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February 2020 - International News



  • Sri Lankan government on February 26, 2020 formally informed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) its decision to withdraw from co-sponsoring the resolution on addressing of war crimes and accountability issues. Foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the UNHRC session in Geneva that the previous government of Mahinda Rajapaksa before 2015 established domestic mechanisms to address issues related to accountability, rule of law and human rights.



  • Sri Lankan Government has decided not to sign the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) with the US Government. Sri Lankan Minister Bandula Gunawardana told that the decision is based on the recommendations of the Expert Committee and the agreement will not be signed in its present form. 

    The MCC agreement is to provide a grant of 480 million US dollars to Sri Lanka for development of transport and land deeds based on certain conditions. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had appointed a committee to look into the agreement after coming into power last November while the former government had approved it.



  • 'Hurun Global Rich List 2020' recently revealed that Mukesh Ambani is the richest person in India while Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. 

    Mukesh Ambani is the ninth richest person in the world. 

    Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, and CEO, is the richest man in the world despite losing USD 7 billion in one year. 

    Bernard Arnault was ranked second in the list while Microsoft founder Bill Gates secured third place in the list. 



  • 3,000 kilometre long power grid from Myanmar-Thailand to India: BIMSTEC 

    Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is working on connecting about 3,000-kilometre long power grid from Myanmar-Thailand to India. This was announced by the Energy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Dr Tawfiq-E-Elahi Chowdhury while inaugurating the energy conference of BIMSTEC in Dhaka on February 25, 2020. He said that the grid connectivity would ensure better capacity utilization by complementing member country’s demand and supply situation. He said, consumers will also benefit as the price of electricity will come down and they will get uninterrupted power supply. 

    BIMSTEC countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding for establishing a regional power grid in 2018. He said that Bangladesh is in discussions with Nepal and Bhutan for trilateral power trade. He further said that regional energy integration will help build an integrated system in the region. 

    BIMSTEC is a regional grouping with seven countries from South and Southeast Asia including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Nepal and Bhutan. It aims to promote regional cooperation for rapid economic development.



  • The UN Security Council has renewed its sanctions regime on Yemen for another year, after tense negotiations between Britain and Russia. Russia threatened to veto any mention, even implicit, of Iran. 

    Thirteen countries eventually adopted the London-drafted resolution on the sanctions, which now are in effect through February 2021. Russia and China abstained. 

    The sanctions plan, which have expired on February 26, 2020, includes the extension of the mandate of UN experts who monitor the arms embargo imposed in 2015. The resolution also extends the measures that provide for the freezing of assets and travel bans on targeted officials.



  • The 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) concluded at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on February 22, 2020. 

    Gandhinagar Declaration :
    1.) The 'Gandhinagar Declaration' aiming for major new actions for migratory species was adopted by the participating countries at the concluding day of CMS-COP 13. 
    2.) The declaration stressed on the importance of migratory species for the new global biodiversity strategy.
    3.) The declaration calls upon the Parties, Governments and relevant stakeholders to promote the importance of ecological connectivity and functionality, international cooperation and the conservation of migratory species.
    4.) The declaration also talks about strengthening the role of the CMS in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. 
    5.) It aims to support efforts to address ecological connectivity and necessary resource mobilization to achieve, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.


    During the weeklong conference, a total of 10 species were added in the CMS Appendices I and II for special conservation and 13 species for Concerted Actions. 
    1.) The CMS Ambassadors Programme was relaunched to advocate for the conservation of migratory species and their habitats. 
    2.) Internationally renowned conservationist Ian Redmond, award-winning explorer and environmentalist Sacha Dench, and Indian actor Randeep Hooda were named as CMS Ambassadors for Migratory Species until 2023. 
    3.) Seven new Migratory Species Champions including the Government of India were named at a special high-level event organized on the sidelines of the conference. 


  • French state-owned energy giant EDF began shutting down the country's oldest nuclear power plant after 43 years in operation.


  • The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided continuation of Pakistan in the 'Grey List' and warned the country that stern action will be taken if it fails to check the flow of money to terror groups. The decision was taken at the Financial Action Task Force's plenary in Paris. 

    The plenary has noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen, which are responsible for a series of attacks in India. 

