January 2020 - International News



  • Bangalore has declared as the world’s worst city in terms of traffic congestion. According to the Global Traffic Index-2019, conducted by a Netherlands based firm Tom-Tom, people spent 243 hours in traffic jams in 2019. India has four such cities among the world's 10 highest traffic-congested cities. The vehicle navigation company, TomTom’s, said in its annual traffic index that it has surveyed in 416 cities, in 57 countries and 6 continents. It is the ninth annual edition of TomTom.


  • US President Donald Trump has signed the new USMCA North American trade pact with Canada and Mexico into law, pronouncing a glorious future for US industry. The USMCA, crafted over years of negotiation between the three countries, replaces the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. 

    It also makes changes to e-commerce, intellectual property protections and dispute settlement for investors, as well as imposing tougher labor provisions, requiring reforms to Mexico's laws. The signing ceremony event in Washington featured hundreds of business and farm leaders from around the country and scores of Republican officials. No Democratic members of Congress were on the White House guest list.


  • World Health Organisation (WHO) has convened an emergency meeting on 30 January, 2020 over the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China. Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus under the International Health Regulations will meet in Geneva. The Committee will advise the Director-General on whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and what recommendations should be made to manage it.


  • World leaders committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya's war and to uphold a weapons embargo at a Berlin summit on 19 January, 2020. This was part of a broader plan to end the spiralling conflict. The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France were among global chiefs signing up to the plan to stop interfering in the war. This includes through weapons, troops or financing. But the talks failed to deliver serious dialogue between the warring parties -- strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj. It also failed to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce. 

    Berlin Summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel said that they have a very disparate situation in Libya, where ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee. Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.


  • The 18th Dhaka International Film Festival was inaugurated on January 11, 2020 by the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen. The festival kicked off with the screening of the Spanish-Greek film Window to the Sea, directed by Miguel Angel Jimenez, at Bangladesh National Museum (BNM). During the festival 220 films from 74 countries will be screened across various venues in Dhaka between 11-19 January. More than 100 film makers and other personalities from the movie world are participating in the event over the next eight days. 

    The films have been selected in eight categories including Asian Competition Section, Retrospective, Bangladesh Panorama, cinema of the world and Women Filmmakers. In the Retrospective section four films by Polish director duo Joanna Kos-Krauzey and Krysztof Krauze will be screened. Bangladesh Panaroma will showcase eight films — Amra Ekta Cinema Banabo, Mayaboti, Shuttle Train, Chandrabati Kotha, Tunes of Nostalgia, Maya - The Lost Mother, Nigrohokal and No Dorai. Apart from film screening, conference on the theme of women in cinema will also be organsied during the festival. The theme of the festival is ‘Better Film, Better Audience and Better Society’.


  • In a first, Sikhs in the US would be counted as a separate ethnic group in the upcoming 2020 census, the US Census Bureau has said. This comes after several Sikh organisations in the US held meetings with the Census Bureau. As per an organization, United Sikhs, at least 10 lakh Sikhs live in the US.


  • Sri Lanka topped on breastfeeding rate according to a new survey conducted by the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi). The survey was taken among 97 countries globally. 

    Report Highlights :
    1.) Sri Lanka's rank is based on its performance on ten indicators of policies and programs.
    2.) Sri Lanka has scored 91 out of 100 points.
    3.) WBTi uses color-code to rank countries. Sri Lanka earned a green color code, which implies the best level of performance.
    4.) Sri Lanka has been making an effort to support and provide supportive measures for breastfeeding since 2005.
    5.) Sri Lanka has demonstrated a high level of commitment towards the health and nutrition of mothers and babies.


  • Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal assent to the Brexit bill on January 23, 2020, paving the way for Britain's smooth exit from the European Union. Her Majesty approved the bill in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signed the Brexit withdrawal agreement paving the way for the UK's exit from the European Union on January 31, 2020.


  • Hyderabad becomes most dynamic city in the world, tops JLL City Momentum Index 2020. Hyderabad secured the first place in the list of the world's most dynamic cities. Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) has recently released the city momentum index that comprised of 129 cities across the world. JLL evaluated 129 cities and selected Hyderabad as the world’s most dynamic city. There are seven Indian cities are present in the top-20 cities. Bangalore ranked second in this index while Chennai secured fifth and Delhi got the sixth position. Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) is a US-based real estate and investment firm.


