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Hala Gorani Tonight

Iran Votes In Presidential Election; China Heads Towards One Billion COVID Vaccinations; E.U. Lifts Travel Curbs On U.S. And 13 Other Countries; Hardline Cleric Ebrahim Raisi Widely Expected To Win; Global Index 2021 Finds Slight Decline To World Peace; Taiwan's COVID Vaccine Makers Detail Rollout Plans. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, from CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Lynda Kinkade filling in for HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Good to have

you with us. Iran heads to the polls in an election that many say is a foregone conclusion. China is inching towards a monumental number, 1

billion COVID vaccinations.

And the European Union's governing body has recommended the bloc lift restrictions on non-essential travel from 14 countries, including the

United States. This hour, Iranians are voting in an election to succeed President Hassan Rouhani. The outcome of the pivotal poll is a foregone

conclusion. Ebrahim Raisi is the hardline frontrunner after most of his main rivals were barred from the race.

And if he wins, he'll move the Islamic Republic further to the right. The Ayatollah appealed for a large turnout as he cast the first ballot. Expects

fear the lack of choices could lead to a poor showing. The next government will confront a host of major issues including the coronavirus pandemic,

crippling sanctions from the west and whether to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

CNN international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is in Iran and joins us now from the capital, Tehran. Fred, good to have you there for us. So, the

most serious contenders were barred from running in the election. How is that impacting the voter turnout?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think so far what we've seen throughout the day is that there was actually a decent

amount of people who came to the polls here in the polling center that we're in right now. In fact, I'm going to get out of the way for a second

so you can see, there are still people who are coming here to the polls, it is -- let me look at the clock right now, it's 10:30 p.m. right now, local

time, and the voting time has actually already been extended until midnight.

Which is obviously in about one and a half hours from now. And we still see -- aside from what you're seeing right now, still actually see people also

outside of the street. Now, of course, that's not representative because it's one polling station, a country of 80 million. But meanwhile, several

polling stations here in Tehran today, and it certainly didn't look as though there was any sort of widespread boycott of this election.

Nevertheless, of course, the supreme leader has said that, you know, he believes that a poor showing will be bad for the system of Islamic Republic

of Iran. So, certainly, it was a concern that was on the minds of the authorities, probably still is on the minds of the authorities as a lot of

people had voiced their concern about so many people being barred before the election even began.

You're absolutely right, Lynda, among the host of issues that the new president, be it Ebrahim Raisi or one of his contenders has to deal with

here in this country is obviously with the difficult crippling sanctions that the U.S. has levied on Iran.

But then also, what to do with the Iran nuclear agreement. And it was quite interesting, I actually managed today to speak to the head of Iran's

Supreme National Security Council, very powerful man in this country, and he said that no matter who is the president, Iran -- the nuclear agreement,

where bringing the U.S. back into the nuclear agreement is still something that Iran is striving for. Let's listen in.


ALI SHAMKHANI, HEAD OF IRANIAN SUPREME NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (through translator): The topic of Iran-U.S. relations has always been a topic

beyond one single branch of government. And all the branches have a part in it. With the JCPOA, from which the U.S. under Trump unfortunately withdrew

due to wrong analysis, and started the maximum pressure campaign, now the new U.S. officials have decided to return to the JCPOA, and we have always

been seeking a good agreement.

No one ever rejected such a thing at any level. It was the United States which withdrew from it. This dispatch will continue and the issue of U.S.-

Iran relations and the JCPOA is bigger than a single branch of government. I as an individual feel there will be a brighter future in these issues.


PLEITGEN: So, the nuclear agreement, Iran is going to stay in those negotiations and try to bring them to a conclusion no matter who the next

president is, be it Ebrahim Raisi or be it one of his contenders. But certainly, if Ebrahim Raisi does win this election, then the politics here

in this country are set to make a shift towards a more conservative route than they have over the past eight years, of course, under Hassan Rouhani.


KINKADE: Yes, Fred, I want to ask you a bit more about that and what that shift will look like, because if Raisi, the frontrunner becomes president,

how will things change from the outgoing President Rouhani?

PLEITGEN: Well, first of all, I don't think for instance that it would make relations between Iran and the west any easier than they are right now.

Also because of course, the fact that you have a whole new foreign policy team that would come in.


Of course, the current Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, someone who is well known on the international stage. So we'd have to wait and see who the

foreign minister would be then. I think though, the main big difference between Ebrahim Raisi and Abdolnaser Hemmati who is really the most potent

of the people who are running against Ebrahim Raisi on the moderate side of things, is really an economic policy.