    With Pakistan's continuation in the 'Grey List', it will be difficult for the country to get financial aid from the International Monetory Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the nation which is in a precarious financial situation. Pakistan was placed on the 'Grey List' by the FATF in June 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the 'Black List'. 

    The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. 


  • Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman on February 22, 2020 emphasised the need to enhance global risk monitoring and explore the scope for policy co-ordination to deal with such risks. Speaking at G-20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors meeting in Riyadh(Saudi Arabia), she called upon all the member countries to enhance their efforts aimed at empowering women, youth and small and medium enterprises. Ms Sitharaman was the lead speaker during the session on "Enhancing Access to Opportunities for All" in the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.


  • The child malnutrition rate in Bangladesh has declined sharply over the last six years. The finding was reported in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2019, jointly conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and UNICEF. The survey has also recorded an improvement in many other areas related to health and nutrition, Child protection, hygiene and sanitation. 

    The rate of chronic malnutrition among children measured by the stunting level among them has come down from 42 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2019. The percentage of underweight children below 5 also declined from about 32 percent to 22.6 percent over the same period. The infant mortality rate has also declined from 46 to 34 per thousand live births between 2012-13 and 2019. The survey reports that the percentage of children of school entry age who enter the first grade of primary school marked a sharp upward trend from 33 percent in 2012-13 to 61.4 in 2019. 

    The Global MICS Programme was developed by UNICEF in the 1990s. It collects internationally comparable data on a wide range of indicators on the situation of children and women for use in policies, programmes, and national development plans.



  • Sveriges Riksbank (or simply the Riksbank), the central bank of Sweden, had begun testing its digital version of currency, e-krona. If this year-long pilot project successful, this would lead to the creation of world’s 1st central bank digital currency (CBDC). 

    The pilot project will be in operation for one year, until February 2021, will use distributed ledger technology inspired by the blockchains that operates crypto currencies. The digital currency e-krona will be used to simulate day-to-day banking functions like payments from a digital wallet such as a mobile phone application.



  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar inaugurated the Indian pavilion at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) 2020 in Germany on February 19, 2020. Dr Jaishankar said, co-production agreements, the Film Facilitation Office and India’s premier Film Festival IFFI have showcased India as an emerging market and a filming destination. He mentioned that India’s partnership at Berlinale offered tremendous opportunities to further strengthen bilateral relationship in vertical of film making and taking forward the co-production platform. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry is participating in the Berlin International Film Festival being held from 19th February to 01st March 2020 at Berlin, Germany. 

    Dr Jaishankar also unveiled the poster for the 51st edition of India International Film Festival to be celebrated in Goa this year 2020, along with its booklet. Earlier, Dr Jaishankar held a meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas and thanked him for the support his country in expanding cooperation between India and the European Union (EU). Jaishankar met German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in Berlin and discussed Afghanistan and policies in the Indo-Pacific region.



  • Hindi is the 3rd most spoken language of the world in 2019 with 615 million speakers. 
    The 22nd edition of the world language database Ethnologue stated English at the top of the list with 1,132 million speakers. 
    Chines Mandarin is at the second position with 1,117 million speakers. 
    Bangla has been ranked as the 7th most spoken language of the world. Bangla has 228 million native speakers. 

    Ethnologue brings out an yearly database of living languages of the world since its establishment in 1951. The current round of the database covers 7,111 living languages of the world. In addition to living languages, Ethnologue also contains data on languages which have gone out of use in recent history. This edition lists 348 such languages.



  • The largest crafts fair in the world, the 34th Surajkund Mela -2020 culminated on February 16, 2020. The state of Himachal Pradesh was chosen to be the Theme State for this year 2020. The Mela is organized every year by the Surajkund Mela Authority & Haryana Tourism in collaboration with Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture and External Affairs.


  • The Jerusalem-Mumbai festival, a day-long cultural festival hosted on the grounds of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, was opened on February 15, 2020 by the Maharashtra Minister of Cultural Affairs Amit Deshmukh and Consul General of Israel in Mumbai Ya’akov Finkelstein. The festival, part of a project, has been held in cities around the world including Prague and Moscow. Mumbai is the first city in Asia to host the event. The Jerusalem-Mumbai festival is being organized by the Jerusalem municipality in partnership with the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai and the Federation of India-Israel Chamber of Commerce.


