As a matter of immense pride India is holding Presidency of the G20 nations from 1st December, 2022 to 30th November, 2023 and thereby shouldering the responsibility of steering the G20 agenda for this year, besides hosting the annual summit that is slated to take place from 9th to 10th September, 2023 at New Delhi.
The Summit will mark the culmination of all the G20 processes and meetings held throughout the year among ministers, senior officials and civil societies.
The theme of India’s G20 Presidency - “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future” affirms the value of all life including human, animal, plant, and microorganisms and their interconnectedness on the planet earth as well as in the wider universe.
To make this Presidency remarkable, Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi has invited citizens to share ideas and suggestions for themes that should receive prominence during India’s G20 Presidency.
Accordingly, some of the suggestions are put forth hereunder in the areas of science and technology, health and education, environment and ecology that should understandably receive the priority.
We are cruising through the third decade of twenty first century that is witnessing an unprecedented resonance in the advent of science and use of technology.
World stands on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has ever witnessed or experienced before.
Under these fast-changing circumstances countries that will keep pace and quickly adopt to the changing trends and technologies will emerge victorious in a goal-based sustainable development framework.
Therefore, there is need for mutual cooperation, sharing of resources, signing of MoUs for collaborative education, student and teacher education programmes, training and internships among G20 countries in emerging areas of science and technology including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data analytics, robotics, Internet-of-Things, block chain revolution, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, quantum computing, space technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology and molecular medicine, stem cell technology, gene therapy, biodiversity and ecology, point-of-care testing, nuclear and bio-physics, micro-electrical mechanical systems, cancer vaccines, genetically modified foods, cell culture and in-vitro fertilization etc.
There is a need to enhance the knowledge-base, training, skills, competencies, expertise, interest and familiarization in these areas among our youth. G20 scientific community can work in tandem across cultures and nations, bridging political divides to encourage innovations and engineer inventions in these areas.
Corona virus pandemic has emphasized upon the hard lessons of cooperation and collaboration among nations of the world since such outbreaks are not only fraught with disastrous implications upon health and well-being of the human population but also have serious repercussions on the economic, political, social, cultural, ethnic, humanistic and geographical aspects of the human life.
Consequently, crisis unfolded by such pandemics needs collaborative, multi-pronged, multi-disciplinary approaches worldwide since scientists or doctors alone cannot be of much help in overcoming the multi-dimensional deleterious consequences of such pandemics.
In order to enhance our preparedness to combat a COVID-19 like crisis and manage its consequences well in future, higher education and health institutions as well as research centres in G20 countries need to join hands, collaborate and share their experiences in handling this crisis in the past as well as the lessons learnt by them during this pandemic.
They must come out with sufficient and substantial new knowledge, guidance, resources, policy papers and blueprints required to counter the economic, sociological, psychological, medical, commercial, humanitarian and health-related challenges posed by such pandemics.
Several other existential threats seem to be looming large on the human race and gaining momentum with each passing year in the twenty first century, some of whom include catastrophic climate change and collapse of ecosystems, artificial super-intelligence and the rise of robots, alarming threat of a nuclear warfare, threat of super-volcanic eruptions and devastating earthquakes, impacts of huge asteroids hitting hard upon planet earth, biological and chemical warfare, pandemics, anti-microbial resistance and the emergence of incurable diseases.
This is doubly aggravated by the threat of man-made disasters like manufactured, bio-engineered, bio-hazardous super-viruses and bacteria, nuclear terrorism, cybercrime, forest fires, satellite junk and outer-space warfare, water wars clubbed with alarming environmental break-down caused by a spike in carbon emissions, rapid melting of arctic ice, steady rise of global temperatures, erratic and extreme storms assailing coastlines etc.
Under these evolving and challenging circumstances sufficient knowledge about these potential threats among educators and researchers could help explore sustainable solutions and armour to tackle them in their right earnest. Furthermore, only a strong, collective, pooled and united effort at the global and G20 level could help us find solutions to these emerging threats to the existence of mankind on the face of earth.
