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The World This Week
Elections in the Maldives and Remembering the Chernobyl nuclear accident

  GP Team

The World This Week #262, Vol. 6, No.16
28 April 2024

Vetriselvi Baskaran and Sayeka Ghosh


Elections in Maldives: An absolute majority to President Muizzu
Vetriselvi Baskaran

What happened?
On 21 April, Maldives held its 20th Parliamentary elections, with  368 candidates contesting for 93 constituencies.  Over 284,600 voters were eligible to vote at 602 polling stations, including three abroad. The Election Commission Chairman Fuwad Thowfeek stated: "While the voter turnout in percentage terms reflects a drop in 81per cent from 2019, the number of voters has increased by about 1000."

On 22 April, according to the reports available, the People's National Congress (PNC) won a majority of 71 out of 93 seats. The opposition - the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih could secure only 15 seats. On 23 April, six of the 11 independent candidates joined the PNC, increasing its tally. 

What is the background?
First, a brief note on the Maldives' electoral history. The electoral system has operated under a one-party system dominated by the Maldivian People's Party (MDP) since 1965. In 2008, the Maldives underwent a transformation, adopting a new constitution that made it a multiparty democracy. In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) won 53 seats out of 85. In 2019, the Maldivian Democratic Party won 65 out of 87 seats. In 2024, eight political parties contested in the recently concluded elections.

Second, a brief note on political parties and leaders. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was founded in 2005; Abdulla Shahid and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih are notable leaders. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was founded in 2011; Abdulla Yameen, President between 2013 and 2018, headed the party but left to form a new party - the People's National Congress (PNC). Mohammed Muizzu, the present President, was a Male city mayor who contested on behalf of Yameen's PNC. The Democrats was formed in 2023, a faction within the MDP, with Mohamed Nasheed as its leader.

Third, the electoral issues. First, there is an ideological divide between Muizzu's People's National Congress (PNC) party, which advocates for closer economic cooperation with China, and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which is perceived as more pro-India. Second, the anti-Indian sentiments and their implications before and during the elections. The PNC seem to have successfully mobilized the "India Out" campaign and a "Pro-Maldives" campaign.

What does it mean?
First, continuity and perhaps political stability. Since the country's shift to a multiparty system, the successful conduct of the parliamentary and presidential elections demonstrates the Maldives' commitment to its democratic process. 

Second, a stronger Muizzu. The victory will likely be seen as an endorsement of his pro-China campaign. He pitched reducing dependency on India, increasing cooperation with China, and diversifying its relations with other countries, demonstrating a "pro-Maldives" perspective. Will the election's success make him more confident and pursue a balanced approach, or will he continue leaning towards China? It remains to be seen.


THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
26 April 1986: Chernobyl nuclear accident 
Sayeka Ghosh

On 26 April 1986, an explosion in one of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant reactors (No 4) led to the beginning of what is known as the Chernobyl nuclear accident. This disaster is rated at seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale, which is of maximum severity, and is considered the worst nuclear accident in history.

What happened on 26 April 1986 and during the immediate aftermath?
The construction of the Chernobyl power plant started in 1977, when Ukraine was still part of the USSR. Before the accident, the technicians at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine were conducting a routine systems test on Reactor 4 to determine whether an emergency water cooling system functioned during a power outage. The test involved disabling emergency safety systems to simulate a power outage situation. However, the test was mishandled, causing an uncontrolled nuclear reaction that rapidly increased power output within the reactor core. 

The operating procedures at Chernobyl did not permit reactor operation without the authorisation of the chief engineer. The intense heat caused fuel rods to fracture, channelling more power into surrounding fuel. Within seconds, pressure built up tremendously in the form of overheated steam. The steam blasted the 1000-tonne concrete and steel lid off the reactor, exposing the blazing nuclear core. This triggered two explosive forces that ripped the reactor apart and spewed burning chunks of radioactive material into the air. Firefighters arrived but had no protective gear, putting them directly in extreme radiation zones as they fought the blazing ruins. Reactors No. 3 and, No. 1 and 2 were shut down the following day and the day after. Over the next nine days, multiple fires caused by the intense heat at the exposed core sent clouds of radioactive smoke billowing into the atmosphere. Radioactive particles and debris rained down in the nearby cities of Pripyat and Chernobyl. 