I think that Ebrahim Raisi -- where he said, Ebrahim Raisi has said that he wants to further what's called the resistance economy here in Iran to make

Iran self-sufficient as possible and to impervious to sanctions as possible.

Where someone like Abdolnaser Hemmati has said that he would like to attract foreign investment especially in case of -- or in a likely case, if

a nuclear agreement would come back and some of those sanctions would be lifted. So the main -- the main difference really, there's a lot of it is

in the more conservative tone that you would have under Ebrahim Raisi, but then also a lot has to do with economic policy as well.

And of course, Lynda, we have to keep in mind, with the country that's in the economic situation that Iran is in right now, under those sanctions,

with the economy really struggling over the past couple of years, when President Trump was in office, the economy is something that people that

we've been speaking to say really is by far the most important issue to them as they go to the polls here, and of course in so many other places in

Iran as well.

KINKADE: Yes, there's something quick I need to discuss further with our next guest. Frederik Pleitgen for us in Tehran, good to have you there for

us, thank you. Well, for more on this crucial and controversial election, I want to bring in Karim Sadjadpour; he's a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie

Endowment for International Peace where Iran is one of his areas of expertise, and he joins us now from Washington. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, there were almost 600 contenders for this election, but only seven were approved to run. Forty women registered, zero women were

approved. Some are calling this a selection rather than an election. Would you agree?

SADJADPOUR: Definitely, this is a selection, first of all, the office of president of Iran is not a very powerful institution. As we know, the most

powerful person in Iran is supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been ruling the country since 1989, he's supported by the Revolutionary Guard.

So those are the two really powerful institutions. The office of president doesn't make foreign policy or dramatic internal decisions. But the supreme

leader is close to 82 years old, he's thinking about his legacy and succession.

And he didn't want to take any chances with the person who he sees as his heir apparent Ebrahim Raisi could potentially lose, so they essentially

eliminated any competition to make sure that Raisi becomes president.

KINKADE: And talk to us further about Raisi and what we can expect if he becomes president. Because right now, Iran is obviously suffering under the

COVID-19 crisis and also an economic crisis made worse by sanctions. Talk to us about Raisi's plan for the economy.

SADJADPOUR: You know, the most notable thing on Raisi's political CV is the fact that he was a judge in 1988 when there were as many as 5,000 political

prisoners and Iran executed. So his background is much more security background, he doesn't really have economic expertise, but as your -- as

your colleague said in Tehran, he's espoused this idea of resistance economy which is very similar to the supreme leader's world view.

What that essentially means is that Iran is not really interested in attracting foreign investment from the west and then trying to engage with

the west and opening the country up. Essentially, his plan is to, you know, to have more interactions with countries like China, sell more oil to Asia.

And I would say internally, Iran is going to likely become more repressive than it already is.

KINKADE: If elected, Raisi would be the first-serving Iranian president to enter office sanctioned -- on the sanctions by the U.S. Those sanctions of

course involve his role in the mass execution of political opponents, political prisoners back in 1988. What could this mean for a U.S.-Iran

relations especially with the Iran nuclear deal on the table?

SADJADPOUR: It will make it easier for opponents of the nuclear deal, whether American Republicans or Israeli leadership to oppose the revival of

the nuclear deal and offering Iran sanctions relief because they'll make the argument that we're going to be releasing billions of dollars to an

Iranian regime that is headed now by a war criminal Ebrahim Raisi is someone who was implicated in mass executions, and Iran is simply going to

take that money and double-down on some of its regional proxies.


Whether that's Lebanese Hezbollah or Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen, the Assad regime in Syria. So, I think this will essentially make it more

difficult for Iranians who would like to be reintegrated in the outside world to fulfill the potential of the country because Raisi will in some

ways make it easier to isolate Iran.

KINKADE: Mr. Hemmati, an economics professor is the underdog in this election. He has a plan to revive the economy. Tell us more about what he

could do.

SADJADPOUR: You know, Mr. Hemmati is more of a technocrat, but he is someone who is really -- you know, mostly unknown to people in Iran. And

this was by design, the government in Iran, the regime wanted to eliminate any meaningful competition to Mr. Raisi. In the past, the -- you know, the

preferred candidate of the leader is often lost because Ayatollah Khamenei's vision for Iran is not that popular.

