Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been announced the next Director-general of the World Trade Organization...
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Okonjo-Iweala becomes first woman, African to lead WTO
Image Source: DW
The Story Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been announced the next Director-general of the World Trade Organization, making her the first African and first woman to lead the body.
Finally! Yes, she was appointed Monday to head the international trade body as it seeks to resolve disagreements over how it decides cases involving billions in sales and thousands of jobs. Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was appointed DG of the WTO by representatives of the 164 member countries, according to a statement from the body. The World Trade Organization is an international body that deals with the rules of trade between nations.
Any words from her? She said in a statement that her first priority would be to quickly address the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and to “implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.” “Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today,” she said.
The two-time Nigeria’s finance minister, who worked at the World Bank where she rose to the position of Managing Director, will lead the WTO from March 1, 2021 to August 31, 2025. Her predecessor, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down in August 2020 - a year before his term expired. That led to a two horse race between Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee. However, Myung-hee announced withdrawal early February, leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only candidate. SOURCE
UK Supreme Court allows Nigerians to sue Shell
Image Source: The Guardian
The Story The UK Supreme Court on Friday allowed a group of 42,500 Nigerian farmers and fishermen to sue Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) in English courts after years of oil spills in the Niger Delta contaminated land and groundwater.
What do the plaintiffs want? Senior judges said there was an arguable case that UK-domiciled Shell, one of the world’s biggest energy companies, is responsible, in the latest test of whether multinationals can be held to account for the acts of overseas subsidiaries. Represented by law firm Leigh Day, the group of Nigerians argued that the parent company - Shell - owed them a duty of care because it had significant control of, and was responsible for, its subsidiary SPDC.
Shell countered that the court had no jurisdiction to try the claims. “[The ruling] also represents a watershed moment in the accountability of multinational companies. Increasingly impoverished communities are seeking to hold powerful corporate actors to account and this judgement will significantly increase their ability to do so,” Daniel Leader, partner at Leigh Day, said.
A precedent. The decision comes almost two years after a seminal ruling by the Supreme Court in a case involving mining firm Vedanta. The judgement allowed nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers to sue Vedanta in England for alleged pollution in Africa. That move was seen as a victory for rural communities seeking to hold parent companies accountable for environmental disasters. Vedanta ultimately settled out of court in January.
But how's Shell responsible for the oil spills? SPDC is the operator of oil pipelines in a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation which holds a 55% stake, Shell which holds 30%, France’s Total with 10%, and Italy’s Eni with 5%. Nigeria’s Ogale and Bille communities allege their lives and health have suffered because repeated oil spills have contaminated the land, swamps, groundwater and waterways and that there has been no adequate cleaning or remediation.
In 2015, Shell agreed to pay out £55 million ($83.4 million) to the Bodo community in Nigeria in compensation for two oil spills, which was the largest ever out-of-court settlement relating to Nigerian oil spills. A Shell spokesperson, who said SPDC cleans up and remediates regardless of the cause of spills, described the supreme court's decision as disappointing. On the other hand, Leigh Day said that the amount of compensation sought would be quantified as the case enters the trial stage. Shell could, however, try to settle the matter out of court. SOURCE
China refused to give raw COVID data to WHO
Image Source: Aljazeera
The Story A member of the World Health Organization-led mission probing the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has said that China refused to give raw data on early cases.
What raw data? Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease expert, told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that the WHO mission had requested raw patient data on 174 cases that China had identified from the early phase of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but was only provided with a summary. Such raw data is known as “line listings”, Dwyer said, and would typically be anonymised but contain details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses and how their responses were analysed.
What's the significance of this to efforts on the pandemic? Dwyer said that gaining access to the raw data was especially important since only half of the 174 cases had exposure to the Huanan market, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood centre in Wuhan where the virus was initially detected. He said the work within the WHO team was harmonious but that there were “arguments” at times with their Chinese counterparts about the interpretation and significance of the data, which he described as “natural” in such probes.
What findings have been made by the WHO mission? The four-week WHO mission to China to uncover the origins of the coronavirus wrapped up last week with no conclusive findings. While the Chinese authorities provided a lot of material, unlike in 2020, Dwyer said the issue of access to the raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report. China has not commented on the latest claims, but Beijing has previously defended its transparency in handling the outbreak and its cooperation with the WHO mission.
The team, which arrived in China in January, was limited to visits organised by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions. The WHO’s probe had been plagued by delay, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research. SOURCE
The Rights to Funeral Rites
Image Source: The Washington Post
The Story For residents of Sri Lanka, a small island nation off the southern tip of India, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a unique disturbance in a long-standing religious tradition: burial.
What's the issue? Since March 2020, the Sri Lankan government has required the bodies of all those who succumb to Covid-19 to be cremated.The policy of compulsory cremations has been particularly traumatic for Muslims and Christians, both religious minorities in a predominantly Buddhist nation.
What's the link between Covid-19 and the cremation policy? To date, more than 200 Muslim coronavirus victims have died -- out of 384 total deaths in Sri Lanka -- and all have been cremated, against Islamic tradition. Although the World Health Organization guidelines say it’s safe to bury victims of Covid-19, Sri Lanka banned the practice anyway, citing a risk to their water supply. Their decision is a human rights violation according to experts at the United Nations, who say that measures to control the pandemic “must respect and protect the dignity of the dead.
Unintended effects on Covid-19 control measures. Ananda Galappatti, a medical anthropologist in Sri Lanka, who said Muslims are being denied important mechanisms for coping with grief, suggests that the policy could have unintended negative impact on Sri Lanka's covid-19 control measures. “Cremation is felt to be a violation of faith, tradition and obligation to the deceased,” he said. "The fears surrounding cremation will also make people less likely to report symptoms and get tested", Galappatti added.
How's the government responded to these concerns? In December, the government asked an expert committee composed of nine Sri Lankan microbiologists and virologists to revisit the policies around the disposal of bodies of covid-19 victims. According to The Washington Post, the committee's final report, which has not been publicly released, recommended that the policy be revised “to include both cremation and burial.”
Following growing criticism from abroad, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister appeared to indicate in Parliament last Wednesday that the country would allow burials for covid-19 victims. But on Thursday, a state minister for health told the legislature that such a decision would rest with a government-appointed technical committee. The official notification implementing the cremation policy remains in force. SOURCE