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India takes leading role in calling for multilateral bank reforms

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United Nations, April 24 (IANS) As the Global South grapples with the ossified structure of the main multilateral development banks (MDBs), India has taken a leading role in calling for the reform of the institutions created after World War 2 reflecting the power structure of that time.

India has also adopted another two-pronged approach to promote change: Setting up a fund with the UN for developing countries and working with the BRICS on the New Development Bank.

The reform of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came into focus again when the institutions held their Spring meeting with the Governors and Finance Ministers of several members.

India’s leadership at the G20 for reforming them has been appreciated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The push for reforms gained momentum when presiding over the G20 Summit last year in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We need to expand the mandate of multilateral development banks,”

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“We need to collectively work to strengthen multilateral development banks for meeting global challenges like climate change and high debt levels.”

“Our decisions in this direction should be immediate and effective,” he added.

Taking up his call, the Summit of the leaders of the 20 biggest economies in their joint statement called on the institutions “to undertake comprehensive efforts to evolve their vision, incentive structures, operational approaches, and financial capacities so that they are better equipped to maximise their impact”.

N.K. Singh, the Chairman of India’s 15th Finance Commission, said that at a recent meeting, Guterres told him that he “was very keen on continuing the momentum of MDB reforms initiated during India’s G20 Presidency”.

At their meeting at the UN, Guterres “agreed that, even though G20 Presidencies may change, the UN has a long-term responsibility in ensuring that the legitimate needs of the countries of the South are adequately met. These involve issues of poverty and shared prosperity in a liveable planet,” Singh said in a series of posts on X.

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Guterres said that MDB reforms should be central to “the reforms of the international financial architecture” over the decade following next year’s Conference on Financing for Development Conference to be held in Spain, Singh posted.

He also posted that he met with Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Li Junhua, who was “profusely complimentary about the importance of India’s G20 Presidency (and) its ability to harmonise contradictions”.

New Delhi is an active member contributing capital and expertise to the New Development Bank of the BRICS is made up of emerging economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, which have been joined by Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The bank is emerging as an alternative to the IMF, World Bank, and other such institutions, funding development projects and helping financial stabilisation in the member countries.

The UN Chief has said, “Within a united global economy, I think that many of these institutions (like BRICS) can play an extremely important and complementary role.”

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In addition under Prime Minister Modi, India set up in 2017 the India-UN Development Partnership Fund (IUNDPF) using a different model from that bilateral assistance given by other countries, notably China.

The fund that operates in cooperation with the UN allows the recipient countries to choose the projects based on their priorities rather than the interests of the donors and avoids pushing them into a debt trap.

UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has said that the IUNDPF has reached “significant milestones making a positive difference in the most vulnerable of our communities”.

New Delhi has also set up a window under the IUNDPF for Commonwealth countries to get funds for projects promoting the UN’s sustainable development goals.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in)

–IANS

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Four injured, over 2,700 affected as tropical cyclone hits Philippines

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Manila, May 26 (IANS) Four people were injured and 2,734 affected as tropical cyclone Ewiniar triggered floods and landslides in parts of the Philippines, the government said on Sunday.

In a report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the four injured people were from the Bicol region, southeast of the Philippine capital, Manila, Xinhua news agency reported.

It added that no deaths have been reported so far.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 passengers, truck drivers and cargo helpers were stranded in all ports nationwide on Sunday morning due to the inclement weather conditions, said the Philippine Coast Guard.

Ewiniar, the first cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, has affected the Bicol region on the main Luzon island and the Eastern Visayas region in the central Philippines.

The state weather bureau said Ewiniar will continue to dump heavy rain in many areas, including Metro Manila, warning of more flooding and possible landslides.

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The bureau forecast Ewiniar to reach severe tropical storm category on Monday and typhoon category by Tuesday before exiting the Philippines on Wednesday.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries globally, mainly due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific typhoon belt. On average, the archipelagic country experiences 20 typhoons yearly, some intense and destructive.

–IANS

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North Korea warns of military action over alleged sea border incursions

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Seoul, May 26 (IANS) North Korea on Sunday threatened to take action against South Korea over what it claims are violations of the de facto western maritime border, ratcheting up tensions ahead of a trilateral summit in Seoul.

North Korea’s supreme military leadership instructed its army on Friday to take offensive action against the encroachment upon its sovereignty, North Korea’s Vice Defence Minister Kim Kang-il said, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“We officially warn that we can never tolerate such continued encroachment on our maritime sovereignty and that we may exercise our self-defensive power on or under the water at any moment,” Kim said in a statement carried by the KCNA, Yonhap news agency reported.

The statement came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will have back-to-back bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the presidential office.