This time around, I'm skeptical that Mr. Hemmati will win, but even if he does, the reality is the power will continue to lie in the hands of the

supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards, and the president of Iran really isn't capable of transforming the country meaningfully.

KINKADE: All right, Karim Sadjadpour, we'll leave it there for now, we hope to speak to you again soon as we see these election results play out.

Thanks so much for your time.

SADJADPOUR: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, Israel will be watching the election in Iran closely as it battles another of what it sees as its animals -- enemies rather. Militants

in Gaza for the second time this week, Israeli war planes have struck the region. Israel said it targeted Hamas military sites after incendiary

balloons were launched this week from Gaza which caused fires in Israel. Militants have been sending those balloons into Israel for years with

similar response.

However, these are the first strikes since the new prime minister was sworn in. Israeli officials say their message to Hamas, that any provocation will

be met with force. We're just in time for some of the European Union is throwing out the welcome mat to travelers from the United States even if

they're not fully vaccinated. The move is seen as an attempt to save the Summer tourism industry. The EU will reopen its borders to several other

countries with a notable exception.

Well, for more on the bigger picture, I want to bring in CNN's Cyril Vanier, he joins us now from London. Good to see you, Cyril. So as we can

understand it, we're going to see this recommendation to lift restrictions for over a dozen countries for people, whether they're vaccinated or not.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. But the key word there, Lynda, is recommendation. This is coming from the European Council, the

European Council however does not have authority over border control for the member states of the European Union. Essentially, each country --

everyone of the 27 countries in the EU is allowed to do what it wants with its borders. Now, they are trying to move towards some kind of harmony to

make it look a little bit more readable for tourists.

But we simply are not there, and it's still very patch work. So what that recommendation says is drop the travel restrictions for non-essential

travel, for holidays, for the 14 countries on this list. And so that list includes countries as diverse as Albania, Australia, Israel, Japan,

Lebanon, New Zealand, there are others, the United States is in that list, China, it depends on reciprocity, so it's unclear whether China will end up

being on the list or not.

And once you know that, that's only half the picture. I would recommend to anybody watching this right now who is outside the EU who was on one of

those countries on that list wanting to travel to the EU, they need to check what rules are in force at the specific destination where they want

to go. For instance, some countries have already jumped the gun and done the wrong thing, Green Branch out last month and opened its borders to a

number of countries, and there, you only need to show a COVID test if you want to go either hopping in the Mediterranean.

Spain need to be -- to have been vaccinated, Denmark, you need to have been vaccinated, and France has its own separate list of countries, whether

you're green or amber, the U.S. being amber, then you will need to show either proof of vaccination plus COVID test or just a COVID test. So, it's

very patch work, as I said, Lynda, I'm sorry to pour some cold shower on people who already saw themselves there on the French Riviera.

KINKADE: French Riviera does sound enticing, but yes, clearly, the message been that you really do have to look at exactly where you're traveling to

and see what applies.


All right, we'll leave it there, Cyril Vanier, good to have you with us, thank you, Cyril. Well, in the past few hours, the chief scientist at the

World Health Organization has said the Delta variant is on its way to becoming globally dominant. In the U.K., it already accounts for 99 percent

of new COVID cases, which is driving out the numbers, children and young adults. That is according to one study. Well, I want to bring in Phil Black

for more on all of this.

And so, Phil, children and young adults driving up the number of cases, these new COVID cases we're seeing. But for now at least, children aged 12

to 17 won't be offered the vaccine or unlikely to be offered the vaccine until more study is done.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Delta variant is moving most quickly through those groups you mentioned, Lynda, because these are the

groups that have little to no vaccine coverage. And at the moment, the U.K. vaccine program, well, it is now opened to everyone over the age of 18. But

the question is, do they go further? They keep rolling those ages back to adolescents as well. And at the moment, no decision has been taken on this.

The U.K. government is waiting on an advice from an independent expert panel, but the common view among those experts and others is that, this is

a very difficult question ethically. Because you are talking about children who very rarely suffer severe forms of COVID-19.

It means that the benefit risk analysis doesn't fall easily on the side of rolling out the vaccine to these younger people, to children essentially

because we're talking about a new vaccine, and the side effects, although rare at this stage, are still being studied, still being understood.

So, there's a strong push among experts to be cautious with this. Here's one expert in infectious disease that we spoke to earlier today.


