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Russia’s OPEC Exit, Plummeting Oil Prices And The Battle Of The Oil Lords

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The US is the largest producer of oil in the world, followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia. This group controls most of the world’s oil, and it is thus their responsibility to maintain oil prices and avoid fluctuations. Back in 2017, when oil prices were dropping, the OPEC countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, came together to form a partnership of sorts to stabilise the markets and keep the prices high. Their solution to the problem was to cut oil production, thus cutting supply while demand remained the same as before. This led to competition amongst the buyers prompting oil costs to go up again.

In the last two years, the global economy strengthened, and oil prices stabilised again. The partnership looked strong, and many felt that it would continue to be so for a long time. But with Russia, nothing is ever so sure, and the coalition came to an abrupt end after just two and a half years.

When OPEC (primarily Saudi Arabia) held a meeting on the 6th of March proposing the aforesaid cuts in production, Russia refused to comply and promptly backed out of the coalition. Source: themoscowtimes.com

Since the start of 2020, the coronavirus scare has been dealing some fierce blows to the world economy. Stock markets all over the world were affected, and global market indices were falling. The oil prices, too, were hit hard, and OPEC wanted to use the same tool it had been using all this while to bring the crude value back up.

For those of you who might not know a lot about what OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is and what it does, it’s a cartel of 13 countries which generates around 44% of the world’s total crude oil production and 21% of the world’s natural gas production. The 13 countries in the OPEC are Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Venezuela and Gabon.

Till very recently, Ecuador was also a part of the group but left it effective 1st January 2020. Now when you have a look at the member nations, you would know that Saudi Arabia is the most dominant member, and it alone produces around 12% of all of the world’s crude oil. So, it is by default, the leader of the pack, and the other countries just follow what Saudi Arabia decides to do. Now back to the coronavirus scare and dropping oil prices.

Coronavirus Fear And The Dropping Oil Prices

So basically, OPEC decided to continue its strategy of cutting down production to maintain high prices, but Russia had had enough. Therefore, when OPEC (primarily Saudi Arabia) held a meeting on the 6th of March proposing the aforesaid cuts in production, Russia refused to comply and promptly backed out of the coalition.

The Russian reasoning behind this decision was that the American shale oil industry was booming because of the production slashes, and the price hikes which the OPEC and Russia were imposing were thus prompting more customers to purchase from the American companies. Nobody knows for sure what the actual reason is, but whatever it may be, the decision of the Russians angered the Saudis. They reacted by slashing oil prices and boosting production giving deep discounts to its regular customers and also targeting Russian clients.

Oil prices have fallen about 24% to $32.97, which is a big drop, and they aren’t stopping here. Riyadh is threatening to flood the market with even more oil and has ordered the state-owned Saudi Aramco to boost production to around 13 million barrels a day, a level it has never attained before. Even the Russians are now joining in, augmenting their production and lowering costs.

This price war doesn’t hold any good for most of the countries involved, especially the poorer north and west African member countries of the OPEC, whose economies are not as strong as their Middle Eastern counterparts. They are wholly dependent on oil and can’t afford to give such steep concessions. Even the richer Asian countries are hurting themselves, but maybe it’s their way to try and get Russia back on the table.

As far as our own country is concerned, this price war couldn’t have come at a better time and India stands to gain a lot from it. We import almost 84% of our crude oil spending a lot of money on oil imports. According to the PPAP (Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell), India spent $111.9 billion on oil imports in the fiscal year 2018-19 alone. So imagine how much we could save in the ongoing oil price war, leading to a reduction in petrol and diesel costs, and could eventually use that money saved in other troubled sectors of the economy.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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