WTO Ministerial Conference


Recently, member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) wrapped up the Ministerial Conference’s twelfth outing (MC12) securing agreements on relaxing patent regulations to achieve global vaccine equity; ensuring food security, according subsidies to the fisheries sector and continuing moratoriums relevant to e-commerce, among others.


GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Trade Organization (WTO)
  2. Functions of WTO
  3. What is the WTO’s Ministerial Conference?
  4. Key takeaways from the 12th  Ministerial Conference of the WTO

World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  • It is the largest international economic organization in the world.
  • The headquarters of the World Trade Organization is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments.
  • The WTO prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.
  • Trade-related disputes are resolved by independent judges at the WTO through a dispute resolution process.
  • The WTO has 164 members (including European Union) and 23 observer governments (like Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, Libya etc.)
  • India is a founder member of the 1947 GATT and its successor, the WTO.

Functions of WTO

  • Trade negotiations: The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. They spell out the principles of liberalization, and the permitted exceptions. They set procedures for settling disputes.
  • Implementation and monitoring: WTO agreements require governments to make their trade policies transparent by notifying the WTO about laws in force and measures adopted. Various WTO councils and committees seek to ensure that these requirements are being followed and that WTO agreements are being properly implemented.
  • Dispute settlement: The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly.
  • Building trade capacity: WTO agreements contain special provision for developing countries, including longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase their trading opportunities, and support to help them build their trade capacity, to handle disputes and to implement technical standards.
  • Outreach: The WTO maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, other international organizations, the media and the general public on various aspects of the WTO and the ongoing Doha negotiations, with the aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities.

What is the WTO’s Ministerial Conference?

  • The MC is at the very top of WTO’s organisational chart.
  • It meets once every two years and can take decisions on all matters under any multilateral trade agreement.
  • Unlike other organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank, WTO does not delegate power to a board of directors or an organisational chief.
  • All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees.
  • This year’s conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland.  

Key takeaways from the 12th  Ministerial Conference of the WTO:  

Curtailing harmful fishing subsidies

  • The WTO passed a multilateral agreement that would curb ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the next four years, to better protect global fish stocks.
  • Since 2001, member states have been negotiating the banning of subsidies that promote overfishing.
  • The current agreement, which establishes new trading rules, is the second multilateral agreement in WTO’s history.
  • India and other developing countries were able to win some concessions in this agreement.
  • They successfully lobbied to remove a section of the proposal that would threaten some subsidies which would assist small-scale artisanal fishing.
  • Critics argued that this agreement would only restrict and not eradicate subsidies on illegal fishing.

Global Food Security

  • Members agreed to a binding decision to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions.
  • In light of the global food shortages and rising prices caused by the war between Ukraine and Russia, the group’s members issued a declaration on the importance of trade in global food security and that they would avoid bans on food exports.
  • However, countries would be allowed to restrict food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.
  • India’s key demand to allow it to export food from its public stockholdings to other countries will reportedly be discussed in the next Ministerial Conference in 2023.

E-commerce transactions

  • During the MC12 session, India has asked the WTO to review the extension of the moratorium on custom duties on e-commerce transactions, which include digitally-traded goods and services
  • From 2017-2020, developing countries lost a potential tariff revenue of around $50 billion on imports from only 49 digital products.
  • WTO members had first agreed to not impose custom duties on electronic transmissions in 1998, when the internet was still relatively new. The moratorium has been periodically extended since then.

Covid-19 vaccine production

  • WTO members agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for 5 years, so that they can more easily manufacture them domestically.
  • The current agreement is a watered down version of the original proposal made by India and South Africa in 2020.
  • They had wanted broader intellectual property waivers on vaccines, treatments and tests.
    • Rich pharmaceutical companies had strongly opposed this, arguing that IP’s do not restrict access to Covid vaccines and that the removal of patent protections gives researchers that quickly produced life saving vaccines.
  • The waiver agreed by the WTO was criticized by advocacy groups for being narrow in scope, as it did not cover all medical tools like diagnostics and treatments.
  • The agreements passed by the WTO come after an intense week of negotiations.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought


Every year on June 17th, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is commemorated.

  • Desertification and Drought Day was organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on this day.


GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of World Day to Combat Desertification and Droughts
  2. Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation
  1. What is Drought?
  2. About United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification:

Highlights of World Day to Combat Desertification and Droughts

  • It is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement and cooperation at all levels.
  • Theme: Rising up from drought together.
  • It emphasizes the need for early action to avoid disastrous consequences for humanity and the planetary ecosystems. 


  • During the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the largest challenges to sustainable development were highlighted as desertification, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management, was established two years later, in 1994, by the General Assembly, which also declared June 17 as “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.”
  • Later, in 2007, the United Nations General Assembly named 2010-2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, with the UNCCD Secretariat once again leading worldwide action to combat land degradation.

Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation

  • Land degradation is defined as decline in productivity of land in terms of biodiversity and economy, resulting from various causes, including climate and human dominance, leading to loss of ecosystem.
  • Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its water bodies as well as vegetation and wildlife.
  • Land degradation and climate change fuel each other and land degradation reduces the soil’s ability to absorb carbon, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report.

What is Drought?

Drought is a period when there is a shortage of water availability due to inadequate precipitation, excessive rate of evaporation and over-utilisation of water from the reservoirs and other storages, including the ground water.

Types of Droughts
  • Meteorological Drought : It is a situation when there is a prolonged period of inadequate rainfall marked with loss distribution of the rain for long time
  • Agricultural Drought  : It is also known as soil moisture drought,  it is characterised by low soil moisture which is necessary to support the crops, thereby resulting in crop failures.
  • Hydrological Drought : It results when the availability of water in different storages and reservoirs like aquifers, lakes, reservoirs, etc. falls below what the precipitation can replenish.
  • Ecological Drought : it results When the productivity of a natural ecosystem diminishes due to shortage of water and as a consequence of ecological distress, damages are induced in the ecosystem.

About United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification:

  • UNCCD stands for United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
  • Established in 1994, UNCCC is a sole legally binding environment convention that links development and environment to sustainable land management.
  • The UN Convention to Combat Desertification aims to combat desertification and the ill effects of drought.
  • The UNCCD is a United Nations convention aimed at addressing desertification and droughts. 
    • It is a legally binding convention linking development and environment to sustainable land management.
    • The UNCCD addresses particularly the arid, semi-arid & dry sub-humid areas, called drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples are found.
    • The convention was drafted and opened for signing in 1994. It became effective in 1996 after receiving 50 ratifications.
    • The convention obliges national governments to take measures to tackle the issue of desertification.

The convention’s 2018 – 2030 Strategic Framework is a comprehensive international commitment to attain Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) aiming at:

  • The restoration of productivity of degraded land.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of people dependent on them.
  • Mitigating the impact of droughts on vulnerable populations.

The convention focuses on having a bottom-up approach to achieve its goals, by involving the local communities.

  • The UNCCD is one of the three Rio Conventions, the other two being:
    • Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD)
    • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • The three Rio Conventions work in close collaboration with each other.

West Seti Power Project


India will be taking over an ambitious hydropower project in Nepal — West Seti — nearly four years after China withdrew from it, ending a six-year engagement between 2012 and 2018.


GS II- India & Its Neighborhood – Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is West Seti Hydel Project?
  2. Power Relations Between India and Nepal: Importance
  3. Problems with project implementation
  4. India-Nepal Ties

What is West Seti Hydel Project?

  • The West Seti Dam is a proposed 750-megawatt (MW) hydroelectric dam on the Seti River in Nepal’s Far-Western Development Region, primarily as a storage scheme to generate and export large amounts of electrical energy to India.
  • The project is expected to provide Nepal with 31.9 percent free electricity.
  • Locals who are impacted by the project will also receive a part of Nepali Rs 10 million, as well as 30 free units of electricity per month.

Power Relations Between India and Nepal: Importance

  • Nepal has a large number of power sources, with over 6,000 rivers and an estimated capacity of 83,000 MW.
  • India has made numerous formal approaches to Nepal, requesting preferential access to Nepali waters if it can match bids from other countries.
  • India is seen as a viable power market for Nepal, and the country has committed to or stated its intention to harness important rivers in the north.

Problems with project implementation

  • In Nepal, there has been some concern about India’s capacity to complete projects on schedule.
  • An ambitious Mahakali treaty was signed in 1996, with a capacity of 6,480 MW, but India has yet to release the Detailed Project Report.
  • The Upper Karnali project, for which the multinational GMR signed the contract, has made no headway for years.
  • One of the main reasons for the delays in these projects was a lack of agreement on a power purchase agreement with India.
  • The Himalayan Region’s seismic sensitivity is also a major consideration.

