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Mukerji’s efforts start negotiations in Security Council

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United Nations: Efforts of Asoke Kumar Mukerji, who worked constantly as India’s top diplomat at the UN, has helped in the start of serious negotiations in Security Council.

His peers at the UN acknowledge the leadership of Mukerji in mobilising support for the text-based negotiations to break decades of deadlock and standing up to last minute machinations against it during his tenure as India’s Permanent Representative that ended in December.

“Ambassador Mukerji is a formidable, professional diplomat, highly competent, highly respected by his peers,” said Antonio Patriota, a former Foreign Minister of Brazil.

“He played a specially significant role in coordinating the L-69, which is a coalition of developing countries, large and small, from Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Asia” that works for Council reform.

Brazil and Indiaconstitute along with Japan and Germany a group known as G-4, which works together for the expansion of the Council and mutually support each other for permanent seats on it.

“Brazil and India coordinated vigorously on this issue,” said Patriota, now his country’s UN Permanent Representative. Mukerji was a “very articulate spokesman for India, for its democratic and legitimate Security Council representation.”

The reform movement in the UN had been stifled for years mainly by China and a group of 13 countries known as Uniting for Consensus (UfC), which is led by Italy and includes Pakistan.

They created a Catch 22 situation by blocking the adoption of a negotiating text, saying it couldn’t be done unless there was a consensus while a consensus couldn’t be reached without a text on which to base the negotiations.

Sam Kutesa, the President of last General Assembly session, took the decisive step last year to create a negotiating text based on a survey of opinions of member nations on Council reform. Over 120 countries took part in the survey carried out by the Jamaican Permanent Representative, Courtenay Rattray, the former head of the reform process known as the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN).

On the final day of the last session of the General Assembly, Kutesa, who is also the foreign minister of Uganda, had the negotiating text adopted.

China and Pakistan and other members of the UfC, as well as Russia, were overcome by the breadth of the support for the negotiating text that they ended their opposition and it was adopted unanimously by the Assembly.

But there was a last minute attempt using some UN staffers to sabotage it. Under pressure from China and some other countries, they tried to change the wording of Kutesa’s agreed communication with the negotiating text drafted in July before sending it out.

Mukerji, who has the look of a gentle, grey-haired academic, went on the offensive and, backed by British, French and other diplomats, threatened a walkout from their meeting. The staffers backed down and the agreed text was sent out and eventually adopted.

Mukerji developed ties to key groups of nations, large and small, backed by initiatives in New Delhi like outreach to Pacific island nations, the India-Africa summit and development assistance to various nations.

Patriota noted that beyond his role in the L-69, Mukerji “also established a network of relationships with our colleagues, others the permanent representatives”. And he, along with the IGN, was able to call on this network to support the text-based negotiations.

Mukerji ascribed the success in this and other issues to India interacting in a more inclusive and open manner with other countries. “Inclusiveness gives India the strength,” he said. “That is why we get cooperation from other countries.”

Sylvie Lucas, the Luxembourg Permanent Representative who succeeded Rattray as the head of the IGN, is to convene this week the first meeting that will be based on the negotiating text.

India’s chances of getting a permanent seat on the Council hinge on the outcome of the negotiations.

In a twist to the often-quoted diplomatic dictum that nations have no permanent friends but only permanent interests, despite the unfriendly bout with Beijing on Council reforms, Mukerji turned first to China for getting the UN to declare the International Yoga Day.

Mukerji explained that getting China to endorse the proposal would be seen as a sign of the idea’s universality and get other countries to line up behind it. Even as some in India expressed misgivings about it, 177 nations cosponsored the Yoga Day resolution and Islamic nations supported its unanimous passage at the UN.

To get the Chinese interested, Mukerji told them about the joint yoga program that schools in New Delhi and Shanghai held during China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan’s visit to a south Delhi school.

During Mukerji’s UN tenure that started in April 2013, India won several elections to UN bodies, including a re-election to the UN Human Rights Council, and elections to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Executive Board of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The yardstick of a nation’s strength is in elections,” he said. And this can be measured by the fact that India has won every election it contested during his tenure.

Another high point of Mukerji’s term was India’s role in helping develop UN’s ambitious development goals for the next 15 years known as Agenda 2030. The earlier such agenda were top-down affairs, but this time, the developing nations that are most directly involved were actively involved in setting the goals.

“Eradication of poverty is the objective of Agenda 2030, and India spearheaded this issue in the negotiations,” Mukerji said. “The major takeaways for India are the inclusion of Economic Goals such as infrastructure, employment, Smart Cities, etc for the first time as Development Goals, and also the identification of energy as a goal.”

On the last day of 2015, the Council conceded a key demand by India in the area of peacekeeping operations. Mukerji had campaigned persistently for the troop-contributing countries to be consulted on peacekeeping mandates and operations.

US Permanent Representative Samantha Power, who presided over the Council in December, admitted the consultation process had been flawed and said on behalf of the Council that there should be full participation by the troop-contributing countries and that these should extend to other important areas beyond mandates.(IANS)(image: shabellenews)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)