Beijing’s grip extends over about 90% of the South China Sea, including the archipelago of islands, reefs and atolls known as the Spratlys and the Paracels. The country’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over the sea—and its stocks of untapped oil and natural gas—have increased frictions with competitors like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. China has in the past exerted its dominance in the region through the construction of artificial islands and the employ of military patrols. After numerous border skirmishes with Vietnamese troops, one (then-boycotted) ITLOS judgement in a case against Malaysia and the occupation of the disputed archipelagos by the US, the South China Sea seems on its way to become a future cauldron of conflict.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to numerous human rights violations, including censorship, discrimination, arbitrary detention and xenophobia. The overwhelmed healthcare systems in China and Italy caused a shortage of testing material and medical personnel which forced doctors to decide which patients to treat. Cases of racism towards Asians have been reported in India and Malaysia, where hundreds of undocumented migrants were detained in specialized centers. With the first Coronavirus wave subsiding, many countries have initiated contact tracing strategies and surveillance initiatives, which the Human Rights Watch defined a threat to personal privacy. In such an uncertain scenario, an extended state of emergency may cause the erosion of the rule of law and escalate the authoritarian drift in countries with weak democratic institutions.
The rising sea levels and changes in climate and precipitation patterns have made the Arctic region a growing commercial and military frontier. Global warming has led to the thinning of polar ice, to the point where increasing numbers of ships are using the Northwest Passage to speed up the shipping processes. The emerging economic interests in the area may exacerbate geopolitical tensions, with nations (like China, with the Polar silk road initiative) vying to acquire good shares of the region’s natural resources, including fish, gas, oil, and mineral ores. This complex scenario not only endangers the livelihood of Arctic Communities, but also poses the risk of conflicts driven by the rising number of polar military initiatives.
According to IFAD, hunger is an everyday struggle for more than 820 million people worldwide—an issue that deprives them not only of their future but also of a strong immune system to fight diseases. Short-term crises can feed off long-term problems, gaps, underinvestment and vulnerabilities. Many small-scale food producers deal with challenges such as poor resilience mechanisms, scarce nutrition and restricted access to resources and services—the disruption of trade and supply chain mechanism threatens to further aggravate these situations. IFAD remains deeply concerned about the the well-being and food security of poor rural people. COVID-19 could jeopardize the progress made in reducing rural poverty (SDG1) and supply chain food systems in poor communities (SDG2).