LIZ WHITTAKER, SENIOR CLINICAL LECTURER, IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON: Vaccination has been a real success story for us in the U.K., which we're

very grateful for. And there are still people queuing up, where now vaccination going to 18, and I think that we could comfortably vaccinate

going to 16 with the data that we have. And then consider the 12 to 16- year-olds with a bit more information in a few months time.


BLACK: So, that approach is very different to other countries that have already decided to vaccinate teenagers. The United States has already fully

vaccinated more than 5 million people aged between 12 and 18. So, a very different approach there. The hope here in the United Kingdom is that

there's still time to look at the information that is coming through and perhaps rollout the vaccine to younger people if necessary. But for the

moment, sort of hold fast if you like, in the hope that the uptick among adults in this country is so high.

And you've got around 80 percent who have had one dose so far. This is the figure that's growing every day, the hope is that, that adult uptick could

still be sufficient to reach a certain threshold of immunity which then effectively blocks or slows down the transmission of the virus. And so,

therefore, protects children anyway. Essentially, the hope is, you don't have to get to that point where you are vaccinating children. It is a hope,

it is a theory, there's a lot of uncertainties surrounding it, particularly within the context of more transmissible Delta variant.

But as I say, experts are hopeful that the U.K. still has some time to study the information and see if that sort of goal can be achieved in the

relatively near future, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, it's interesting for you to point out that children here, aged 12 to 17 can indeed be vaccinated. And many have. Has the U.K. given

any time frame as to when that could possibly happen there? Because it is clear that W.H.O. says that no country should even be thinking about

vaccinating children yet.

BLACK: So, the government here likes to say it's following the experts' advice, and on this point in particular, because vaccinating children is

potentially so contentious, it is pretty determined to do so. It is not -- it has not yet received the advice we understand from the committee that is

evaluating this. So, we don't know what the time frame for that will be.

On the point of the W.H.O., it is interesting because the point W.H.O. makes is very much a moral one. And that is the country should not be

vaccinating children just yet because again, children are not particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, whereas around the world, in many countries, there

are many older, more vulnerable people who do not have access to vaccines and that protection do not likely -- do not seem likely to get it in the

near term.

And given that vaccines are still something of a precious limited resource, it is not right for richer countries with advanced vaccine programs to be

looking at children at this stage. The commitment they say should be at these other countries where older, more vulnerable people are still exposed

to the pandemic and/or its horrors really.


So that is a moral argument, experts have spoken to say it's almost an arguable because it is of course -- it is of course true. But on a

practical level, it is very difficult to proceed for all sorts of reasons. From logistics through to local politics, it is difficult to see the world

community coming together as one and saying, we will not vaccinate children just yet, we're going to make sure that vaccines go to those who clearly

need it in a more clinical sense first. Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, exactly. All right, Phil Black for us in London, good to see you as always, thank you. Well, still to come tonight, China is about to

hit a monumental milestone in its vaccine rollout. We're going to reveal the exact number after the break. Also a rather unusual admission from

North Korea's leader. He says the food situation in his country is getting worse. The details ahead.


KINKADE: Welcome back. China's vaccination driver reached a staggering number of 1 billion doses within days. Posting a scale and speed unraveled

by any other country. Ivan Watson reports on what's fueling China's vaccination progress.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: China is on a really remarkable massive vaccination drive against COVID-19. Their estimate that

some 40 percent of all immunization shots globally that they have been carried out within China's borders. And it's all the more remarkable when

you consider that just a number of months ago, at the end of March, China had only delivered about a million shots into arms, and this week, in one

day alone on Tuesday, China says that it delivered about 20 million shots in a single day.

It's on the road to deliver a billion shots by the end of this week. And you've got a government adviser, an epidemiologist who says the aim is to

fully inoculate some 40 percent of its population by the end of this month. That's a big effort when you consider they're 1.4 billion people in China.

But I think it also demonstrates how China's one party system can deliver when it puts its mind to it. The COVID-19 virus was first detected in the

Chinese city of Wuhan, at the end of 2019.


And there's evidence of initial government missteps and signs of cover up initially. But then China demonstrated that it would be willing to use very

draconian measures to try to stop the spread of the virus, shutting down entire cities.

And we're seeing those strategies still being used in the southern province of Guangdong where authorities are struggling with an outbreak, the case

numbers would still be the envy of most countries around the world. Just a couple dozen cases detected there, even though China does carry out these

mass testing drives of millions of people in short order.