The Soviet officials trying to cover up the accident led to more casualties in the neighbouring regions, even 1000 km away in Sweden. In a desperate effort to extinguish the fires and prevent further meltdown, helicopters dropped over 5000 tonnes of sand, lead, and boron onto the burning core. This finally contained the fire on 9 May. With the immediate crisis averted, authorities constructed a temporary concrete "sarcophagus" structure around the ruined reactor to temporarily contain the remaining radiation. However, the Chernobyl accident had already become one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, releasing 400 times more radioactive material than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Vast areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were contaminated, forcing over 200,000 people to evacuate and resettle. The environmental and human impacts would reverberate for decades.

What caused the accident? And what was the Soviet response?
No single actor was solely responsible; multiple human errors and Soviet institutional failings across engineering, operation, and crisis response all compounded the Chernobyl tragedy. According to available literature, the Chernobyl accident was a product of a flawed Soviet reactor design, which was the result of the direct consequences of Cold War isolation and the lack of nuclear safety culture. Multiple actors played a role in this accident. The plant was operated by Soviet authorities, with the operators following flawed safety protocols that led to the initial reactor explosion. Poor reactor design, lack of operational safety culture, and a political climate of censorship were seen as primary reasons. 

The Soviet government downplayed its severity in the early days. When the accident's massive radiation release was detected in Sweden, the Soviet Union was finally compelled to admit the event. Delayed evacuation of nearby areas led to increased radiation exposure. The UN ultimately stepped in, assessing the nuclear fallout, providing humanitarian aid to affected populations in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and coordinating an international response over many years. 

After the accident: What were the major fallouts?
First, the environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. The sheer magnitude and scale of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster translated into an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. The miscommunication from Soviet authorities left local populations unaware of the accurate scale of the disaster and without guidance on protective measures. No established authority was able to immediately address critical safety questions like whether it was safe to remain indoors, consume water, or eat local produce. Promptly communicating protective steps could have enabled many to avoid exposure to dangerous radionuclides like iodine-131, which causes thyroid cancer. 

In the immediate aftermath of the reactor explosion, massive amounts of radioactive materials were released over ten days, saturating the landscapes of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and even reaching Scandinavia and other parts of Europe with deadly radioactive contamination. Over 770 square miles around Chernobyl became an uninhabitable exclusion zone. In the aftermath, over 335,000 people from the area had to be evacuated and resettled, with the town of Pripyat entirely abandoned. The accident's human toll was immense; 28 firefighters and operators were killed by acute radiation sickness within months. Hundreds more suffered radiation burns and illness, with elevated cancer risks persisting for decades. Conservative estimates attribute around 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer to Chernobyl's radioactive iodine fallout among those exposed as children. However, some projections suggest the ultimate death toll could potentially reach over 1 million from long-term radiation effects.

Second, there is a need for early action and global responses. Early evacuation would have been helpful to people during the peak release periods. For the first four years, the Soviet government primarily handled the Chernobyl aftermath at a national level without international assistance. 

It was not until 1990 that Soviet authorities acknowledged needing international aid, leading to UN coordination and international cooperation efforts. The IAEA's International Chernobyl Project stated in a 1991 technical report, "This (contamination of solid waste disposal) is probably the most significant, and most underreported, aspect of the consequences of the accident." 

Third, there are deep concerns over the safety of nuclear reactors worldwide. While the full scope wasn't grasped initially, Chernobyl spurred major nuclear safety overhauls worldwide. International cooperation increased vastly, with over 1,000 Soviet engineers visiting Western plants and implementing upgraded safety protocols and equipment like automated shutdown systems. The Convention on Nuclear Safety was adopted in 1994 as another post-Chernobyl reform. While safety measures have been dramatically improved, the tragic legacy of Chernobyl persists to this day.


TWTW Regional Round-ups
News from around the World

Akriti Sharma, Rohini Reenum, Padmashree Anandhan, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham and Akhil Ajith

CHINA THIS WEEK
China: “ByteDance doesn't have any plans to sell TikTok,” says TikTok parent company ByteDance
On 26 April, BBC reported that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance posted on social media that it has no plans to sell TikTok. TikTok also announced its plans to challenge the court and the “unconstitutional law.” It is also reported that ByteDance is looking to operate the TikTok operation in the US without the algorithm that powers it. TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew said: “We are confident and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts,” and that “The facts, and the Constitution, are on our side... rest assured, we aren't going anywhere.” This comes after the US Congress approved the bill to either ban or ask the Chinese company to divest from TikTok.
 
