What are Brazil’s priorities and challenges as it takes over G20 presidency from India?

Special What are Brazil’s priorities and challenges as it takes over G20 presidency from India?
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) hands over the gavel to Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) during the third working session of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi on September 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 10 September 2023
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What are Brazil’s priorities and challenges as it takes over G20 presidency from India?

What are Brazil’s priorities and challenges as it takes over G20 presidency from India?
  • The Latin American country is expected to continue giving voice to the concerns of emerging economies 
  • Climate change, hunger, and reforming global institutions likely to top the agenda when Rio hosts in 2024 

NEW DELHI/WARSAW: One of the world’s fastest growing economies, celebrated for its vibrant culture, sporting prowess, spectacular biodiversity and immense resource wealth, Brazil is a nation that many expect to define the century ahead.

Despite these many strengths, however, Brazil is also a country on the front line of the climate crisis, fighting deforestation in the Amazon Basin. It is also a nation that is home to communities riven by hunger and poverty.

With both of these aspects in mind, the Latin American giant is an ideal choice to take on the G20 presidency for 2024 and host the next leaders’ summit, when representatives of the world’s biggest economies come together to address the shared challenges of the day.

Marking the conclusion of the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi on Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially handed over the ceremonial gavel to Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who thanked India for giving voice to the concerns of emerging economies throughout the year.

“I thank India for its efforts,” Lula told assembled delegates. “We want greater participation of the emerging countries in the decision-making process of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The unbearable foreign debt of the poorest countries needs to be addressed.”




India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) along with world leaders attends the closing session of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi on September 10, 2023. (AFP)

This year’s summit saw the addition of a new permanent member — the 55-member African Union. Leaders also reached agreements around global debt, reforms to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, climate financing and the adoption of a global “green development pact,” with the latter two expected to be key features of the G20 presidency in 2024.

In a world where sustainable development is threatened and millions of people still go hungry, Lula said that the international community looked to the G20 with “hope” and a desire for leadership.

Indeed, the bloc accounts for 85 percent of global economic output, 75 percent of international trade and about 60 percent of the world’s population.

“Therefore, the Brazilian presidency of the G20 has three priorities,” Lula told delegates. “The first one is social inclusion and the fight against hunger, energy transition and sustainable development ... and thirdly the reform of global governance institutions.

“All these priorities are part of the Brazilian presidency motto, which says: ‘Building a fair world and a sustainable planet.’ Two task forces will be created — the Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty and the Global Mobilization Against Climate Change.”

Known for his programs designed to eradicate hunger in Brazil and significantly reduce extreme poverty, the Brazilian president, who returned to office in January this year, also has ambitious climate action goals.

“For example, he reversed (former-president) Jair Bolsonaro’s massive Amazon-deforestation policies and now deforestation is 50 percent lower in Brazil than last year,” Dr. Agus Sari, CEO of environmental advisory Landscape Indonesia and a former senior adviser to the UN Development Program, told Arab News.

“Deforestation is the most strategic sector in Brazil’s climate and emissions profile, and it affects the world. The Amazon is ‘the lung of the world,’ and after having been destroyed by Bolsonaro, Lula had the responsibility, but also the willingness, to fix it. And he is doing it.”

Sari expects that under Brazil’s presidency, pressure on rich countries to step up climate action and commitments will be stronger.

“Brazil is also a respected country in the world of climate diplomacy. In some ways, they are a balancing voice against the western countries, especially the US,” he said.

“The Amazon will be the key factor in the world’s fight against climate change, and cooperation between forested countries — especially Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo Basin — will be stronger.”




General view of the Amazon rainforest as seen from the city of Canaa dos Carajas, Para state, Brazil on May 17, 2023. (AFP)

Brazil’s G20 presidency is likely to see a continuation of the priorities defined by India in 2023 and by Indonesia in 2022.

“Brazil’s presidency is important because it will continue the commitment of the G20 members in overcoming crucial issues, particularly health, climate change and sustainable development,” Dr. Luthfi Assyaukanie, an international relations lecturer at Paramadina University in Jakarta, told Arab News.

“I think the next G20’s agenda will be not much different from the last two venues held in Indonesia and India. It will revolve around global health, digital transformation and sustainable energy.”

Like India and Indonesia, Brazil is also one of the most important emerging economies of the Global South, a term that broadly refers to low-income nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and developing nations in Asia and Oceania.