  • International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recently released ‘World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2020’. The report highlights that global unemployment will rise by 2.5 million in 2020. The ILO report said that about 188 million people are unemployed in the world. According to the ILO report, the lack of productive, well-paying jobs means that more than 630 million workers, one in five of all workers worldwide, live in extreme poverty. This report stated that global unemployment was stable for the past nine years but as the global economic growth is slowing down and the number of workers is increasing, new jobs are not being created in the market in that proportion. 

    Highlights :
    • About 188 million people are unemployed and not getting any work according to their skills and abilities.
    • Around 267 million people (aged between 15-24) are not in employment, training or education.
    • According to the report, rising unemployment and deep inequality gap have made it difficult for people to live better through jobs or work.
    • It has also mentioned in the report that about 120 million people in the world have given up searching for jobs.
    • The growth of the labour force is slowing down in middle and high-income countries, which means that fewer jobs need to be created to stabilize unemployment rates.


  • The United States announced new visa rules to restrict ‘birth tourism’ on January 23, 2020. The US will no longer issue temporary visitor visas to foreigners seeking to enter the nation for birth tourism. The White House stated that the rule change was necessary to boost public safety, national security and the integrity of the country's immigration system.


  • United States President Donald Trump on Jan 29, 2020 said Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided capital as he unveiled his Middle East peace plan aimed at solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, describing it as historic and a giant step towards peace.


  • The Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh will be allowed to receive formal education. This was announced by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen in an interview to AFP. Dr.Momen said that Bangladesh does not want a lost generation of Rohingyas and it will provide education to them. The decision came after a meeting of a national taskforce set up by the government.


  • US House of Representatives has passed a bill that authorises financial and travel sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the process of selecting the successor to the Dalai Lama. Introduced by Congressman James P McGovern, Chairman of the House Rules Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the bill was passed by a overwhelming vote of 392 to 22. The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, will also prohibit China from opening any new consulate in the US until Beijing allows Washington to open its diplomatic station in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. 

    According to the bill, the succession or reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is an exclusively religious matter that should be decided solely by the Tibetan Buddhist community. Under the draft legislation, Washington would freeze any American asset and ban US travel of Chinese officials if they are found to be involved in identifying or installing a Dalai Lama approved by Beijing. The Global Magnitsky Act allows the US to sanction foreign government officials implicated in human rights abuses anywhere in the world. The bill also mandates the US State Department to begin collaborative and multinational efforts to protect the environment and water resources of the Tibetan Plateau.


  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released its year-end report on December 31, 2019, which termed the past decade as a ‘Deadly Decade’ for children in conflict with more than 1,70,000 grave violations against children since 2010. The report revealed the number of grave violations against children increased almost three-fold since the beginning of the decade, amounting to almost 45 violations every single day. 

    The report stated that since 1989, the number of countries experiencing conflicts increased and as a result the violations against children also increased. The UNICEF report highlighted how killing, maiming, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups cost millions of children their childhoods, dreams and even their lives in the past decade. 

    Highlights :
    • The UN report stated that the number of attacks on children increased by almost three-fold since 2010, hence UNICEF named the decade as ‘Deadly Decade’.
    • The number of countries experiencing violence was also reported to have increased since 1989, the year when the Convention on Rights of Child was passed.
    • Further, the UNICEF report stated that around 24,000 grave violations against children were recorded in 2018. In 2019, there were more than 10,000 violations in the first half itself.
    • The violations against children include killing, sexual violence, maiming, abduction and recruitment into armed groups and terrorist attacks.
    • The violations were more prevalent in countries experiencing heavy-armed conflicts including northern Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


  • India recorded the birth of 67,385 children on the first day of New-Year 2020 which is the highest number in the world. According to the UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund total 3,92,078 babies born around the world on January 01, 2020. India recorded a maximum number of newborn babies on the first day of 2020. India is followed by China, where 46,299 children were born on the first day of New Year 2020.