The three leaders will hold a trilateral summit on Monday. It marks the first three-way summit among the Asian countries since December 2019, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strained Seoul-Tokyo relations over historical disputes.

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Tension remains high along the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border, Yellow Sea. North Korea has never recognised the NLL, demanding it be re-drawn further south.

Waters near the NLL have been a flashpoint between the two Koreas, where three bloody naval skirmishes took place in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

In March 2010, Pyongyang torpedoed a South Korean warship near the sea border, killing 46 sailors on board. In November of that year, the North bombarded South Korea’s border island of Yeonpyeong, killing two civilians and two Marines.

North Korea also accused South Korea and the United States of intensifying their hostile aerial espionage as it vowed to scatter “mounds of wastepaper and filth” over the inter-Korean border areas in retaliation against anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

For years, North Korean defectors in South Korea and conservative activists have sent balloons carrying leaflets critical of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un into North Korea. Pyongyang has bristled at the propaganda campaign amid concern that an influx of outside information could pose a threat to the Kim regime.

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North Korea blew up the joint liaison office in the now-shuttered inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in 2020 in anger over Seoul’s failure to stop North Korean defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

–IANS

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Death toll rises to 11 in Russian attack on Kharkiv's DIY store

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Kyiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) The death toll from a Russian airstrike on a DIY store in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has risen to 11, Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Syniehubov announced on Sunday.

Russia attacked the store with at least one glide bomb on Saturday, wounding at least 40, because it said Ukraine had hidden a weapons cache in the store.

“The tactic of human shields is being used in Kharkiv – they (the Ukrainians) have set up a military camp and a command post in a shopping centre, which was discovered by our intelligence service,” the state agency TASS quoted an unnamed representative of the Russian leadership as saying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said around 200 people were in the Epicenter home improvement store at the time of the attack.

–IANS/DPA

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Philippine troops kill suspected militant in clash

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Manila, May 26 (IANS) Philippine troops have killed a suspected militant in a clash in Maguindanao del Sur province in the southern Philippines, the Philippine Army said on Sunday.

In a report, the Army said that the alleged Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militant was killed early Saturday morning after a five-minute clash in the village in Datu Salibo town following information from the villagers about the militants’ presence in the area, Xinhua news agency reported.

Troops seized a 45 calibre pistol and explosives from the clashed site, read the report.

The BIFF, a small armed group aligned with the Islamic State group, is blamed for bombings and other atrocities in the Central Mindanao region in the southern Philippines.

The group broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when the latter agreed to negotiate a peace pact with the government in 2014.

–IANS

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French President heads to Germany for rare state visit

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Berlin, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Emmanuel Macron begins the first state visit to Germany by a French President in 24 years on Sunday, a pomp-filled three-day trip described as a tribute to the Franco-German friendship.

Macron is due to arrive in Berlin at 2 pm (1200 GMT). He will head first to the government district, where the “Democracy Festival” celebrating 75 years of Germany’s Basic Law – the democratic constitution adopted in West Germany after World War II – will be held.

At the time, West Germany was under occupation by the victorious Western Allies, which included France, Britain and the United States.

Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will engage in an on-onstage discussion at the festival. The French leader will then travel to Steinmeier’s nearby official residence, the Bellevue Palace, where he will be greeted with military honours. A joint press conference by the two presidents will follow in the late afternoon.

A walk through the Brandenburg Gate with Berlin Mayor Kai Wagner and a state banquet at Bellevue Palace is scheduled for the evening.

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Sunday’s visit comes ahead of European elections to decide the next European Parliament. Far-right EU parties have seen a surge in support in recent years – including in France and Germany – and are expected to do well in the June 6-9 polls.

The relationship between Paris and Berlin has long been seen as the driving force of European policymaking. But frictions began to emerge in 2022, after Angela Merkel left the German political scene, although Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have recently made efforts to improve cooperation.

The agreement has been found on several issues, including reform of the EU’s debt and deficit rules, but other points of contention remain, notably on the type of military aid for Ukraine and the EU’s economic policy responses to protectionist measures by China and the United States.

These thorny questions and others will discussed at a meeting of French and German ministers on Tuesday.

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Macron and his wife Brigitte will be travelling to Dresden on Monday. There, he will give a speech on European policy in front of the Frauenkirche, a monumental domed church and a symbol of post-war reconciliation.

On Tuesday, they will travel to Munster, where Macron will be awarded the Peace of Westphalia Prize.

Macron came to power in France seven years ago and cannot run for a third term in the 2027 presidential election.

The official state visit is the first by a French president to Germany since 2000, although leaders from both countries regularly meet and visit in less formal ways. Macron had planned to make the state visit last July.

However, the trip was postponed due to nationwide unrest in France following the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old that shocked the nation.

–IANS/DPA

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