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One in four countries beset by civil strife as global unrest soars

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A quarter of all countries experienced a dramatic surge in civil unrest last year in a worrying trend that is likely to continue into 2020, researchers have found.

Verisk Maplecroft, a leading risk analysis and strategic forecasting company, said in a report published on Thursday that 47 countries experienced a significant rise in the number of protests over the course of the past year. Hong Kong, Chile, Nigeria, Sudan, Haiti and Lebanon were among the states affected.

Sudan, where the 30-year presidency of Omar al-Bashir ended last year, overtook war-stricken Yemen to rank top in Verisk Maplecroft’s civil unrest index.

Hong Kong and Chile were deemed the world’s “riskiest locations” in terms of the severity and frequency of protests, said the report, which predicted that the situation was unlikely to improve in either country over the next two years.

North Korea was identified as the most dangerous place to be a protestor.

The research is based on a range of the company’s risk indices, including those charting civil unrest, security forces and human rights.

“The pent-up rage that has boiled over into street protests over the past year has caught most governments by surprise,” said the report, adding that even if tackled immediately, “most of the grievances are deeply entrenched and would take years to address”.

The researchers predicted continued turmoil in 2020 for “a host of governments ill-prepared to handle ongoing bursts of public discontent”. They said protests are likely to increase in 75 countries over the next six months, including China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Thailand.

“With protests continuing to rage across the globe, we expect both the intensity of civil unrest, as well as the total number of countries experiencing disruption, to rise over the coming 12 months,” the study says.

Sam Haynes, head of risk analytics at Verisk Maplecroft and a co-author of the report, identified the 10 countries most at risk of unrest as Venezuela, Iran, Libya, Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chile, Palestine and Ethiopia, “in that order”.

Miha Hribernik, the report’s other co-author and head of Asia risk insight at Verisk Maplecroft, said 10% of countries overall are rated as “extreme risk” in 2020, compared with 5% in 2016.

“The reasons behind the increase are complex and driven by a mix of domestic factors. Nevertheless, while each protest is unique, a large number of them have been driven by similar grievances,” said Hribernik.

“These include stagnating incomes and rising inequality in the decade following the global economic crisis, the loss of trust in traditional political elites, corruption, and the erosion of civil and political rights.”

East Africa witnessed the biggest increase in civil unrest over 2019, followed by east Asia, mainly due to events in Hong Kong, according to Hribernik.

“In east Africa, Ethiopia has been the most affected by an increase in civil unrest, dropping into the extreme risk category during 2019. This is explained largely by a surge in tensions between the government and ethnic minorities, who claim they are economically and politically marginalised,” he said.

Despite efforts by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to alleviate the tensions by co-opting major ethnic groups into the restructure of the ruling party, Hribernik said a further spike in civil unrest is likely in the next six months if elections are delayed or cancelled.

In Sudan, the absence of functioning institutions, he added, means “opposition groups and Darfur militias have little opportunity but to pursue civil unrest”.

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European Carmakers Build out Charging Network for Electrics

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — European automakers’ network of highway charging stations for battery-powered vehicles is taking shape ahead of an expected surge in electric car sales as manufacturers strive to meet new emission limits.

Read more: European Carmakers Build out Charging Network for Electrics | Newsmax.com

Ionity, the joint venture created among automakers to build the network, said Thursday it has completed more than 200 stations and expects to have 400 operating by the end of the year. Each station has 4-6 charging columns.

The highway network is seen as a key step in convincing car buyers they can switch to electrics and still take long highway trips without worrying about running out of juice during a family vacation.

Ionity CEO Michael Hajesch gave the progress update as the company unveiled the price for electricity at its high-speed stations in 20 – soon to be 24 – countries. Munich-based Ionity is a joint effort among BWW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen Group, which also includes Audi and Porsche.

Last year, battery-powered cars accounted for only 2% of the market in Europe but manufacturers need to sell more to meet of tougher European Union limits on greenhouse gas emissions coming into effect from 2021. Carmakers that don’t meet the limits face fines of thousands of euros per vehicle.

The network is also a response to California-based electric car maker Tesla, which has its own charging network. The Ionity network will be open to Tesla owners.

Hajesch said Ionity would charge 79 euro cents per kilowatt hour for customers who don’t have a contract with a mobility service provider for a different rate. That replaces the previous practice of charging 8 euros ($8.80) per charging session.

The new price to charge up quickly on the highway and be on one’s way is higher than what car owners typically pay to charge overnight at home, where charging might cost around 30 euro cents per kilowatt hour but takes hours. Ionity’s 350-kilowatt stations mean charging could be completed in as little as 10-15 minutes for cars that can take full advantage; other models will charge more slowly.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more: European Carmakers Build out Charging Network for Electrics | Newsmax.com

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The case for protecting Saudi Arabia’s ancient art of Khawlani coffee production

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  • Saudi Arabia is asking UNESCO to provide protection for the tradition of Khawlani coffee cultivation
  • Six out of 16 provinces in the region of Jazan practice the cultivation of Khawlani coffee beans

JAZAN: At the southernmost tip of Saudi Arabia, just a few kilometers from the Saudi-Yemeni border, is the verdant region of Jazan, blessed with its rocky mountain tops, green wadis, deep forests, hot springs and boundless fertile land. It is also home to the local Khawlani coffee bean.