  • The World Health Organization(WHO) says the official name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus is Covid-2019. It comes after the death toll from the virus passed one thousand. Tens of thousands of people have been infected. The word coronavirus refers to the group of viruses it belongs to, rather than the latest strain. Researchers have been calling for an official name to avoid confusion and stigmatisation of any group or country.


  • African Union Summit was held in Ethiopia on February 9, 2020. Heads of state and government officials from across Africa gathered in the summit. The theme of the summit is "Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive conditions for Africa's development". 

    The focus of the summit was to end regional violence, including the conflicts in South Sudan and Libya. The summit highlighted three challenges namely eradicating poverty, tackling the climate crisis and silencing guns in Africa. African Union announced that it is to host two summits in May on conflict resolution and on implementation of the African Continental.


  • The population of India is expected to exceed that of China around 2027 as per World Population Prospects 2019 Report. As per Census 2011, the country’s Decadal Growth Rate was 17.7%. 

    Highlights of the survey as follows:
    1.) The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has declined from 2.9 in 2005 to 2.2 in 2017 (SRS).
    2.) The Wanted Fertility Rate has declined from 1.9 in NFHS III to 1.8 in NFHS IV.
    3.) The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) has declined from 23.8 to 20.2 from 2005 to 2017 (SRS).
    4.) The Teenage Birth Rate has halved from 16% (NFHS III) to 8% (NFHS IV).
    5.) 99.5 percent currently married men and women have knowledge about any modern method of contraception (NFHS IV).


  • As per UNICEF's State of the World's Children Report 2019, the Under 5 Mortality Rate in India is 37 per 1,000 live births against Global average of 39 per 1,000 live births in 2018, which translates to more than 8 lakhs under 5 deaths in India. 

    As per the UNICEF 2019 report, Globalization, urbanization, inequities, humanitarian crises and climate shocks are driving unprecedented negative changes in the nutrition situation of children around the world. 

    As per the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2010-13 report of Registrar General of India, major causes of child mortality in India are: 

    Prematurity & low birth weight (29.8%)
    Pneumonia (17.1%)
    Diarrheal diseases (8.6%)
    Other non-communicable diseases (8.3%)
    Birth asphyxia & birth trauma (8.2%)
    Injuries (4.6%)
    Congenital anomalies (4.4%)
    Ill-defined or cause unknown (4.4%)
    Acute bacterial sepsis and severe infections (3.6%)
    Fever of unknown origin (2.5%)
    All Other Remaining Causes (8.4%).


  • Global Hunger Index 2019 : 

    1.) India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 brought out by Concern World Wide is 102 out of 117 countries. India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2018 was 103. 

    2.) As per GHI Report 2019 of Concern World Wide, the composite GHI scores of India have improved from 38.8 in 2000 to 30.3 in 2019. But, India is ranked below Pakistan (94), Bangladesh (88), Nepal (73) and Sri Lanka (66) among other South Asian countries. In India, only 9.6% of all children between 6 to 23 months of age are given a minimum acceptable diet. 

    3.) As per the report, the child wasting rate is the highest (20.8%) in the world while the child stunting rate is 37.9% in India. 

    4.) The 2019 GHI measures hunger in 117 countries where the assessment is most relevant and where data on all four component indicators are available. 

    5.) 43 countries out of 117 countries have levels of hunger that remain serious 

    6.) 4 countries Chad, Madagascar, Yemen, and Zambia suffer from hunger levels that are alarming and 1 country Central African Republic from a level that is extremely alarming 

    7.) GHI scores are calculated using a three-step process that draws on available data from various sources to capture the multidimensional nature of hunger. The four indicators used are – Undernourishment, Child Mortality, Child Wasting and Child Stunting. 



  • Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay presented the 'World Heritage City' certificate to the Pink City – Jaipur, Rajasthan on February 05, 2020. Indian Minister of Urban Development Shanti Dhariwal received this award in a ceremony held at Albert Hall.


  • Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania has released the 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF) has been ranked at 27th position among 176 global think tanks (U.S. and non-U.S.). It was ranked at 118th position in the 2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report.

    Think tanks are those organizations that generates policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on issues whether domestic or international. It also enables policy makers and the public to make well informed decisions about public policy. These are affiliated or independent institutions that are structured as permanent bodies. The aim of the index is to produce an inclusive and far-reaching report of international think tanks.


  • Sri Lankan Government has said that the national anthem will be sung only in Sinhala and not in Tamil, during the main Independence day celebrations to be held in Colombo. The national anthem in Tamil has not been included in celebrations for the first time since 2016, when previous government under President Maithripala Sirisena had initiated it in an attempt of reconciliation with Tamil minorities. Minister of State for Home Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the use of Tamil version will be permitted at province-based ceremonies although there will be only Sinhala version at the main ceremony.


  • The United Arab Emirates announced the discovery of a new natural gas field containing 80 trillion standard cubic feet of gas in the cross-border area of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Government of Dubai stated that the discovery of the Jebel Ali gas field will contribute to achieving gas self-sufficiency for the nation and support the next phase of its major development projects in line with the nation’s strategic development plan for the coming 50 years. 

    This new gas field, spanning an area of 5,000 square kilometres in the cross-border area of the two emirates, represents one of the largest natural gas discoveries in the UAE. The discovery strengthens the UAE’s position among countries with the world’s largest natural gas reserves. This discovery will help UAE in transiting the gulf nation from a net importer of gas to a potential net exporter of gas in coming times.


  • Bhutan has recently introduced a new system for regional tourists called ‘Sustainable Development Fee’. The lower house of ‘Tshogdu’ or Bhutan’s Parliament passed legislation that tourists from India, Maldives, and Bangladesh have to pay a certain amount for their stay in the country. As per the new policy, regional tourists have to pay 1200 Bhutanese Ngultrum (USD 16.85) as a sustainable development fee per day from July 2020. According to the reports, tourists have to pay this fee because tourists disturb Bhutan’s ecology during their trip. 

    Sustainable Development Fee is another opportunity for the Bhutan government to earn good revenue. According to the data published in 2018, Bhutan earned USD 26.29 million through Sustainable Development Fee. However, the total income from international tourists was USD 85.41 million. A sustainable development fee is a payment for the maintenance of ecology in the country. As per the Bhutan government, tourists generally damage ecology that affects the country’s environment. A certain amount is required to maintain a unique ecology of Bhutan therefore Sustainable Development Fee is has been introduced.


  • The United Kingdom formally left the European Union on January 31, 2020, ending 47 years of membership and marking the beginning of an uncertain future. Britain's exit was celebrated as an independence day by Brexiteers with many toasting to the moment. The United Kingdom has become the first-ever nation to leave the European Union. A countdown was initiated to mark the moment, at the end of which, the message was clear "The UK has left the EU". This brings an end to the tumultuous three years over the Brexit deal, which had repeatedly failed to pass through the UK Parliament. Brexit was inevitable after the 2016 Brexit referendum when 51.9 percent votes were cast to leave the EU, while only 48.1 percent votes supported the referendum to stay in the European Union. 

    Britain's exit from the European Union has, however, just initiated the divorce proceedings between the two, as future terms of trade and exchange will need to be agreed upon. The United Kingdom will now be required to strike a new free-trade deal with the European Union to enable a smooth transition. The UK government has set an ambitious goal of reaching a new trade agreement by the end of 2020 on almost everything, ranging from trade in goods and services to fishing, aviation, medicines and security.


  • The Maldives has once again become a member of the Commonwealth of nations. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih made the announcement on 1st February 2020, fulfilling one of his key presidential pledges. The president said that the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, confirmed Maldives’ reinstatement into the organization as its 54th member state. The Maldives first became a member of the Commonwealth in 1982 but former President Abdulla Yameen decided to leave it in October 2016, amid mounting pressure from the group over corruption and deteriorating human rights.


  • President of India, Ramnadh Kovind inaugurated the worlds biggest Meditation Centre of the Sri Ramchandra Mission on the occasion coincides with the 75th year of the Ramachandra Mission in Hyderabad, Telangana state, India.


  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on 2nd February 2020, inaugurated the month long Ekushey Book fair at the Bangla Academy premises in Dhaka. Ekushey Book Fair is the biggest and longest book fair of Bangladesh. It is organised every year in February commemorating the martyrs of the language movement during which eight people laid down their lives on February 21, 1952 for establishing Bangla as the official language of the then East Pakistan.

Last Updated on : 29/02/2020

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