China: To host Palestinian unity talks between Hamas and Fatah groups in Beijing
On 26 April, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China is willing to support all Palestinian factions and is willing to host Palestinian unity talks between Hamas and Fatah groups in Beijing. Fatah is the group led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank. The two groups failed to reconcile due to their political disagreements as Hamas expelled Fatah in a small war in 2007. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it will promote peace through dialogue and consultation between the two sides. The Ministry also reports a meeting between Chinese diplomat Wang Kejian and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar in March 2023. 

China: Sizeable donation to WADA strengthens its influence, reports AP
On 22 April, the Associated Press looked into the China-WADA relationship and their growing closeness. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) cleared 23 Chinese swimmers accused of using performance enhancers. Prior to this, the Chinese government contributed nearly USD 2 million for WADA programs, this included strengthening WADA’s investigating and intelligence capabilities. AP reported that WADA executives listed China’s contributions to be USD 993,000 in 2018 and USD 992,000 in 2019 after which one of the Chinese Olympians was elected as the vice president of WADA. There are allegations that China used the money to clear its name and have more agency in WADA as the money received was publicly informed and notified. WADA director general Olivier Niggli said: “All this was done in total transparency,” and “And frankly, the (question) has absolutely nothing to do with what we are discussing today. So, the optics is a question (I appreciate), but I have absolutely no problem with the relationship we have with China.” This also came at a time when relations between WADA and its largest regular contributor were tense. In 2021, the US was unhappy with the approval of a law to combat doping and withheld few payments, stating the “sorry state of affairs,” of WADA.

China: 110,000 evacuated and 25,800 in shelter after floods in Southeast China
On 22 April, BBC reported on the massive floods in China. The Chinese authorities have evacuated more than 110,000 people from Guangdong. The reason for this catastrophe is said to be the heavy rains in China’s most populated region. It is estimated that four people have died while ten are still missing. The water levels are dangerously high as the rivers burst out of their banks. The region Guangdong is part of the Pearl River delta which is a low-lying river, prone to floods due to storms and rising sea levels. The worst hit was the provincial capital Guangzhou and the city of Shaoguan and Heyuan. Over the weekend over 1.16 million houses lost power while 80 per cent of it was successfully restored. The Xinhua news reported that currently there are 25,800 people in the shelters. The estimated loss after dozens of homes across the region collapsed and damaged is USD 19.8 million.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC THIS WEEK
Japan: Toyota to invest USD 1.4 billion in Indiana factory
On 25 April, Toyota Motor Corp informed that they are planning to invest USD 1.4 billion at the Princeton facility in Indiana, US. They plan to make this investment to prepare for the assembly of a three-row battery-electric SUV. With the new investment, the total investment by Toyota in Indiana will be worth USD 8 billion and would lead to 340 new job opportunities. Before this, the company also announced that it would invest USD 1.3 billion at its Kentucky facilities. The Indiana facility homes 7,500 employees and is responsible for making popular models like Sienna vans, Highlander and Lexus TX. Apart from manufacturing vehicles, it would be respirable to add a new battery assembly line.
 
Japan: Former Japanese Prime Minister Aso meets Trump
On 23 April, former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso met Trump in Manhattan, US. Japan has been trying to forge close ties with Trump as Tokyo is concerned about his win in the upcoming US presidential elections and his potential steps hurting Japanese economic and defence ties with the US. In a press conference, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said that Aso’s visit was personal and had no government involvement. The meeting comes after US President Biden held a bilateral meeting with PM Kishida to strengthen the US-Japan alliance.

SOUTH ASIA THIS WEEK
Nepal: Visit of Qatar’s Emir
On 24 April, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in Kathmandu. This was the first high-level visit to Nepal from the Gulf nation, which hosts approximately 400,000 Nepali migrant workers. MoUs on cooperation in the fields of culture and arts, exchange of news, education, higher education and scientific research, youth and sports, diplomatic training, and education were signed. Nepal sought Qatar’s intervention in freeing a Nepalese man who had been in captivity by Hamas since the breakout of the war. Nepal discussed the issues and plights of Nepali workers in Qatar, requested the signing of a new labor agreement, and provided comprehensive insurance coverage for Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. According to The Kathmandu Post which quoted Qatari News Agency (QNA), the emir “affirmed the significance of the visit in light of the distinguished relations between the two countries, looking forward for the outcome of the visit to contribute to consolidating the bilateral cooperation in various fields, for the benefit of the two friendly countries and peoples.”

