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India seeks drastic reforms, transparency in election of UN Secretary-General


United Nations: India has called for drastic reforms in the election of the secretary-general to introduce transparency and choice in the process of picking a successor to Ban Ki-moon next year, saying it should not be a prerogative of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

India’s delegate Bhartruhari Mahtab told the Security Council on Tuesday that the secret straw polls in the Council should be done away with and discussions should be held in open sessions with the secretary-general providing a summary of the proceedings. Moreover, the Security Council should recommend a slate of two or more candidates on whom the General Assembly can vote, he said.

The UN Charter only says that the secretary-general should be appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council and a 1946 General Assembly resolution added a provision that only one candidate should be recommended and a debate should be avoided.

This has morphed into an arcane process in which the Security Council members vote on the candidate with colour-coded ballots — one colour for permanent members and another for the others. A ballot in the colour of the permanent members automatically results in a veto of a candidate while it won’t be known who cast the veto.

The candidate who gets a majority with the colour-coded ballots of all the five permanent members is recommended to the General Assembly and its vote to approve the candidate is a given.

To make the election transparent, “an important step would also be to do away with secret straw polls using different coloured slips that allow the P5 (five permanent members) to exercise the veto without even taking ownership of it”, Mahtab said.

“My delegation has pressed for the Council to recommend two or more names to the General Assembly,” he added. “While the pronouncements of the General Assembly do not specifically provide for this, there is — in our view — no legal impediment for the Council to do so.”

Mahtab appealed to the non-permanent members of the Security Council to push for changes in the way the secretary-general is elected.

Under the system of rotating the presidency of the Security Council, except for three months next year, the non-permanent will preside over the Security Council next year and it will be for them to decide on whether the selection of the secretary-general will remain the sole preserve of the P5 or not, he said.

Mahtab, a Biju Janata Dal member of the Lok Sabha representing Cuttack in Orissa, is one of the five members of parliament who are currently in India’s UN delegation.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft had told reporters after his inauguration last month that the secretary-general candidates will be presented to the UN members in a timely fashion and they will interact with them. “This will something happening for the first time in the history of the United Nations and I see that as a major step forward,” he added.

However, he sounded tentative on Tuesday only saying that he would work with the Security Council President to begin the process of soliciting candidates and acknowledged that there was “widespread calls for increased transparency, inclusivity and a more rigorous process in selecting the next chief of this Organization”.

On the issue of transparency, Mahtab said, “The most non-transparent of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council is the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.” Named for the number of the Security Council resolution setting it up, the committee imposes sanctions on terrorists and terrorism supporters.

“No information is shared on the criteria of listing or not listing individuals and organizations on whom sanctions are applied,” Mahtab said. “It is our apprehension that there may, in fact, be no criteria at all. And that any of the 15 members may be allowed to exercise a veto without assigning any reason and without the wider membership being informed of their having done so.”

Earlier this year, China vetoed India’s demand for taking action under Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolution 1267 against Pakistan for releasing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack.

“In April this year, the new Chair of the 1267 Committee organised a briefing for the wider membership of the UN and said that he would do so periodically,” Mahtab said. “No meeting has, however, since been held. His predecessor had also kept the work of the Committee cloaked in secrecy.” The current chair of the committee is Gerard van Bohemen, the Permanent Representative of New Zealand.

(Arul Louis, IANS)

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Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS