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DGI Brief - Sep 27, 2016

Happy Tuesday, all. Today's top 5 global issues news are about #SaudiArabia, #Colombia, #Europe, #SouthAfrica and global #airpollution

- SAUDI ARABIA’s economy struggles due to record-low global oil prices & to address last year’s $100 billion budget deficit, the government announced series of royal decrees that cut salaries & perks for government employees. More than 2/3 of employed Saudis work for the public sector, notoriously known to be well-paid jobs for very little work. The new cuts reduce salaries by 20%, limit overtime, vacation time & cut perks like phone bills, housing & car stipends and freeze new hires until 2017. Why it matters: Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia unveiled its Vision 2030 framework to overhaul the economy, create jobs & wean off their oil dependence. Although such reforms are key, a crucial element is women’s participation. Thousands have been petitioning to end Saudi Arabia’s ‘guardianship law’ requiring women to get permission of a male guardian to engage in fundamental tasks like travel, marry & even access healthcare & get a job. Time to guarantee half of your population their basic human rights, Saudi Arabia. #IAmMyOwnGuardian

- COLOMBIA’s President Juan Manuel Santos & Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Rodrigo Londoño “Timochenko” officially signed a peace agreement ending 52-year war that killed over 200,000 people & displaced millions. The deal took over 4 years to negotiate & stipulates that FARC fighters will disarm within 5 months, participate in a transitional justice system & be reintegrated into civilian society, all under UN supervision. FARC will be granted 10 congressional seats, making it a guaranteed participant in Colombia’s government. The deal will be voted on by Colombians in an October 2 referendum. Why it matters: Over 95% of Colombians distrust the FARC according to latest polls & many deeply disagree with the deal’s immunity provision of no jail time for perpetrators of crimes such as killings, kidnapping & child recruitment. It is a difficult choice – accepting general amnesty in the interest of peace after half a century of brutality. Can peace serve as solace? I hope most people will vote ‘yes’.

- EUROPEAN UNION members, spearheaded by Germany & France, press for increased military cooperation within Europe to improve security. Britain vehemently opposes such proposal, insisting NATO is the only security mechanism needed for Europe. Why it matters: It isn’t exactly a call to create an EU army – prohibited by EU’s treaties – but to establish a security mechanism complimentary to NATO, which itself expressed support for much larger & tighter EU cooperation on security. Britain must walk a tight rope here. Its hardball views on EU security & defense as it prepares to leave the block can alienate the rest of EU nations & weaken its negotiating position.

- Ever since SOUTH AFRICA announced an 8% increase of college tuition last week, student protests have swept the country, even turning violent & causing serious vandalism. At least 4 major universities have temporarily closed amid the violence. Why it matters: Give the choice, most would prefer tuition-free education, but the protests address much deeper societal & racial issues. Black students in particular feel they haven’t benefited from the promises of the end of apartheid – neither in equality or economical gains. For this reason, they perceive the tuition hike as extremely disadvantageous to them. Authorities insist they do not have the funds or the infrastructure to provide free education. But taking away the opportunity of education for so many may roll back all the progress achieved so far – let’s not forget that South Africa continues to grapple with poverty & the HIV/AIDS epidemic that mutually fuel one another.

- The newest WORLD Health Organization (WHO) report provides deeply alarming data that 9 out of 10 people globally breath poor quality air resulting in more than 6 million deaths a year. Southeast Asia & the Western Pacific – China, Malaysia & Vietnam in particular – are the hardest hit. But harmful air pollution is a global public health crisis – 92% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality levels exceed recommended limits – 80% of the world’s city dwellers are affected by air pollution, rising to 98% in poorer countries. Why it matters: Exposure to both outdoor & indoor pollution is harmful & implementing strategies to tackle air pollution is more than critical. We urgently need to reduce the # of vehicles, improve waste management & promote clean cooking fuel (in developing countries). WHO warns that wearing face masks or staying indoor during poor air quality advisories is ineffective. Are you doing your part to fight air pollution in your area?

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