Bangladesh: Visit of Qatar’s Emir
On 23 April, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh met with the visiting Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Qatar and Bangladesh are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations. Both sides signed a MoU on ports, maritime, finance, business investment, transport, taxation, legal affairs, and the establishment of a Bangladesh-Qatar joint business council. Other MoUs were signed in the fields of diplomatic training, education, labor, youth, and sports, as well as port management cooperation. Qatar is exporting liquefied natural gas to Bangladesh. Dhaka also signed a deal last year to send troops to Qatar’s army however this has not been operationalised yet.

Sri Lanka: Visit of the Iranian President
On 24 April, President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi inaugurated a hydropower project in Sri Lanka during his visit to the country. The Oya Multipurpose Development Project (UOMDP) was fully funded by Iran and is worth USD 514 million situated in the southeastern region of the country becoming the second largest irrigation project of the country. Farab Energy and Water Projects (Farab Company) of Iran agreed in April 2008 to implement the project with the Government of Sri Lanka. The project would add 290 GW to the national grid of Sri Lanka. It will be supplying water to 4,500 hectares of new agricultural land and 1,500 hectares of existing farmland. It is set to meet the drinking water needs of the Badulla, Monaragala, and Hambantota districts.
 
Pakistan: Iran-Pakistan vow to transform their border into a “border of peace and friendship,” says the Iran President
On 24 April, Pakistan and Iran issued a joint statement as the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s three-day visit came to an end. Both countries agreed to transform their common border into a “border of peace and friendship” and announced a slew of measures to deepen bilateral cooperation. The joint statement highlighted “the historical, cultural, and religious and civilization ties between the two neighboring and Muslim countries.” The two sides emphasized their commitment and towards further “strengthening the bond through the promotion of academic, cultural and tourism activities, and by enhancing tourism to historic religious sites in both countries.” With an emphasis on fostering economic cooperation, both countries agreed to expedite the process of the signing a free trade agreement (FTA), increasing bilateral trade to USD 10 billion over course of next five years and setting up of “joint border markets, economic free zones and new border openings.” They stressed the importance of collaboration in the energy sector with a focus on- trade in electricity, power transmission lines and IP Gas Pipeline Project.
 
Pakistan: Eighth tranche of aid to Gaza
On 21 April, Pakistan dispatched 400 tonnes of humanitarian assistance to Gaza via sea, marking its eighth tranche of aid since the beginning of the war. As per Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, the aid, which includes “winterised tents, tarpaulins, blankets, medicines and food supplies,” will be received by the Pakistani Ambassador to Egypt, and then handed over to the Egyptian Red Crescent for onward delivery. He emphasized: “Pakistan remains committed to addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of our brothers and sisters in Gaza.” Pakistan has consistently criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza. Earlier on 19 April, it regretted the US’ decision to veto the draft resolution directed at Palestine’s full membership of the UN. It has also been calling for an immediate and complete ceasefire and has advocated for a two-state solution.

CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS THIS WEEK
Azerbaijan: To supply oil products
On 27 April, the Minister of energy for Kyrgyzstan Taalaibek Ibraev, has informed the media that Azerbaijan is prepared to begin supplying oil products to the country.  He claims that Azerbaijan is among the leading exporters of oil. In Kyrgyzstan, the Junda oil refinery is scheduled to begin operations shortly, with an annual petroleum consumption of about a million tons. The minister stated: “In this regard, concerns about oil supply to Kyrgyzstan were raised with SOCAR management. They, for their part, are willing to collaborate. We are currently working on logistics issues.” On 24 April, the Ministries of Energy of Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the energy sector. It was also mentioned during the signing that the parties hope to advance cooperation in the following areas: trade in oil and oil products; cooperative research and development of oil fields on both countries' territory; and cooperation in the domains of hydropower and renewable energy.
 
Armenia: Vice president meets Syrian delegation
on 25 April, the vice president of the Armenian National Assembly Hakob Arshakyan,, met with the delegation of Muhammad Al-Ajlani, the deputy speaker of the People's Assembly of the Arab Republic of Syria. Al-Ajlani is visiting our nation to participate in events honoring the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  As per the press release from the Parliament of Armenia, the meeting was attended by Knyaz Hasanov, Shirak Torosyan, and Rustam Bakoyan, the members of the Armenia-Syria Friendship Group in the National Assembly, as well as Alkhas Ghazaryan, the deputy. Hakob Arshakyan stated: ““We remember with gratitude the Syrian people’s warm attitude in open arms, at the beginning of the 20th century giving asylum and caring attitude of the Syrian people to the Armenians who survived genocide.”
 
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA THIS WEEK
Israel: Air strikes kill five as the government plans for a military operation in Rafah
On 25 April, five people were killed and several wounded in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah. Separately, on 24 April, Israeli government spokesperson David Mencer said that the government is "moving ahead" with its "military operation" in Rafah. On 23 April, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a warning to people in the Beit Lahia area of northern Gaza to relocate to other parts of Gaza as Israel plans to commence its ground invasion. On 22 April, seven people were killed, and others were injured in an air strike that hit the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
 
Yemen: Houthis target the US and Israeli ships
On 25 April, according to Al Jazeera, the Houthi rebels targeted US and Israeli vessels. On 24 April, in a video address, Houthi's spokesperson Yahya Saree asserted that the group had hit the Maersk Yorktown cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. Meanwhile, the US military said that Houthis had launched ballistic missiles from Yemen toward the ship that had 18 US nationals and four Greek crew members. A US Central Command (CENTCOM) stated: "There were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships." Separately, the Greek Ministry of National Defence asserted that its military ship intercepted two drones in the Red Sea.
 
Lebanon: Drone attacks by Hezbollah and Israel
On 23 April, Hezbollah said that it had fired "Katyusha rockets" towards the army headquarters in northern Israel, retaliating to the latter's raids targeting the villages in southern Lebanon. Separately, the Israeli military said that it had carried out attacks using its fighter jets in south Lebanon, targeting five Hezbollah infrastructures in Yaroun village, situated near the border with north Israel. On 22 April, according to Israeli armed forces, one of their drones, which was staging "an incursion" inside Lebanese airspace, had been "taken down by a surface-to-air missile." The armed forces further claimed that "it is continuing to operate in Lebanese airspace to carry out IDF missions to protect the state of Israel." On the same day, Hezbollah asserted that it had intercepted an Israeli Hermes 450 drone on the outskirts of Aaichiyeh village in southern Lebanon.
 
Syria: Rocket attacks on US military base
On 22 April, according to Iraqi security sources, five rockets were fired from Zummar, a town in Iraq, towards a US military base in northeastern Syria. The attack on US forces started in October 2023 to respond to an Israeli attack on Palestinians; however, since early February, the Iran-backed groups halted their attacks on US troops. The attack was followed by Iraq's Prime Minister's visit to the US, where he met President Joe Biden. Iraq's Kataib Hezbollah, part of the Islamic Resistance, issued a statement saying Iraqi armed groups have decided to resume attacks on US forces in the country. According to the Iraqi security media cell, the Iraqi forces "launched a wide-ranging search and inspection operation targeting the perpetrators near the Syrian border, pledging to bring them to justice."
 
Iraq: Attack on a military base kills one and injures eight
On 20 April, according to the army, one person was killed and eight injured in a blast at a military base in Iraq used by the Iran-aligned Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). The PMF stated that the attack targeted the Kalsu military base located in the south of Baghdad. The PMF, in a statement, said: "American aggression bombed the Kalso [Kalsu] military base which is located near the town of Iskandariya." The US military denied the claims over the airstrike.
 
Nigeria: Hosts counterterrorism summit
On 22 April, Nigeria hosted the counterterrorism summit in the capital, Abuja—the summit aimed at enhancing West Africa's response to increasing Islamist insurgency in the region. Nigeria's National Security Advisor, Aliyu Gusau, stated that the summit aims to initiate an African-led solution to the insurgency. Meanwhile, three countries which are affected by the insurgency, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, did not attend the summit.
 
Niger: Protest demanding immediate withdrawal of US troops
On 22 April, BBC reported that hundreds of people protested in the Agadez region of Niger, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the 1000 US troops. The protests came two days after the US agreed to withdraw its troops from the country. BBC quoted the protester telling AFP media: "Our message is clear: American soldiers, pack your bags and go home." The protesters were carrying the flags of Russia, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Following the series of coups in the region, the military governments ended ties with the West and turned to Russia for its fight against insurgency.

EUROPE THIS WEEK
The UK: Parliament approves Rwanda plan to deport migrants
On 22 April, the UK Parliament approved the Rwanda plan to deport asylum seekers after a continued debate between the upper and lower houses. The bill skipped its first hurdle with no interventions from the House of Lords which earlier mandated modifications. Ahead of the vote, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak assured to begin the deportation flights in the coming months. He added: “We are ready, plans are in place and these flights will go, come what may.” The vote held was a response of the UK government to the ruling given by the Supreme Court which found the deportation to Rwanda as a violation of international law. The bill would be a request to the court to reconsider Rwanda as a safe country and to allow the UK the power to ignore international and human rights law. In a statement, the Council of Europe called: “The UK to abandon the plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, calling it an "infringement of judicial independence.” 