Benefits for Nepal

  • Nepal has a massive power shortfall as it generates only around 900 MW against an installed capacity of nearly 2,000 MW.
  • Although it is currently selling 364 MW power to India, it has over the years importing from India.

India-Nepal Ties:

  • Nepal is an important neighbour of India and occupies special significance in its foreign policy because of the geographic, historical, cultural and economic linkages/ties that span centuries.
  • There has been a long tradition of free movement of people across the open border.
  • Nepal shares a border of over 1850 km with five Indian states – Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations that exist between India and Nepal.
  • Nepalese citizens avail facilities and opportunities on par with Indian citizens in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty. 
  • Nearly 8 million Nepalese citizens live and work in India.

Connectivity and Development Partnership between India and Nepal:

  • Government of India’s development assistance to Nepal is a broad-based programme focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-roots level, under which various projects have been implemented in the areas of infrastructure, health, water resources, education and rural & community development.
  • In recent years, India has been assisting Nepal in
    • development of border infrastructure through upgradation of 10 roads in the Terai area
    • development of cross-border rail links at Jogbani-Biratnagar, Jaynagar-Bardibas 
    • establishment of Integrated Check Posts at Birgunj, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj.
    • The total economic assistance earmarked under ‘Aid to Nepal’ budget in FY 2019-20 was INR 1200 crore.
  • Apart from grant assistance, Government of India has extended Lines of Credit of USD 1.65 billion for undertaking development of infrastructure, including post-earthquake reconstruction projects.
  • In April 2018, the ‘India-Nepal New Partnership in Agriculture’ was launched with a focus on collaborative projects in agricultural research, development and education.

Auctioning 5G Spectrum Bands


Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister, gave its nod for the auction of spectrum that can be used to offer 5G services.


GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About 5G
  2. Application of 5G
  3. What are the key issues?
  4. What benefits are likely to come with 5G?

About 5G

  • 5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace, or at least augment 4G LTE connection and it  offers exponentially faster download and upload speeds.
  • 5G will deliver multi-Gbps peak rates, ultra-low latency, massive capacity, and a more uniform user experience.
  • This is in contrast to 4G link speeds in averaging 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.

Application of 5G

  • 5G will help in creating cyber-physical networks which not only interconnect people, but also interconnect and control machines, objects, and devices. It will deliver new levels of performance and efficiency that will empower new user experiences and connect new industries.
  • It will act as an enabler for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine communications.
  • 5G can also help make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart. It will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
  • Also, the primary applications of 5G will be the implementation of a sensor-embedded network that will allow real-time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
When will the spectrum be auctioned?
  • The auctions are scheduled to commence from July 26.
  • The Department of Telecom has invited applications from prospective bidders to participate in the auctions.
  • Based on the applications, the government will pre-qualify applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.
When will the commercial roll-out happen?
  • Telecom Minister recently said that the 5G deployment is likely to start from August-September 2022, and service should commence in about 20-25 cities by the year-end.
  • Experts and analysts expect a gradual roll-out of 5G across the country in a phased manner over the next two to three years, with roll-outs beginning from the second half of the current year.

What are the key issues?

  • The two issues that the industry has highlighted with regards to the upcoming auctions are
    • High reserve prices for the spectrum
    • Direct allotment of spectrum to enterprises for setting up captive private networks.
  • The government has accepted the recommendations given by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on reserve prices for spectrum auctions.
  • While the TRAI had earlier recommended reducing prices of airwaves across various bands by 35-40% from its earlier proposed base price, the telecom operators had expressed disappointment given their demand for a 90% cut in the prices.
    • At these prices, a block of 5MHz spectrum (paired) in the 700MHz band will cost ₹196bn (US$2.5bn), 50MHz block in the 3.4GHz band will cost ₹159bn (US$2bn) and 400MHz block in the 26GHz band will cost ₹28bn (US$0.4bn).
  • On allowing direct allocation of spectrum for captive non-public networks, the government has reasoned that the move will spur a new wave of innovations in Industry 4.0 applications such as machine to machine communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) across automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, and other sectors.
  • However, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts the three private telcos as its members, has said that the move severely degrades the business case of TSPs.

What benefits are likely to come with 5G?