  • World Braille Day was observed across the world on January 4, 2020. The day commemorates the birth anniversary of Louis Braille, the inventor of Braille. It is observed to spread awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication. The day was first observed in 2019. 
    Braille is a tactile writing system, which was invented for people with visual disabilities. The inventor Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809 in the town of Coupvray in northern France. Louis Braille had lost both his eyes in an accident at the early age of 3 years. This led him to invent the Braille system, the language of 6 dots.


  • Iran’s parliament passed a bill designating all forces of the United States as terrorists on January 7, 2020. The move comes after the US forces killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, was killed during a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020. The strike attracted strong reactions from Iran, which announced that it will not limit itself to the restrictions set under the 2015 Nuclear deal.


  • President of Nepal Bidya Devi Bhandari launched much-awaited Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign amidst a spectacular ceremony held at historic Dasaratha Rangashala in Kathmandu on 01 January, 2020. The ambitious campaign is aimed to promote tourism in Nepal and attract 2 million tourists during the year 2020.


  • World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. It is done to honor the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. WHO is the collaborating partner in the three- year Nursing Now Campaign (2018–2020). The main objective of the campaign is to improve health globally by raising the status and profile of nursing.


  • The UAE Cabinet has approved the issuance of a five-year multi-entry tourist visa for all nationalities visiting the country. The decision was made during the Cabinet's first meeting of 2020. The move comes in a bid to support the UAE's tourism economy, and affirm the country's position as a global tourist destination. The country receives 21 million tourists annually and their aim is to establish the country as a major global tourist destination. The decision is also likely to benefit the near and dear ones of the lakhs of expat population staying in UAE.


  • The first phase of the world’s second largest Muslim congregation after Haj began on the outskirts of Dhaka. Thousands of devotees from Bangladesh and abroad are thronging the bank of river Turag at Tongi near Dhaka to participate in the congregation called BishwaIjtema. The BishwaIjtema began with the ‘aambayan’ and will end on January 12 with the final prayers ‘AkheriMunajat’.


  • Henley Passport Index 2020 recently released the rankings of the world’s most powerful passports. Indian passport has ranked 84th in the list while Japan’s passport ranked 1st in the index. The rankings of these passports are based on data collected from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The Henley and Partners said the list included passports of 199 countries and 227 tourist places. This list has been prepared based on new visa policies. The list included the most powerful and weakest passport of the world. 

    Highlights
    • According to the Henley Passport Index, Japan has the most powerful passport in the world.
    • Japan’s passport holders can visit 191 countries without any visa.
    • Top 10 countries in the index are – Singapore, Germany, South Korea, Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg, and Denmark.
    • India is ranked 84th in this index. In 2006, India has been ranked 71st in this index. Currently, Indian passport holders can go to 58 countries without obtaining a visa.
    • UAE’s passport has witnessed the highest growth from 65th position in 2010 to 18th in 2020.
    • Nigeria’s passport ranked 199th as the weakest passport in the world.


  • India continued to be the top sourcing market for Sri Lankan tourism with Indian tourists constituting maximum 19 per cent of total tourist arrivals to the island nation in 2019. The latest data released by Sri Lankan Tourism revealed that 3,55,002 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka last year against total arrival of around 1.91 million. Over 48 thousand Indians visited Sri Lanka during last month of December alone including over thousand by sea route.


  • A ten-day-long art exhibition commemorating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was inaugurated on January 8, 2020 in Dhaka. The art exhibition has been organised by the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh in association with the Bangladesh Shilpkala Academy.


  • The World Future Energy Summit will begin on January 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi. 33,500 participants from 170 countries and 800 specialist exhibitors are expected to attend the four-day annual event. The theme for this year's summit is "Rethinking Global Consumption, Production, and Investment." World Future Energy Summit is the Middle East’s largest future energy and sustainability event. Held annually at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the 2020 edition includes exhibition and forum programmes across five main pillars: energy, solar, water, waste and smart cities, hosting an unrivalled gathering of top-level government and business leaders. The event is starting to set an example for best practice, supporting the circular economy through recycling, and acting to remove single-use plastics from the event. Also held alongside the World Future Energy Summit are the Climate Innovations Exchange, ‘CLIX’ for short and the Future Sustainability Summit. The event will showcase 42 of the world’s most disruptive innovations, selected from 1,402 global submissions from 128 countries, related to the future of energy, food, agriculture and sustainability in space.