Although the Arabica coffee bean is well known, most people don’t associate it with Saudi Arabia. While the actual origin of coffee is debatable, the ancient tribes of the Khawlan, in reference to their great ancestor Khawlan bin Amir, located between Jazan and Yemen, have practiced the skills and techniques of cultivating Khawlani coffee beans for over 300 years, with the tradition passed down from one generation to the next through non-formal educational methods, including practical training and observation.

The region of Jazan contains 16 provinces, and six of them practice the cultivation of Khawlani coffee beans. For farmers here, making coffee is a highly respected vocation that gives cultural identity and status to the entire region.

Today, the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society is asking UNESCO to provide protection for the ancient art of Khawlani coffee making. The project, which began in 2019 in collaboration with farmers in Jazan, included documenting the cultivation process of Khawlani coffee beans.

“The number of farmers in Jazan is really high and they face a lot of problems and difficulties, including with water and working resources,” said Rehaf Gassas, project manager at the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, a nongovernmental organization established in 2010. “Hopefully, by the inscription of this (cultivation process) in UNESCO, it will help promote (Khawlani coffee beans) throughout Saudi Arabia and encourage the nation to help these farmers.”

The bid process itself is time-consuming. It normally takes around 18 months to work on, from field visits to theory work.

On March 31, 2019, the society finished the application and delivered it to UNESCO. By November 2020 they hope to know the decision as to whether they were successful.

“We are very optimistic,” added Gassas. “The community itself is the biggest supporter, because they are very invested in the coffee beans they are planting, and it is really very important to them to show the world that they have this rich culture and heritage.”

Khawlani coffee beans might be one of Saudi Arabia’s best-kept secrets. They are considered one of the finest types of coffee beans in the world, and Saudis are ranked as one of the biggest consumers of the beverage.

In many ways these beans are a national treasure, crucial to the preservation of Saudi heritage and the nation’s cultural identity. “They are described as the green gold of Jazan,” said Gessas. “But there is lack of knowledge amongst Saudis that the Jazan region is one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world.”

In 2017 the Ministry of Interior cited more than 76,390 Khawlani coffee trees farmed by 724 farmers, producing 227,156 kilograms of coffee from an average production of 4 kilograms per tree. “The trees are thought to have been brought from Ethiopia to Yemen, and perhaps from Yemen to the mountains of this governorate,” says deputy governor of Al-Dair, Yahia Mohammed Al-Maliki.

“In the past, people mainly relied on planting coffee beans as one of their major products to make a living during hard times. Nowadays, the situation has changed. People have started to come to the region looking for investments.”

The cultivation process of Khawlani coffee is an arduous one. It involves planting the seeds for the trees, harvesting the fruits that start growing 2-3 years after planting, pruning the trees, collecting the fruits and transferring them to the rooftops of houses to put on dehydration beds in a cool shaded area to dry.

There the fruits must be stirred by hand until they turn black. They are then peeled, roasted and ground. The picking itself involves attention and care. The red color indicates that the fruit is ready for picking, which needs to be done using a twisting method to ensure the branch is not damaged in the process in order to ensure it can bear fruit next season. 

“We hold the fruit and with a little twist, we pick it off the tree,” said Hussein Al-Maliki, owner of Mefraz, a local coffee brand that recently won a coffee roasting competition in the UAE, and which hopes to soon distribute internationally outside the Kingdom.

The significance of Khawlani coffee goes beyond its cultivation. The process entails a celebration of familial ties and heritage as well as respect for the local land. Mohammed Salman, a 70-year-old farmer in Al-Dair, has been cultivating coffee beans since he was born. “I have learned the process of planting coffee from my father, who had inherited it from his ancestors,” he said. “He gets up each morning, performs his prayers, has his breakfast and then goes out to his farm. 

“I stay at the farm irrigating my trees, cleaning the soil, helping the two workers I have here until the sun sets and then get back home,” he continued. On the weekends, Salman’s two sons join him and the cultivation becomes a family activity. “I teach them how to care for our coffee trees and even how to pick the fruits that are ripe,” he added.

At the core of Khawlani coffee is the beauty of generosity. Offering small cups of coffee to guests is an age-old tradition in Saudi Arabia — one practiced since ancient times. For the community of Khawlan, it is of utmost importance to offer visitors coffee using beans harvested from their farms. It’s a sign of honor and respect. Now, on the verge of UNESCO protection, the Khawlani farmers will soon offer their golden cups to the world.

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