  • 5G is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra low latency.
  • As per the set standards, with 5G, the peak network speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gbps as opposed to about 25 Mbps on current 4G networks.
    • In India, however, 4G speeds average at around 6-7 Mbps, but are picking up gradually.
  • It is expected that with 5G technology, consumers will be able to download data heavy content such as 8K movies and games with better graphics in just a few seconds.
  • The users will need to update to 5G-enabled devices to access the network, if they are not already using one.
  • However, it is likely that the primary use of the technology will go beyond delivery of services on personal mobile devices.
    • 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as IoT and machine to machine communications, thereby supporting a much larger range of applications and services, such as tele-surgery and real time data analytics.
  • Ultra low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases.
    • Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.
  • As per a report by a government panel on 5G, even after the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies — 2G, 3G and 4G, will continue to remain in use and may take 10 or more years to phase out.
  • 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, the report added.

Critical Information Infrastructure


Recently, The Union Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has declared IT resources of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and UPI managing entity NPCI as ‘critical information infrastructure’.


GS II- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is critical information infrastructure?
  2. Why is CII classification and protection necessary?
  3. What is Cyber Attack and Cyber Security?
  4. National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)

What is critical information infrastructure?

  • The Information Technology Act of 2000 defines “Critical Information Infrastructure” as a “computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety”.
  • The government, under the Act, has the power to declare any data, database, IT network or communications infrastructure as CII to protect that digital asset.
  • Any person who secures access or attempts to secure access to a protected system in violation of the law can be punished with a jail term of up to 10 years.

Why is CII classification and protection necessary?

  • World over governments have been moving with alacrity to protect their critical information infrastructure.
  • IT resources form the backbone of countless critical operations in a country’s infrastructure, and given their interconnectedness, disruptions can have a cascading effect across sectors.
  • An information technology failure at a power grid can lead to prolonged outages crippling other sectors like healthcare, banking services.
    • In 2007, a wave of denial-of-service attacks, allegedly from Russian IP addresses, hit major Estonian banks, government bodies – ministries and parliament, and media outlets.
    • It was cyber aggression of the kind that the world had not seen before, and it came in the wake of Estonia’s decision to move a memorial to the Soviet Red Army to a location of less prominence.
    • The attacks played havoc in one of the most networked countries in the world for almost three weeks.
  • On October 12, 2020 as India battled the pandemic, the electric grid supply to Mumbai suddenly snapped hitting the mega city’s hospitals, trains and businesses.
    • Later, a study by a US firm that looks into the use of the internet by states, claimed that this power outage could have been a cyber attack, allegedly from a China-linked group, aimed at critical infrastructure.
    • The government, however, was quick to deny any cyber attack in Mumbai.
  • But the incident underlined the possibility of hostile state and non-state actors probing internet-dependent critical systems in other countries, and the necessity to fortify such assets.

What is Cyber Attack and Cyber Security?

  • Cyber attack is an assault launched by cybercriminals using one or more computers against a single or multiple computers or networks. A Cyber Attack can maliciously disable computers, steal data, or use a breached computer as a launch point for other attacks. Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to launch a Cyber Attack, including malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service, among other methods.
  • Cybersecurity means securing the cyberspace from attack, damage, misuse and economic espionage. Cyberspace is a global domain within the information environment consisting of interdependent IT infrastructure such as Internet, Telecom networks, computer systems etc.

National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)

  • It was created in January 2014.
  • The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is the nodal agency for taking all measures to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure.
  • It is mandated to guard CIIs from “unauthorized access, modification, use, disclosure, disruption, incapacitation or distraction”.
  • NCIIPC will monitor and forecast national-level threats to CII for policy guidance, expertise sharing and situational awareness for early warning or alerts.
  • The basic responsibility for protecting the CII system shall lie with the agency running that CII.
  • In the event of any threat to critical information infrastructure the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre may call for information and give directions to the critical sectors or persons serving or having a critical impact on Critical Information Infrastructure.

Alzheimer’s Disease


An experimental Alzheimer’s drug aimed at slowing or preventing cognitive decline in people has failed a clinical trial leading a blow to efforts to find a solution to fight back against the neurodegenerative disease.


GS III- Science and technology

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time.
  • It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia.
  • The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events.
  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood, about 70% of the risk is believed to be inherited from a person’s parents, with many genes usually involved.
  • Other risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, and hypertension.
  • No treatments stop or reverse its progression, though some may temporarily improve symptoms.


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