Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 26 May 2023

WHO Pandemic Treaty

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

Negotiations on new rules for dealing with pandemics are underway at the World Health Organization (WHO), with a target date of May 2024 for a legally binding agreement to be adopted by the U.N. health agency’s 194 member countries. A new pact is a priority for WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who called it a “generational commitment that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect” at the U.N. agency’s annual assembly.


  1. The WHO already has binding rules known as the International Health Regulations, which in 2005 set out countries’ obligations where public health events have the potential to cross borders.
  2. These include advising the WHO immediately of a health emergency and measures on trade and travel.
  3. Adopted after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, these regulations are still considered appropriate for regional epidemics, such as Ebola but inadequate for a global pandemic. These regulations are also being reviewed in the wake of COVID-19.
  4. For the new more wide-reaching pandemic accord, member states have agreed that it should be legally binding for those who sign up, overcoming early reservations from the United States.
  5. It would be only the second such health accord after the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty which aims to reduce smoking via taxation and rules on labelling and advertising.
  6. However, the proposed treaty has come under fire on social media, mostly from right-wing critics warning it could lead to countries ceding authority to the WHO.
  7. The body strongly refutes this, stressing that governments are leading the negotiations and are free to reject the accord.


  1. The European Union, which proposed the accord, is seen as its biggest backer. Developing countries, especially in Africa, are keen to use the negotiations to secure better access to vaccines, following allegations of “vaccine apartheid” from the WHO’s Director-General Tedros.
  2. After five rounds of formal negotiations, the latest 208-page draft of the treaty still includes thousands of brackets, which mark areas of disagreement or undecided language, including over the definition of the word “pandemic”. With so many member countries involved, securing agreement may be tricky.


  1. It is not yet clear how the 2005 regulations and the new pandemic accord might fit together.
  2. One suggestion is that they should be complementary, so that existing rules apply to local outbreaks with the new rules kicking in if the WHO declares a pandemic – something it does not currently have a mandate to do.
  3. It is also not yet clear what happens if the measures are not followed. A co-chair of the talks said it would be preferable to have a peer-review process, rather than sanction non-compliant states.


India’s missing Census and its consequences

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Recently, an annual report by the UN Population Fund revealed that India was all set to become the world’s most populous country by the middle of this year. It estimated that India’s population would be 1,428 million (or 142.8 crore) by that time, slightly ahead of China’s population of 1,425 millionIndia would have had a far more accurate number for its population had the 2021 Census exercise been carried out.

Ten-year cycle

  1. Census is constitutionally mandated in India. There are repeated references to the Census exercise in the Constitution in the context of reorganisation of constituencies for Parliament and state Assemblies. But the Constitution does not say when the Census has to be carried out, or what the frequency of this exercise should be.
  2. The Census of India Act of 1948, which provides the legal framework for carrying out the Census, also does not mention its timing or periodicity.
  3. There is, therefore, no Constitutional or legal requirement that a Census has to be done every 10 years.
  4. However, this exercise has been carried out in the first year of every decade, without fail, since 1881. Most other countries also follow the 10-year cycle for their Census. There are countries like Australia that do it every five years.
  5. It is not the legal requirement but the utility of the Census that has made it a permanent regular exercise.
  6. The Census produces primary, authentic data that becomes the backbone of every statistical enterprise, informing all planning, administrative and economic decision-making processes.
  7. It is the basis on which every social, economic and other indicator is built. Lack of reliable data – 12-year-old data on a constantly changing metric is not reliable – has the potential to upset every indicator on India, and affect the efficacy and efficiency of all kinds of developmental initiatives.

Census schedule

  1. The Census is essentially a two-step process involving a house-listing and numbering exercise followed by the actual population enumeration.
  2. The house-listing and numbering takes place in the middle of the year prior to the Census year. The population enumeration, as mentioned earlier, happens in two to three weeks of February.
  3. The numbers revealed by the Census represent the population of India as on the stroke of midnight on 1 March in the Census year.
  4. To account for the births and deaths that might have happened during the enumeration period in February, the enumerators go back to the households in the first week of March to carry out revisions.
  5. There are several intermediate steps as well, and preparations for the Census usually begin three to four years in advance. The compilation and publication of the entire data also takes months to a few years.
  6. bulk of the work for the 2021 Census was completed before Covid-19 hit the country. It was initially proposed to be an entirely digital exercise, with all the information being fed into a mobile app by the enumerators.
  7. However, owing to ‘practical difficulties’, it was later decided to conduct it in ‘mix mode’, using either the mobile app or the traditional paper forms.


Pakistan and Iran inaugurate border market

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

In a bid to boost cross-border trade, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi inaugurated the first border market at the Mand-Pashin crossing point of the Pakistan-Iran border. The top leaders also launched an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian-generated electricity.

What is the new marketplace on the border?

  1. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the newly inaugurated border market, the Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace, is one of the six border markets to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border.
  2. The latest border market which is located at Mand town in Pakistan’s Balochistan province and adjacent to Pishin city in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, has been set up on 10 acres of land.
  3. The decision to open border markets was first taken by the two countries back in April 2021, when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish six such facilities.
  4. The countries had also agreed to inaugurate the Mand-Pishin border crossing point to boost trade — it was the third border crossing point to be opened along the 959 km-long border between Pakistan and Iran.

Why the border market now?

  1. The relationship between Shia-majority Iran and Sunni-dominated Pakistan is far from being steady.
  2. Reason for their new-found closeness could be the normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It’s no secret that for decades, Riyadh had been opposed to strong ties between Islamabad and Tehran.
  3. However, now that Iran and Saudi Arabia have finally re-established their diplomatic relations, Pakistan can fully cooperate with its neighbour and benefit from it.
  4. The entry of China as a diplomatic player in West Asia can also be a factor. Both Tehran and Islamabad share a strong relationship with Beijing and, therefore, it becomes obligatory for them to remain cordial with each other.


Global tracker for greenhouse gas emissions

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

The World Meteorological Congress has approved a new greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring initiative The initiative supports urgent action to reduce heat-trapping gases, which are fuelling temperature increases.

  1. The new global GHG watch will fill critical information gaps and provide an integrated and operational framework.
  2. The framework will bring all space-based and surface-based observing systems, as well as modelling and data assimilation capabilities, under one roof.

More about the News:

  1. The Congress resolution endorsing the establishment of the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch received unanimous support from WMO’s 193 members.
  2. It recognised “the growing societal importance of greenhouse gas monitoring in support of improving our scientific understanding of the Earth System, and the urgent need to strengthen the scientific underpinning of mitigation actions taken by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.
  3. GHG monitoring infrastructure will help improve understanding of the carbon cycle. Understanding the full carbon cycle is vitally important for the planning of mitigation activities.
  4. Globally consistent, gridded information on GHG and their fluxes with appropriate time resolution will help in the improved evaluation of sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and indicate their association with the biosphere, the ocean and the permafrost areas.
  5. The monitoring infrastructure will build on and expand WMO’s long-standing activities in GHG monitoring, implemented as part of the global atmosphere watch and via its integrated global GHG information system.

The GHG watch will consist of four main components:

A comprehensive, sustained, global set of surface-based and satellite-based observations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations, total column amounts, partial column amounts, vertical profiles and fluxes and supporting meteorological, oceanic, and terrestrial variables, internationally exchanged as rapidly as possible, pending capabilities and agreements with the system operators;

  1. Prior estimates of the GHG emissions based on activity data and process-based models;
  2. A set of global high-resolution Earth System models representing GHG cycles;
  3. Associated with the models, data assimilation systems that optimally combine the observations with model calculations to generate products of higher accuracy.


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