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Vaccine politics and human rights

More than 32 million COVID shots have now been administered globally, raising hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

The US has vaccinated 3 percent of its total population, while the UK is nearing a solid 5 percent inoculation rate. In Israel, which has been hailed as a vaccine success story, almost 24 percent of people have already received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

But while many countries are able to glimpse the outlines of a post-COVID world, there is a huge population of people who are being left out entirely. Refugees, as well as displaced, undocumented, and stateless people around the world remain ineligible for inoculations and vulnerable to the coronavirus.

We take a look at three case studies where powerless populations are being left in the lurch.

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Is this the beginning of the end for Israel's Netanyahu?

"There won't be tricks and there won't be shticks," Israel's forever-Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu said back in March as he tried to convince the up-and-coming centrist opposition party, Blue and White, to join his coalition government.

But since then, the wily prime minister has, in fact, unveiled such a bewildering array of tricks and shticks of his own that he caused the government to collapse, pitching the country into its fourth election in just two years.

Why did the government collapse? The immediate cause was the government's failure to pass a national budget, which by law triggers a new election.

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What We're Watching: Israel's collapsing government, Nicaragua's opposition ban, new COVID strain goes global

Israel barrels towards another election: After failing to resolve a stalemate over the national budget, Israel's unwieldy Knesset (parliament) was on the verge of collapse Tuesday, making it all but certain that Israelis will head to an election on March 23, the fourth time in two years. But what's changed since Israelis voted less than a year ago? The once-competitive center-left Blue and White Party which gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party a run for its money, has hemorrhaged support since its leader Benny Gantz agreed to sit in a coalition government with the extremely divisive Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the defection of a long time Netanyahu ally, Gideon Saar — who recently left Likud to form his own right-wing party — spells big trouble for Netanyahu, whose popularity has nosedived amid accusations that he's fudged the pandemic response. The incumbent PM now faces a tough battle against a group of right-wing parties who are doing well in the polls and could band together to form a coalition that doesn't include Netanyahu for the first time in 11 years. The stakes couldn't be higher for the Israeli leader, who faces a host of legal troubles and is desperate to retain the top job so he can pass legislation that ensures his immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu is in for a tough battle come March.

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What We're Watching: EU braces for no-deal Brexit, Trump's U-turn on Western Sahara, Lebanese PM charged over Beirut blast

Is the EU playing it safe or prolonging the agony? With Brexit talks still deadlocked in the 11th hour (and in the 11th month, at that) the European Union is taking no chances. Brussels on Thursday unveiled an emergency plan that aims to keep UK-EU trade and travel moving even in the event of the dreaded "no deal" scenario in which there's no agreement at all governing nearly $1 trillion in cross-Channel annual trade. The EU's contingency plan would require UK consent, and cover travel by air and road, shipping, and fishing for six months. Talks between London and Brussels are still stuck on a few key points — including regulatory rules and fishing rights — and technically the two sides need to reach a deal in the next few days or the clock runs out. But does the EU's plan, which would provide cover into early next year, now undercut the urgency of reaching a deal? Having a safety net is obviously a smart idea, but listen, Boris and Ursula, we can't take any more of this. We really, really can't.

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What We're Watching: India's angry farmers, NATO's search for meaning, Israel's election threat

Farmers protest in India: Some 20,000 farmers have descended on the Indian capital of New Delhi in recent days, blocking roads and setting up encampments to protest new agriculture laws that they fear will harm their livelihoods. The measures, passed in September, eliminate requirements for farmers to sell their produce to government-run wholesale markets. That creates more market opportunities for farmers, but they worry it will mean the end of government-guaranteed prices that they can depend on, opening the way to exploitation by large agriculture corporations. In a country where farming is the primary source of income for nearly 60 percent of the population, farmers' welfare is a huge political issue. At the moment, things are deadlocked in Delhi: the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says it's willing to negotiate with the farmers, but not until they decamp from the center of the city. The farmers, meanwhile, say they won't budge until talks start. We're watching to see who blinks first.

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