“Brazil is one of the world’s largest economies and a rising power in the Global South. It has a strong track record of leadership on global issues,” Assyaukanie said. “I believe the country will make a significant contribution to the G20’s work next year.”

During the New Delhi summit, delegates also agreed to soften their language on Russia’s war in Ukraine, acknowledging that the G20 was not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues.

“We cannot let geopolitical issues sequester the G20 agenda of discussions,” Lula said after accepting the presidency. “We have no interest in a divided G20. We need peace and cooperation instead of conflict.”




India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) along with world leaders pays respect at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Raj Ghat on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 10, 2023. (AFP)

Earlier, Lula told Indian news media that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the New Delhi summit, would be free to attend the leaders’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro next year.

This is despite Brazil being a signatory to the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for the Russian leader’s arrest for war crimes.

“If I’m the president of Brazil and if he comes to Brazil, there’s no way that he will be arrested,” he said.

 


Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM's dismissal

Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM's dismissal
Updated 8 sec ago
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Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM's dismissal

Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM's dismissal
  • In May, the court accepted a petition submitted by 40 former senators to remove Srettha Thavisin from office under ethics rules
BANGKOK: Thailand's top court will rule next month on a case seeking to oust Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his appointment of a cabinet minister with a criminal conviction.
In May the court accepted a petition submitted by 40 former senators, to remove Srettha from office under ethics rules.
The case centers on Pichit Chuenban, appointed minister in a recent reshuffle, who served six months in jail for contempt of court in 2008.
Pichit, a former lawyer with close links to billionaire ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, later resigned from the cabinet in a bid to protect Srettha.
The constitutional court will give a verdict on Srettha's case on August 14, it said in a statement.
Srettha, who has denied any wrongdoing, is also from Shinawatra's Pheu Thai party, and became PM after forming a coalition with army-linked parties following elections in 2023.

India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir

India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir
Updated 29 min 12 sec ago
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India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir

India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir
  • Military experts say the bridge will ‘revolutionize’ logistics in Ladakh, the icy region bordering China
  • Residents of the region say easier access will bring outsiders to buy land and settle in Kashmir

REASI: Soaring high across a gorge in the rugged Himalayas, a newly finished bridge will soon help India entrench control of disputed Kashmir and meet a rising strategic threat from China.
The Chenab Rail Bridge, the highest of its kind in the world, has been hailed as a feat of engineering linking the restive Kashmir valley to the vast Indian plains by train for the first time.
But its completion has sparked concern among some in a territory with a long history of opposing Indian rule, already home to a permanent garrison of more than 500,000 soldiers.
India’s military brass say the strategic benefits of the bridge to New Delhi cannot be understated.
“The train to Kashmir will be pivotal in peace and in wartime,” General Deependra Singh Hooda, a retired former chief of India’s northern military command, told AFP.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the center of a bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan, divided between them since independence from British rule in 1947, and the nuclear-armed neighbors have fought wars over it.
Rebel groups have also waged a 35-year-long insurgency demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
The new bridge “will facilitate the movement of army personnel coming and going in larger numbers than was previously possible,” said Noor Ahmad Baba, a politics professor at the Central University of Kashmir.
But, as well as soldiers, the bridge will “facilitate movement” of ordinary people and goods, he told AFP.
That has prompted unease among some in Kashmir who believe easier access will bring a surge of outsiders coming to buy land and settle.
Previously tight rules on land ownership were lifted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government canceled Kashmir’s partial autonomy in 2019.
“If the intent is to browbeat the Kashmiri consciousness of its linguistic, cultural and intellectual identity, or to put muscular nationalism on display, the impact will be negative,” historian Sidiq Wahid told AFP.
India Railways calls the $24 million bridge “arguably the biggest civil engineering challenge faced by any railway project in India in recent history.”
It is hoped to boost economic development and trade, cutting the cost of moving goods.
But Hooda, the retired general, said the bridge’s most important consequence would be revolutionizing logistics in Ladakh, the icy region bordering China.
India and China, the world’s two most populous nations, are intense rivals competing for strategic influence across South Asia, and their 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) shared frontier has been a perennial source of tension.
Their troops clashed in 2020, killing at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers, and forces from both sides today face off across contested high-altitude borderlands.
“Everything from a needle to the biggest military equipment... has to be sent by road and stocked up in Ladakh for six months every year before the roads close for winter,” Hooda told AFP.
Now all that can be transported by train, easing what Indian military experts call the “world’s biggest military logistics exercise” – supplying Ladakh through snowbound passes.
The project will buttress several other road tunnel projects under way that will connect Kashmir and Ladakh, not far from India’s frontiers with China and Pakistan.
The 1,315-meter-long steel and concrete bridge connects two mountains with an arch 359 meters above the cool waters of the Chenab River.
Trains are ready to run and only await an expected ribbon cutting from Modi.
The 272-kilometer railway begins in the garrison city of Udhampur, headquarters of the army’s northern command, and runs through the region’s capital Srinagar.
It terminates a kilometer higher in altitude in Baramulla, a gateway trade town near the Line of Control with Pakistan.
When the road is open, it is twice the distance and takes a day of driving.
The railway cost an estimated $3.9 billion and has been an immense undertaking, with construction beginning nearly three decades ago.
While several road and pipeline bridges are higher, Guinness World Records confirmed that Chenab trumps the previous highest railway bridge, the Najiehe bridge in China.
Describing India’s new bridge as a “marvel,” its deputy chief designer R.R. Mallick, said the experience of designing and building it “has become a holy book for our engineers.”


Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off

Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off
Updated 32 min 54 sec ago
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Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off

Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off
  • Supreme Court scales down reservations for various categories to 7 percent, overruling a high court verdict reinstating a 56 percent quota in government jobs
  • Protesting students have given the government a fresh 48-hour ultimatum to fulfill four other conditions of an eight-point list of demands

DHAKA: Bangladesh partially restored telecommunication services on Wednesday although Internet connection was slow and social media remained suspended, days after deadly protests against reservations for government jobs killed almost 150 people.
The country has mostly been calm since Sunday when the Supreme Court scaled down reservations for various categories to 7 percent, overruling a high court verdict reinstating a 56 percent quota in government jobs that had been scrapped in 2018.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government said on Tuesday that it would heed the Supreme Court ruling.
As demonstrations against the quotas — which included a 30 percent reservation for family members of freedom fighters from the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan — tapered off, the government started easing the curfew imposed last week.
Restrictions will be relaxed for seven hours on Wednesday and offices will also be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., officials said.
Residents of the capital Dhaka could be seen out on the streets on Wednesday morning as they made their way to their offices, with public buses also plying in some places — in sharp contrast to the violent clashes in the city last week.
Protesting students have given the government a fresh 48-hour ultimatum to fulfill four other conditions of an eight-point list of demands, and said they will announce next steps once that ends on Thursday.
“We want the government to meet our four-point demand, including restoration of Internet, withdrawal of police from campuses, and opening universities (which have been closed for a week),” protest coordinator Nahid Islam said.
The South Asian nation of 170 million was rocked by protests since the high court verdict last month, which left less than half of state jobs open on merit in a country where about 32 million young people are out of work or education.
Demonstrations intensified after Hasina refused to meet the protesters’ demands and instead labelled them “razakar” — a term used for those who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the war.
Hasina this week blamed her political opponents for the violence and said the curfew would be lifted “whenever the situation gets better.”
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has denied any role in the violence.
Several countries in the region have evacuated citizens from the violence-hit nation over the last few days, including India and Malaysia.


Joe Biden to address US as clock ticks on presidency

Joe Biden to address US as clock ticks on presidency
Updated 33 min 25 sec ago
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Joe Biden to address US as clock ticks on presidency

Joe Biden to address US as clock ticks on presidency
  • US president to insist in his address to the nation that he still has work to do despite his historic decision to bow out
  • The speech, expected to last eight to ten minutes, will be Biden’s first since stepping aside from the race on Sunday

