nations to form one of the world’s largest free trade blocs and signing six free trade agreements with other regional economies.
  • The group was united in 1967, originally with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, which sought to create a common front against the spread of communism and promote political, economic, and social stability amid rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
  • In 1976, the members signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which emphasizes mutual respect and non-interference in other countries’ affairs.
  • The group was joined by other countries in 1990s.
  • With the addition of Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999), the group started to launch initiatives to boost regionalism.
  • The members signed a treaty in 1995, for example, to refrain from developing, acquiring, or possessing nuclear weapons.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was introduced during the 19th ASEAN meet held in November 2011.
  • The RCEP negotiations were kick-started during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in November 2012.
  • It is the 15 members regional group consists of: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The 15 member countries account for about 30% of the world’s population (2.2 billion people) and 30% of global GDP as of 2020, making it the biggest trade bloc in history.
  • Unifying the pre-existing bilateral agreements between the 10-member ASEAN and five of its major trade partners, the RCEP was signed on 15 November 2020 at a virtual ASEAN Summit hosted by Vietnam,
  • It will take effect 60 days after it has been ratified by at least six ASEAN and three non-ASEAN signatories.

UN General Assembly

Why in News

Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid was elected as the 76th President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 7 June.

Key Points

  • According to a PTI report, 143 of the 191 votes cast by the Assembly members were in favour of Abdulla Shahid.
  • It was a “great day” for small island states and for “climate vulnerable countries everywhere.
  • This is the first time Maldives will be occupying the office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA).
  • He outlined five priority areas for his term as the presidentCovid response, vaccine equity, environment, human rights, and gender equality.
  • While his rival, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, won 48. In January 2021 Afghanistan announced its candidature with its foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul throwing his hat into the contest.
  • Moreover, Maldives has never held the office of President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), while Afghanistan has held this post during the 21st GA session in 1966-67.

India’s stand

  • Both Maldives and Afghanistan have an excellent tie with India, and both candidates share amicable relation.
  • However, since India had already committed its support to the Maldives at a time when no other candidate was in the fray, India voted in favour of the Maldives.

United Nations General Assembly

  • United Nations General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN) and the only body in which every member of the organization is represented and allowed to vote.
  • The first session of the assembly convened on Jan. 10, 1946, in London, with 51 countries represented.
  • As of 2006 there were 192 members of the General Assembly.
  • Numerous non-members, such as states, organizations, and other entities maintain observer status, enabling them to participate in the work of the General Assembly.
  • The General Assembly exercises deliberative, supervisory, financial, and elective functions relating to any matter within the scope of the UN Charter.
  • Its primary role is to discuss issues and make recommendations, though it has no power to enforce its resolutions or compel state action.
  • Other functions include:
  • Admitting new members;
  • Selecting members of the Economic and Social Council, the non-permanent members of the Security Council, and the Trusteeship Council;
  • Supervising the activities of the other UN organs, from which the General Assembly receives reports; and
  • Participating in the election of judges to the International Court of Justice and
  • The selection of the secretary-general.
  • Decisions usually are reached by a simple majority vote.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

Why in News

The Supreme Court agreed to intervene after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) sounded the alarm on a spate of complaints about illegal adoption of COVID orphans through private individuals and organisations.

Violates Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act

  • Social media posts are circulating that child are up for adoption. This is plainly illegal and violates the Juvenile Justice Act.
  • The adoption of orphaned/abandoned/ surrendered children is lawful only after the adoption procedure as given under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is followed and the final adoption order is passed by the prescribed authority.
  • NCPCR statistics shows that 3,621 children were orphaned, 26,176 children lost either parent and 274 children were abandoned between April 1, 2021 to June 5, 2021.
  • The second wave of the pandemic was at its worst form during this period, leaving a trail of death across the country.
  • The Commission is receiving intimation regarding disclosure of children’s identity/ information by government authorities to private NGOs and organizations. Care must be taken by the authorities to ensure that their action is not in violation of Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
  • The provision prohibits the disclosure of identity of children with regard to the name, school, age, address or any information which would reveal the essential details of the child.

Susceptible to trafficking

  • NCPCR urged the court to direct the States and Union Territories to not place any confidential information about children in the public domain which would make them susceptible to trafficking,
  • The Commission is also concerned to note that several NGOs are seeking monetary support in the name of children impacted by COVID.
  • However, there is no disclosure to authorities regarding actual beneficiaries, as mandated under the JJ Act, 2015.

Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act

  • The Act has been passed by Parliament of India replaced the Indian juvenile delinquency law, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • The act allows for juveniles in conflict with Law in the age group of 16–18, involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults.
  • The Act also sought to create a universally accessible adoption law for India, overtaking the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956) and the Guardians and Wards Act (1890) (applicable to Muslims), though not replacing them.
  • The Act came into force from 15 January 2016.
  • To streamline adoption procedures for orphan, abandoned and surrendered children, the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was established in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005.
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  • The Commission is mandated to ensure all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective incorporated in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
  • The Commission visualizes a rights-based perspective flowing into National Policies and Programmes, along with nuanced responses at the State, District and Block levels, taking care of specificity and strengths of each region.

Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug

Why in News

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Biogen’s aducanumab, the first drug to target an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Key Points

  • The drug, to be sold under the brand Aduhelm, is the first new approval of an Alzheimer’s drug since 2003 and the only treatment designed to slow progression of the mind-robbing disease.
  • The drug was tested in patients in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s – before the disease has made a major impact in their ability to care for themselves.
  • It was not tested in people who had progressed to moderate dementia, a stage in the disease in which patients start to lose the ability to care for and feed themselves.
  • The payers, including the federal government’s Medicare program for seniors, will cover use of the drug only in the patient population in which it was tested, rather than the broader population of people with more advanced disease.
  • Biogen has estimated that around 1.5 million Americans are eligible for treatment with Aduhelm.
  • Patients who are prescribed Aduhelm will likely need both cognitive testing and confirmation that their dementia is due to Alzheimer’s, through either a lumbar puncture to examine spinal fluid or through a special brain scan to confirm the presence of amyloid in the brain.

Aduhelm

  • Aduhelm is designed to target amyloid beta, a protein that forms sticky deposits or plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Amyloid is thought to begin forming years before any signs of memory loss appear, making treatment as early as possible most likely to provide benefit.
  • The drug is designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, allowing patients to remain as self-sufficient as possible for as long as possible. It is not a cure.
  • Aduhelm is given as a monthly intravenous infusion. Most patients will likely need to receive the treatment at specialty infusion centers.

Side-effects

  • In clinical trials, some patients given the highest dose of the drug experienced brain swelling, and had to be monitored.
  • The risk was highest in patients with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s.
  • Headache is also a reported side effect of the drug.
  • The future patients who experience the brain swelling should be monitored but not necessarily be taken off the medicine.

GS PAPER III

Black carbon over the Himalaya

Why in News

Scientists have made extensive observations of black carbon and elemental carbon and estimated monthly and wavelength-dependent values of Mass Absorption Cross-section (MAC) over the central Himalayan region for the first time.

Key Points

  • An accurate estimation of black carbon (BC), the second-most important global warming pollutant after carbon dioxide, will now be possible using optical instruments in the Himalayan region.
  • Scientists at the Aryabhata Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), University of Delhi, IIT Kanpur and Space Physics Laboratory, ISRO have made extensive observations of black carbon and elemental carbon and estimated monthly and wavelength-dependent values of MAC over the central Himalayan region for the first time.
  • Study published in ‘Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences’ calculated the annual mean value of MAC and found it to be significantly lower than the constant value used earlier.
  • The lower values are a result of transport of processed air pollution emissions at this otherwise clean site.
  • The study also revealed that these estimated MAC values show significant seasonal variation, spanning over a range of 3.7 to 6.6 m2 g− 1 at 880 nm.
  • It is found that these changes are caused by the seasonal variability of biomass burning, air mass variation, and meteorological parameters.
  • According to the ARIES, these higher resolutions multi-wavelength and long-term observations used in calculating MAC will help improve the performance of numerical weather prediction and climate models in estimating the warming effects caused by BC emissions.
  • The precise knowledge on BC at various wavelengths will help in source apportionment studies done to constrain the sources of BC emissions. This can thus serve as important information to form the mitigation policies.

Mass Absorption Cross-section (MAC)

  • Mass Absorption Cross-section of Black Carbon (MACBC) describes the absorptive cross-section per unit mass of black carbon, and is, thus, an essential parameter to estimate the radiative forcing of black carbon.
  • It defines as the characteristic link between its atmospheric concentrations and climate impacts.

Black Carbon (BC)

  • Black Carbon is a short-lived pollutant that is the second largest contributor to warming the planet behind Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
  • Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
  • Unlike historical carbon emissions, it is also a localised source with greater local impact.
  • Some of the ongoing policy measures to cut BC emissions are enhancing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, phasing out diesel vehicles and promoting electric vehicles, accelerating the use of liquefied petroleum gas for cooking and through clean cookstove programmes, as well as upgrading brick kiln technologies.
  • However, with all existing measures, water from glacier melt is still projected to increase in absolute volume by 2040, with impacts on downstream activities and communities.

Role of Black Carbon in Climate Change

  • Black Carbon (BC) has recently emerged as a major contributor to global climate change, possibly second only to CO2 as the main driver of change.
  • It strongly absorbs sunlight and give soot its black colour.
  • BC is produced both naturally and by human activities such as incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass.
  • Primary sources of the Black Carbon are the emissions from diesel engines, cook stoves, wood burning and forest fires.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions is essential to avert the worst impacts of future climate change, but CO2 has such a long atmospheric lifetime that it will take several decades for CO2 concentrations to begin to stabilize after emissions reductions begin.
  • BC remains in the atmosphere for only a few weeks, so cutting its emissions would immediately reduce the rate of warming, particularly in the rapidly changing Arctic.
  • Moreover, reduced exposure to BC provides public health co-benefits, especially in developing countries.