There are only two real homegrown vaccines that are being administered against COVID-19, that's Sinopharm and Sinovac which are also being

exported by the hundreds of millions around the world, even though they have much lower efficacy rates, proving than for instance Germany's Pfizer-

BioNTech vaccine. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


KINKADE: Well, North Korea is bracing for a food shortage, and its reclusive leader is issuing a rare warning. Kim Jong-un opened an important

political meeting in his country saying the situation was getting tense according to a state news agency. He blamed the pandemic as well as last

year's typhoons. CNN's Paula Hancocks has more from Seoul, South Korea.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was brief mentioned of politics and the United States during the workers party meeting in North Korea this

week. South Korea media says that Kim Jong-un said North Korea should be fully prepared for both dialogue and confrontation. But really, the main

topic of conversation according to state-run media appear to be food shortages within the country. A rare admission earlier in the week from

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying that the people's food situation is now getting tense.

Now, he did say that the agricultural sector didn't meet their targets in grain production. He also talked about the typhoons from last year and the

flooding, which we know did some damage to crops. He also mentioned the COVID situation, the borders in North Korea have been shut since January

2020, so nothing has been getting into the country.

And then also mentioning the international sanctions against the country. Now, we have been hearing from experts and from the United Nations in

recent months that food insecurity is becoming more of an issue within North Korea.

A report earlier this month from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization said that they had an estimated food gap in North Korea of

what they could grow for their population and what they need to feed their population of some 860,000 tons. That's the equivalent of more than 2

months of food. Now, often, North Korea doesn't grow enough food to feed its own population, it is topped up by imports from China, its main trading

ally and also humanitarian aid.

That's simply not happening this year and last year because of those COVID restrictions. And the U.N. said that if that gap is not plucked, then there

will be some lean harsh times for populations between August and October of this year. Now residents in Pyongyang have told me that they have seen food

prices rising in recent months.

Saying for example, the price of potatoes in one particular market, the Tongil Market, a well-known one in Pyongyang, that both locals and

foreigners go to. The price of potatoes has tripled. Also pointing out the price of eggs and spinach are doubling and tripling in some cases.

And these are locally-produced goods. We know that since last year, imported goods have not been on the shelves and been very hard to come by

within North Korea. So, there are increasing concerns of how North Korea is going to feed its people this year, and it's a concern that has been

publicly admitted by the leader himself. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


KINKADE: Still to come tonight, the state of peace in the world or lack of it. We're going to look at the new country rankings and see how the COVID

pandemic might affect trends.



KINKADE: Returning now to our top story, the presidential election on (INAUDIBLE) Iran, where the voting time has been extended. Technically,

there's only a choice on the ballot, one choice, between these four candidates, one is virtually guaranteed to win. Ultraconservative cleric,

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's judicial chief is considered a member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle and is expected to reinforce his hard line role. Fred

Pleitgen has this profile on Raisi a few days before voting began.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what a sprint to the finish line looks like in Iran's presidential election, churning out posters at the

headquarters of conservative frontrunner, Ebrahim Raisi, the man many believe will be Iran's next president, his campaign workers already talking

about post election plans. "The main concern people have is the fall in their incomes," he says, "And when it comes to livelihoods and the economy,

we hope to be able to solve the problems."

With Iran still in the clutches of the Coronavirus pandemic, campaign rallies have been banned in areas with high infection rates, leaving the

candidates to square off in a series of TV debates with Raisi promising to improve the economy. "We should try to make the economy self-sufficient,"

he says. "Tremors shouldn't affect it, not the Coronavirus, not floods, not earthquakes, not sanctions, nothing."

The main moderate candidate, Abdolnaser Hemmati, ripped into Raisi and other conservative economic plans. "The current economic situation in Iran

is such that most of the colorful and attractive promises made by the other candidates are not possible," he said.

Ebrahim Raisi has spent decades in public service in Iran. A conservative hardliner, he's currently the powerful head of Iran's judiciary, known for

dishing out harsh punishment and many death sentences. Raisi ran in Iran's 2017 presidential election but was defeated by moderate incumbent, Hassan

Rouhani. Now, the tables have turned and many Iranians blame Rouhani for the country's dire economic situation caused in part by the crippling

sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.


TRITA PARSI, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, QUINCY INSTITUTE: There is a tremendous amount of anger against Iranian government because of the

perception that they have really mismanaged the economy. Corruption has gotten much, much worse.