  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou jointly inaugurated the first convention centre "Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre (MGICC) established in Africa by India on January 22, 2020. It is the first centre to be established in Africa by India to honour the memory of Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th Birth Anniversary was observed last year. The convention centre has been designed as a spacious, modern and eco-friendly facility, including a 2,000 capacity Plenary Hall, to witness high-level and wide-ranging participation from African Union member states and other high-level conventions. India has provided Lines of Credit to Niger for projects in transport, electrification, solar energy and potable drinking water.


  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launches e-passport facility in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 22, 2020. The e-passports will have an embedded chip in them which will contain the bio-metric data of the passport holder, photograph and other information contained in the passport. It will also include digital security features in it. 

    Bangladesh has faced the problem of counterfeit passports in the past. Introduction of the e-passport will help control the fake passports in the country. Government hopes that the e-passports will increase the acceptability of the Bangladeshi passports across the world and it will also ease immigration process globally. Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia and 119th country in the wold to provide e-passport facility. According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), over 490 million e-Passports are in circulation in the world.


  • Bangladesh has improved its ranking by 8 points in the EIU Democracy Index released on January 22, 2020. The country has been ranked at 80th position with an overall score of 5.88 on a scale of 10 this year compared to 88th position in 2018. It scored 7.83 in terms of electoral process and pluralism and 4.38 on the political culture sub-index. India ranked 51st and has dropped 10 places in the Democracy Index’s global ranking.

    Norway is at the top with an overall score of 9.71 while North Korea is at the bottom of the index. Overall, 2019 marked the worst year of global democracy score since 2006 when the rankings were first published. However, Bangladesh continues to be placed in the category of hybrid democracies. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) methodology hybrid regimes are marked by substantial electoral irregularities and government pressure on opposition parties. 

    The EIU Democracy Index provides ranking for the state of democracy worldwide in 165 independent states and two territories.The Index measures score under five sub-categories namely electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government; political participation, political culture; and civil liberties. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy, almost one-half of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort, although only 5.7% reside in a full democracy.More than one-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China.


  • India on January 23, 2020 supplied 30,000 doses of Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine to the Maldives responding swiftly to an emergency request to contain the measles outbreak in the Maldives. The vaccine supply was quickly procured and delivered to Maldives Health Ministry within 72 hours of the request.


  • The Charge d’ Affairs of Embassy of India in Nepal, Dr. Ajay Kumar ceremonially inaugurated new building of Aurobindo Ashram School in Thankot, Kathmandu on January 23, 2020. The new infrastructure is constructed with the Government of India’s grant assistance of 28.25 million Nepali rupees. The three story building comprises eleven class rooms, three labs, four store rooms, two staff rooms. Besides rooms for accounts, administration, record, library and principal, it also has examination and multi-purpose hall. 

    Aurobindo Ashram School was established in 1993 by Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir in Thankot area of Kathmandu district. This is a residential School which provides Secondary School Education to nearly 260 students. The school has over 53% of girls students. Most of the students are poor, destitute and orphan. The School is providing free education and hostel facility to them. Aurobindo Ashram School was established in 1993 by Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir in Thankot area of Kathmandu district. This is a residential School which provides Secondary School Education to nearly 260 students. The school has over 53% of girls students. Most of the students are poor, destitute and orphan. The School is providing free education and hostel facility to them.


  • North Korea to attend Munich Security Conference (MSC) for first time. North Korea will send a delegation to the Munich Security Conference for the first time in the 56-year history of the top diplomatic gathering. A MSC Spokesperson confirmed that North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son Gyong would attend next month's event. Founded in 1963, the Munich Security Conference hosts hundreds of high-ranking officials and dozens of world leaders each year to discuss security challenges. The 2020 edition will be held from February 14 to 16.


  • The 13th edition of the International Children’s Film Festival of Bangladesh was inaugurated on January 24, 2020, in Dhaka. The festival is one of the biggest film events in Bangladesh. It is the only international film festival for children and young adults of the country. The festival organized by the Children’s Film Society, Bangladesh will feature 173 films from 39 countries including Bangladesh, India, France, Korea, Spain and others.


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