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will give what could be his final Oval Office speech Wednesday to explain why he dropped out of November’s election and deny that he will spend six months as a lame duck.
With the world’s eyes already on a looming clash between Vice President Kamala Harris and Donald Trump, Biden will insist in his address to the nation that he still has work to do despite his historic decision to bow out.
The 81-year-old Democrat said on X he would discuss “what lies ahead, and how I will finish the job for the American people” in the primetime televised event at 8:00 p.m. (0000 GMT Thursday).
The speech, expected to last eight to ten minutes, will be Biden’s first since stepping aside from the race on Sunday after weeks of pressure following a disastrous debate performance against Trump.
He had promised in his withdrawal announcement — made while he was isolating with Covid at his Delaware beach home — that he would give Americans more details on his stunning decision.
It comes just over a week since his last Oval Office address following an assassination attempt against Trump on July 13, but is only the fourth of his presidency overall — and could well be his last.
With Harris, who has effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, and Trump both back on the campaign trail, Biden will be fighting an uphill battle to show Americans he is not yesterday’s man.
Republicans have called for Biden to step down altogether, saying that if he is not fit to stand for reelection then he is not fit to serve as president.
The veteran Democrat insists he still has much to offer, with a particular focus on the economy and on achieving an elusive ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.
“I’m not going anywhere,” a hoarse Biden said as he called Harris at a campaign meeting in Delaware on Monday, adding that he was going to be “working like hell” both as president and to campaign.
Biden, who meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Thursday, added that “we’re on the verge” of agreeing a ceasefire.
He would not be the first US president to chase a legacy-defining Middle East peace deal, after Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and even Donald Trump before him.
But in a sign of the way things are already moving on, Netanyahu will sit down separately with Harris, while Trump said in a post on his Truth Social media platform that he will meet with the Israeli leader Friday at the Republican’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
With the clock ticking on his presidency, Biden said on X late Tuesday that it was “great to be back at the White House” after returning from Delaware and that he had met his national security team for a briefing.
Biden’s decision to drop out has however injected a huge dose of enthusiasm into a Democratic Party that had been plunged into chaos by the debate over his age.
An exuberant Harris was cheered to the rafters on Tuesday as she held a campaign rally in the battleground state of Wisconsin, her first since saying she had secured the delegates necessary for the nomination.
She could be nominated as soon as early August in a virtual vote by Democratic delegates ahead of the party’s convention in Chicago just over two weeks later.
For Harris the challenge will now be to maintain the initial burst of enthusiasm in her party — and then to translate it into success at the ballot box in November.
Harris led Trump slightly in a poll conducted this week after Biden dropped out, but she remains vulnerable in particular to attacks on her lackluster first two years in the White House.


Brazil’s Lula rallies G20 countries against world hunger ahead of meeting

Brazil’s Lula rallies G20 countries against world hunger ahead of meeting
Updated 44 min 11 sec ago
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Brazil’s Lula rallies G20 countries against world hunger ahead of meeting

Brazil’s Lula rallies G20 countries against world hunger ahead of meeting
  • Finance ministers for grouping’s member states will convene in in Rio de Janeiro, before the G20 summit takes place on November 18-19 in the same city
  • Brazilian leader: ‘The fight against inequality, the fight against hunger, the fight against poverty are all fights that cannot be done by one country’

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday will launch a new initiative against world hunger ahead of an upcoming G20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro.
Finance ministers for grouping’s member states will convene Thursday and Friday in the Brazilian metropolis, one of the final gatherings before the G20 summit takes place on November 18-19 in the same city.
The initiative, dubbed the Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, will seek to secure common financial resources to combat world hunger and replicate successful programs that have worked locally.
“The fight against inequality, the fight against hunger, the fight against poverty are all fights that cannot be done by one country,” Lula told reporters Monday.
“It has to be done by all the countries that are willing to take on this historic responsibility.”
The initiative is one of Lula’s major priorities ahead of the G20 summit.
A recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations outlining the state of world hunger will be presented at the meeting to illustrate the scale of the endeavor.
Aside from the world hunger initiative, the agenda for this week’s meeting of G20 finance ministers will involve discussions of how to achieve another objective set by Brazil: figuring out ways to tax the ultra-wealthy.
The initiative, first discussed during a meeting in Sao Paulo in February, involves determining methodologies to tax billionaires and other high-income earners based on the work of French economist Gabriel Zucman.
However, talks have been highly contentious, and any forward progress is far from guaranteed.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opposed international negotiations of the subject during a G7 finance meeting held in May in Italy.
“We think that probably the most effective and impactful tax solutions in this space will almost certainly vary fairly widely across jurisdictions,” a senior US Treasury official said.
The meeting will also discuss taxation of multinational corporations nearly three years after an agreement was signed to create a plan on the initiative.
Founded in 1999, the Group of 20 assembles 19 of the world’s largest economic powers, as well as the European Union and the African Union.
The organization was originally focused on global economic issues but has increasingly taken on other pressing challenges of the moment.