PLEITGEN: Another reason why racy is so far ahead in the polls is that Iran's Guardian Council, the body that vets candidates, disqualified many

of those who would have had a chance to challenge him.


"In my opinion, the competition would have been more open and there should have been a broader selection of candidates," this man says. That has led

to fears of voter apathy and possible low turnout. Even Iran's supreme leader has criticized the disqualifications and called on people to vote.

"Dear people of Iran," he said, "the election takes place in one day, but its effects remain for many years. Participate in the election."

One major effect could be a shift in Iranian politics towards more conservative forces, just as the country is in negotiations to try and

salvage the Iran Nuclear Agreement with the U.S. and other world powers.


PARSI: If negotiations have not been completed, and Raisi comes in, it is going to dramatically change the dynamics not only because he may come in

with some new ideas and no uproot what already has been agreed upon, but also he's going to change the negotiating team.


PLEITGEN: Even with subdued campaigning due to the pandemic, this election could prove to be key, shaping Iran's future and its relations with the

west for years to come.


KINKADE: That was our Fred Pleitgen reporting there. We're now to a new global index, ranking countries by how peaceful they are and their

stability in the world in general. Well, it may be no surprise that Iceland is the most peaceful nation on Earth while Afghanistan comes in last.

Europe remains the most peaceful region, the Middle East and North Africa saw the most improvement, but still, it's the least peaceful region in the

world. And as you can see here, 87 countries have become more peaceful, 73 countries experienced declines.

Yet overall, the world's peacefulness ranking went down by a fraction, .07 percent. Another interesting finding and a sign of the times, the conflicts

of the past decade have begun to abate only to be replaced with new tension and uncertainty stemming from the COVID pandemic. Well, the rankings were

done by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

And my next guest is Serge Stroobants, the Director for all the Operations for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: Before we break down the results, if you can for us, walk us through how you measure peace because this index covers 99.7 percent of the

world's population. What do you take into account before making the assessment?

STROOBANTS: Well, the Institute for Economics and Peace is composing its global peace index round 23 different indicators. These three -- twenty-

three indicators are distributed over three families of indicators. We look at internal and international conflict, also the intensity of those

conflicts, we look at internal safety and security, so within the societies, and we also look at levels of militarization and putting this

complex index together, this allows us to establish a ranking of the different countries of the world according to the levels of what we call

negative peace. And that's the absence of violence or the fear of violence.

KINKADE: For the last 18 months, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on communities and economies right around the world. We are now seeing a real disparity in

the rollout of vaccines, poor countries obviously being left behind. Explain for us what sort of impact the pandemic is having on peacefulness

and how this could play out in the coming years.

STROOBANTS: Well, the full impact of COVID-19 pandemic on peace when it is still unfolding as we speak. We still have some forms of violence like

interpersonal violence, like homicide and violent crime. Well, those levels fell down very soon at the beginning of the pandemic, but this did not last

for a long time. By June, July of last year, we were back at figures pre- pandemic. Well, what we have seen is that civil unrest grew over the past year by 10 percent.

We have identified in the world more than 5,000 pandemic-related violent events, and they were recorded between January 2020 and April 2021. We

think that it's still too early to fully go to the long-term effects of the pandemic on peace, but what we see is that the current economic conditions

unfolding in many countries around the world will increase the likelihood of continued and increased political instability and violent


KINKADE: And speaking of violent demonstrations, we obviously saw a lot of violent demonstrations here in the United States. Last year, the

insurrection notably at Capitol Hill. Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, they are all very much at the top of the index, but the United States ranks

121st on that global list, and it hasn't seem to improve. Why does the U.S. rank so poorly and why is it that it hasn't really improved over the last,

you know, over the last few years?


STROOBANTS: Well, North America last year experienced the largest deteriorations in peacefulness of any region. And this was driven by an

increase in violent demonstrations and political instability in the U.S. Last year, we saw some of the largest protests across the U.S., the largest

protest in history.

And they also spread from the United States to other parts of the world, to other regions of the world. Those violent demonstrations were, of course,

fueled by COVID-19, the response to COVID-19, some political polarization, and also social movements like Black Life Matters.

Now, about the position of the United States, I think when you look at the three families of indicators that we -- that I explained before, so when we

look at the number of conflicts in which the United States could be part of, when you look at the levels of safety and security, and there we use

indicators like homicide rate, incarceration rate, when you look at the levels of militarization, where the United States last year was one of the

largest, I would say, decreases on this indicator, which means like large investments in militarization, it is almost logic that a country like the

United States, when you look at those three domains, cannot have a high score on the Global Peace Index.