Turkey: Erdogan's visit to Iraq seeks to ban PKK presence; Aims to forge cooperation
On 22 April, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iraq after 2011. The reason behind the visit is to forge cooperation to fight against Kurdish PKK militants in northern Iraq. The relations between both have fluctuated since Turkey’s cross-border operations targeting PKK militants which Iraq observes as violations of sovereignty. In a joint conference with Iraqi Prime Minister, Shia al-Sudani Erdogan affirmed to end the problem of the PKK presence in Iraq soon. Both leaders also agreed on a “Joint approach to security challenges” and a “strategic agreement” to source water. They also signed a framework agreement to collaborate on security, energy, and economic cooperation.

Europe: Records the warmest in three years reports Copernicus
On 22 April, Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) released a report indicating Europe has witnessed the peak temperature in the warmest three years since 2020 and ranked 10th warmest since 2007. It found a record number of largest wildfires, severe marine heatwaves, and devasting floods. According to the report, one-third of Europe experienced a “high flood threshold” impacting more than 1.6 million people. Weather and climate-related events resulted in damage of EUR 13.4 billion. Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Celeste Saulo said: “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our generation. The cost of climate action may seem high, but the cost of inaction is much higher.” Due to the rising temperatures and longing heat stress, the report estimates a higher risk of health conditions such as exhaustion and heatstroke.

Europe: IEA predicts a peak in EV sales after China
On 23 April, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that 2024 to become a record year for the sale of electric vehicles (EVs) with China in the lead. It estimated 17 million car sales to occur in 2024 compared to 14 million in 2023 and one in five cars sold at the global level is expected to be an EV. IEA Director Fatih Birol, said: “The wave of investment in battery manufacturing suggests the EV supply chain is advancing to meet automakers' ambitious plans for expansion.” In China, the sale is expected to hit 45 per cent and 25 per cent in Europe, and 11 per cent in the US. It also expects a six-fold expansion of charging networks by 2035.

Russia: Deputy Defence Minister detained on bribery charges
On 24 April, Deutsche Welle reported on the arrest of Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Timur Ivanov under suspicion of bribery. The investigative committee confirmed taking Ivanov into custody to carry out an investigation and is predicted to have taken RUB one million as a bribe. This means 15 years of prison if found guilty. Ivanov was posted as one of the deputy defense ministers in 2016 and monitored property management, housing, and medical support for military and construction facilities. He was said to be in charge of a few construction projects in Mariupol and has been subject to sanctions from the US and the EU in 2022.

THE AMERICAS THIS WEEK
Argentina: Large-scale protests across the country against education cuts
On 23 April, hundreds of thousands of students, university professors, trade unions, and opposition political parties rallied in Argentina against Argentine President Javier Milei’s austerity measures on public universities. Cities including Buenos Aires saw large groups of people calling for a pushback against budget cuts which could put universities on the verge of closure. The University of Buenos Aires said more than 500,000 people protested in the capital alone. These protests come after Milei highlighted his plan of decimating public spending. Milei described public universities (which are free of charge) as bastions of socialism in which students are “indoctrinated,” and his government recently cut the budget of public universities by 71 per cent.
 
Dominica: High Court decriminalises consensual same-sex relations
On 24 April, BBC reported that Dominica’s High Court overturned a ban on consensual same-sex relations, ruling parts of the law that criminalised same-sex activity were unconstitutional. In a case where a homosexual man in Dominica said the law condemned him “to live in constant fear of criminal sanction for engaging in consensual sexual activity,” the court ruled that sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalised consensual same-sex activity, went against the country’s constitution. Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence said in the ruling that these sections breached the right to liberty, freedom of expression, and protection of personal privacy. The decision was hailed by LGBTQ activists as a “significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights in the Caribbean.”


About the Authors
Akriti Sharma and Rohini Reenum are PhD scholars at NIAS. Padmashree Anandhan is a Project Associate at NIAS, Anu Maria is a Research Associate at NIAS,  Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham and Akhil Ajith are Research Assistants at NIAS. Vetriselvi Baskaran is a postgraduate student at the University of Madras and Sayeka Ghosh is an undergraduate student at  St. Joseph's University.

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