Health is not just about diagnosing ailments, making hospital admissions and providing treatments, it is an issue of social justice, social solidarity and social security too. Getting good health care is not a privilege, it is considered to be a fundamental human right.
A just, humane and civilized society must be able to provide basic health access to all its citizens irrespective of their social status or paying capacity. Universal health coverage (UHC) is the aspiration that all people obtain the health services they need without having to pay all costs out-of-pocket and without suffering any financial hardships paying for them.
It implies that all people have access, without any discrimination, to the needed promotive, preventive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative basic health services and essential, safe, affordable, effective and quality medicines, while ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the users to financial hardships, with a special emphasis on the poor, vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population.
UHC ensures that the out-of-pocket expenditures by patients on their healthcare are minimized and they are covered by adequate health insurance covers by the government for which citizens have to pay a very little amount on annual basis.
Globally, about 150 million people suffer financial catastrophe annually while 100 million are pushed below the poverty line. Only one in five people in the world has broad-based social security protection that also includes cover for lost wages in the event of illness, and more than half the world’s population lacks any type of formal social protection, according to the International Labour Organization.
Due to out-of-pocket spending of their income on medicines and healthcare services, about 3.2 to 5 percent of India’s population is pushed below the poverty line every year, as per published reports.
This is in spite of the fact that India is known as “Pharmacy of the World” with its pharmaceutical industry having an annual turnover of more than 42 billion dollars, half of which is earned through exports.
India did a commendable job of delivering more than 200 doses of coronavirus vaccine till July 2022 and issued more than 22 crore 20 lakh Ayushman cards to the beneficiaries under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. G20 countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and many countries of the European Union have made considerable progress in terms of Universal Health Coverage that needs to be replicated in India.
We need to emulate their successful models and policy frameworks for making medicines and healthcare available, affordable and accessible to all sections of the society and thereby make UHC a reality by enhancing financial risk protection, reducing out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare and medicines and by making use of quality generic drugs besides increasing per capita expenditure on healthcare by the government.
ABPMJAY has already been appreciated worldwide for its utilization, coverage and impact in making healthcare accessible in India. However, in order to make it sustainable and successful for all times to come we need to adopt UHC policy and procedures as done by G20 nations mentioned above.
On the higher education front, University Grants Commission (UGC) notified draft regulations on the ‘Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs) in India’ on January 5, 2023 in pursuit of its agenda of internationalisation of higher education, in consonance with National Education Policy-2020, that seeks to grant permission to foreign universities to set up campuses within India.
Foreign universities figuring among top 500 universities of the world would be allowed to set up their campuses in India first that shall be followed by those universities who command a high ranking in specific subjects or specialisations and are highly valued in their respective fields within their own countries.
Initially, permission would be granted for ten years, with renewal being subject to the fulfilment of prescribed conditions. These foreign universities would have the freedom to devise their own curricula and admission process. G20 nations should come forward and establish their campuses first within India under this programme and provide affordable quality education of global standards to the Indian youth.
Sustainable development in G20 nations would not be possible without addressing the issues like global warming, climate change and the protection of environment and ecology.
India and China being the most populated nations of G20 group need to take concrete action towards climate change and preservation of environment and ecology.
They need to take cues from the policies adopted by other member countries like Australia, Canada, Japan etc in this regard. As G20 member nations represent around 85% of the global GDP, more than 75% of the global trade and about two-thirds of the world population, it is an ideal forum to discuss these challenges and evolve sustainable solutions for the same. In sync with the themes of this year’s presidency viz., One Earth, One Family, One Future G20 nations need to find the common ground in these areas and work in tandem towards evolving sustainable solutions for them.
Besides these areas, themes in other areas like commerce, trade, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, agriculture and energy could also be suggested.
Dr. Geer M. Ishaq, Professor of Pharmacology, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.