KINKADE: And talk to us a little bit more about this new wave of tensions between global powers and what can we expect -- when you look at the

trends, what can we expect, expect going forward?

STROOBANTS: Well, we clearly see that the current geopolitical tensions between regional powers or global powers is, of course, having an impact on

the levels of militarization. This all -- this is only an example. We have seen over the past decade a trend of decreased investment in

militarization. This trend has been broken about two years ago. So in the past two years, we saw about one of the countries that at levels of

militarization increasing, so a large investment in militarization.

So clearly, this new world order, these new set of international relations based on competition between greater powers, is going to create more

tensions and it's also going to create a large invent -- investment in military assets and militarization throughout the world.

KINKADE: Serge Stroobants from the Institute for Economics and Peace. Good to have you on the program tonight. Thank you.

STROOBANTS: Thank you very much.

KINKADE: And still to come, a CNN exclusive report on Taiwan's race to get COVID-19 vaccine, so one on one with the head of a Taiwanese company

developing a local vaccine. Also Ethiopia's Prime Minister promising free and fair elections on Monday, and yet parts of the country will be unable

to vote at all. We're going to explain that just ahead.



KINKADE: We're also keeping an eye on Ethiopia as it prepares for elections on Monday. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promises the vote will secure a

national unity, but because of the multitude of crises, some people won't even be able to go to the polls. CNN's Larry Madowo reports.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a delay of almost a year, Ethiopians will head to the polls Monday in both regional and national parliamentary

elections. The country's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says he is committed to a free, fair, and peaceful election, but it is already marred by a host of

problems, including a violent conflict raging within its borders.

Violence in parts of Ethiopia's Tigray region in the North has created a humanitarian crisis where there will be no election at all. The U.N. and

other agencies say that large parts of Tigray are experiencing dire hunger because of food shortages blamed on the fighting. The Ethiopian government

has denied these reports. But Prime Minister Abiy says he has hope for Ethiopia's future.


ABIY AHMED, ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The choice between destruction and development, construction and demolition for our

country is laid in front of us. We, Ethiopians, carefully understand that feeling dismayed is not civilization. And pushing one another is not a

better option.


MADOWO: Opposition candidate Berhanu Nega is less optimistic.


BERHANU NEGA, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION EZEMA PARTY: Whenever you attempt this transition from tyranny to democratic governance, you know, there is

no guarantee that it would be absolutely perfect or it could be clean.


MADOWO: Accusations of ballot box fraud tainted the last general election held in 2015. This time around, logistical issues and violence have caused

voting delays in 110 out of 547 districts. Some parties whose leaders have been imprisoned are boycotting it all together. Opposition figure and

fierce critic of the Prime Minister, Jawar Mohammed, remains in jail where he's accused of terrorism and other charges.

The U.S. has also voiced alarm over the conditions ahead of the elections. The State Department issued a statement saying, "The United States is

gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held." The country had big hopes for Abiy when he was

appointed in 2018.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was, at the time, praised for cracking down on corruption and freeing political prisoners. Abiy made many promises, but

his military campaign in Tigray and jailing of opposition leaders has angered many of his constituents.

As Ethiopians get ready to cast their ballots, the Ethiopian government hopes for a democratic election, but it comes at a time of turmoil where

fighting in Tigray has killed thousands, leaving people on the verge of starvation and threatening the credibility of the voting process. Larry

Madowo, CNN.

KINKADE: Right now, Taiwan is battling its worst outbreak of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Some hopeful news, though, Reuters reports

the island just received a shipment of some 240,000 Moderna vaccine doses. And now, a new vaccine developed in Taiwan could be a game changer. CNN's

Will Ripley has more in this exclusive report.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Taiwan, there is no issue getting more attention in the news than vaccines. Every single night, every

channel, they're talking about vaccines because it has been a huge struggle for the Taiwanese government to get enough doses onto this island of more

than 23 million people. Foreign doses have really trickled in. There's been a lot of back and forth about who is to blame for that.

But two Taiwanese companies have developed their own vaccines. One of them is trying to get Emergency Use Authorization, but there are big questions

about whether this vaccine is effective. At Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation --


RIPLEY: You must be so busy right now.



RIPLEY: You can feel energy in the air. This company is the first in Taiwan to submit its COVID-19 vaccine to government health officials for Emergency

Use Authorization. Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, hopes locally made vaccines will be ready for the public by late next month.

Taiwan is battling its most severe outbreak of the pandemic. The government is struggling to get enough foreign vaccines in a region where China often

calls the shots.


Cross-Strait tensions are high. Taipei accuses Beijing of blocking access to foreign vaccines, a claim China denies, that makes the work happening

here crucial.


RIPLEY: This is the room where they package and label box after box of these single-dose syringes. Each box contains a hundred of these. And the

company says they can scale up production and eventually produce 40 to 50 million doses a year.



CHEN: On one hand, I feel exciting that our vaccine is coming. But on the other hand, I also feel very sad, you know, one month earlier. Maybe we are

able to save more people's lives.


RIPLEY: This is Medigen's CEO, Charles Chen's first interview since his company applied for Emergency Use Authorization.


RIPLEY: What would you say to people here in Taiwan who might be reluctant to take a domestically produced vaccine?

CHEN: That once the data and the result is transparent and convincing, I think people are very much then being convinced.


RIPLEY: Chen says that data shows their vaccine is safe. It produces antibodies in 99.8 percent of patients. What they don't know is the

efficacy rate. Taiwan had almost no active cases until just over a month ago.


RIPLEY: How do you develop a vaccine when you don't have active cases?



RIPLEY: Overseas Business Development Director Paul Torkehagen says Medigen finished phase II clinical trials.


TORKEHAGEN: So what we did was we designed a really, really large phase II. Usually, a phase II is about a few hundred people. Our phase II was 3,800

participants. So we wanted a very large amount of safety data.

RIPLEY: since you don't know efficacy, is it too soon to get emergency use and start vaccinating people?

TORKEHAGEN: What's the consequence of not vaccinating and being not protected?

RIPLEY: Will you be getting your vaccine, your company's vaccine --

CHEN: Yes.

RIPLEY: -- it's available?

CHEN: Yes.

RIPLEY: No question?

CHEN: No question.


RIPLEY: But there are questions. How effective is Taiwan's vaccine. Here, it's a matter of life or death. Taiwanese regulators face a real challenge

here because if they're going to approve this vaccine, they need to rely on something called immunobridging where the antibody levels produced by the

Taiwan vaccine are compared to antibody levels produced by an already authorized foreign vaccine, the thought process being that if antibody

levels are about the same, then both vaccines are probably about the same in terms of efficacy.

But the U.S. FDA and many other countries have yet to decide whether this immunobridging is a reliable way to determine if a vaccine is effective.

One thing the regulators do know is that they are up against the clock. Just in the last month, there's been a six-fold increase in the number of

total cases here in Taiwan, and a forty-one-fold increase in the number of deaths. Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

KINKADE: Well, New Zealand is stepping out its COVID-19 vaccination program and Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, hopes to set an example. She received

her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. New Zealand has been largely successful containing the COVID-19 spread, but the government is facing

criticism over its slow vaccination rollout.

Still to come tonight, if you're in London right now, you will have witnessed thousands of Scots descending on the city for their highly

anticipated clash with England at Euro 2020 now just minutes until kickoff.



KINKADE: We're back. A brown bear has been shut dead after going on a rampage through a residential area in Sapporo, Japan. That's according to

local reports. Four people were attacked by the animal including a woman in her 80s and a man who suffered serious injuries. And if you look at the

footage, it shows the bear crossing a busy street before clawing at the gates of military barracks. The bear then caused the temporary closure of

ten local schools and eight flights were canceled. He moves fast.

Well, Danish soccer star Christian Eriksen has been released from the hospital after his dramatic collapse on the field during a match on

Saturday. Officials say he suffered cardiac arrest before being resuscitated. He has now been fitted with an implantable device to monitor

his heart rate. And following is discharged from hospital, Eriksen traveled to visit the national team.

And finally, thousands of Scottish football fans have taken over London is the Euro 2020 match kicks off in just a few minutes at Wembley and it is a

fierce rivalry, but this is the first time the neighbors are facing each other in a major competition in 25 years. The weather isn't too kind today,

but that won't stop the army of Scottish fans making their presence known. Take a look. These fans' unorthodox way of getting up the street.

That does it for us tonight. I'm Lynda Kinkade. A special farewell to Niall McDonald, our esteemed colleague, who is leaving us heading back home to

Ireland to run THE TONIGHT SHOW. All the very best from all of us and stay with us right now on CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is next.