Stories written by Isolda Agazzi
Isolda Agazzi is a journalist with IPS, covering the United Nations, the WTO and international affairs. She lives in Geneva, where she also writes for Swiss and other international media in English, French and Italian.She holds a master’s degree in international relations and for more than 15 years has worked in international cooperation for donor agencies and NGOs, mainly in Switzerland and North Africa. She has taught in several universities, in Italy and elsewhere.

Laos’ Herculean Effort to Join the WTO

After almost a decade of major economic transformation, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is on the brink of World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership.

Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director-general of the WTO, says Africa needs to strengthen domestic markets and integrate into the world market Credit:  World Trade Organisation

Intra-African Trade or Global Integration: A Chicken-and-Egg Dilemma?

Though the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has long held that trade between African countries is too low, experts at the South Centre, an inter-governmental think tank of developing countries, say intra-continental trade is already significant in manufactured goods and promises a new path to industrialisation.

Henry Saragih, the general coordinator of Via Campesina, a movement representing more than 200 million small farmers worldwide. Credit:  Isolda Agazzi/IPS

U.N. Human Rights Council Exhorted to Defend Peasants’ Rights

Decades after peasants’ networks have advocated for a new legal instrument to protect the rights of small farmers to land, seeds, traditional agricultural knowledge and freedom to determine the prices of their production, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) may decide to start drafting a declaration on peasants’ rights next week.

Simple Steps to Improving Aid Effectiveness

As donors struggle to meet their aid commitments, and the number of people around the world in need of direct humanitarian and development assistance skyrockets, many experts and activists are asking the tough question: are donors being effective?

EU-India Deal Could Spell Disaster

As the Eighth Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) kicked off in Geneva this week, a group of NGOs exposed the devastating potential of a free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and India. If passed, they say the deal would make a mockery of all WTO rules and regulations.

INDIA: Landless Plan a Long March

The Gandhian movement Ekta Parishad plans to organise a march for land rights in October 2012 in India, aiming to gather around 100,000 indigenous people, dalits and poor peasants. Support is shaping up around the world, at events such as an international mobilisation conference in Geneva Sep. 12-13.

Ambassador Hisham Badr: "You cannot deprive very vulnerable countries of sustenance."  Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

Ban Proposed on Export Restrictions that Undermine Food Security

Egypt has initiated a proposal in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ban export restrictions on farm products to poor countries that are net food importers. The Group of 20 has also exhorted the upcoming WTO ministerial conference to adopt a specific resolution on export restrictions.

From left to right: Ghassan Slaiby, Nassira Ghozlane and Belgacem Afaya.  Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

Nascent Independent Unions Play Key Role in Arab Uprisings

In the Arab world, most trade unions are affiliated to governments, but independent labour organisations are starting to emerge.

TWN's Sanya Reid Smith: The Istanbul LDC conference sent out a message that LDCs should not be pressured or advised to liberalise imports.  Credit:

TRADE: Istanbul Conference “a Setback” for Poor Countries

Some of the decisions taken on trade in the Istanbul Plan of Action are likely to disadvantage poor countries while others are so vague as to be meaningless, says Abdoulaye Sanoko, counsellor at the mission of Mali to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva.

Yael Vellemann, senior health policy analyst at WaterAid, at WHA.  Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

HEALTH: Water, Sanitation Could Erase Cholera and Guinea Worm

The World Health Assembly could adopt landmark resolutions asking governments to improve water and sanitation to eradicate cholera and guinea worm, the latter of which exists in just four countries in Africa. While safe drinking water and toilets are the most cost-effective public health measures, they have not been a priority for most developing countries.

It is predicted that, by 2020, up to 250 million people in Africa will experience increased water stress and many will be driven to cities. Credit: Christian Aid

Pension Fund Investors May be to Blame for Escalating Food Prices

Long-term investors like pension funds are probably the reason why the prices of commodities, including crops, have been driven to a higher level than in 2008 when food riots erupted in 30 countries, according to the British nongovernmental organisation Christian Aid.

UNCTAD's James Zhan: Emergent powers such as China and Brazil provide LDCs with more opportunities to attract investment. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

AFRICA: Investment Growth Benefiting Only Some Poor States

While foreign direct investment in least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa has risen sharply over the past decade, most of it went to resource-rich economies and had little impact on employment creation.

Syrian ambassador Faysal Khabbas Hamoui.  Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

Human Rights Council Issues First-Ever UN Condemnation of Syria

The special session on Syria held by the United Nations Human Rights Council Friday agreed on neither an international mission of enquiry, as originally foreseen, nor a lower level fact-finding mission - only a mission by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

POPs in recycled and new products. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

Pollutants Banned, But With Exceptions

The fifth conference of the 173 parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Apr. 25-29, could bring to 22 the total number of internationally agreed forbidden pollutants. Alternatives to DDT - one of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) used in the fight against malaria - are gaining popularity, but its complete ban is not on the agenda.

Mali's Abdoulaye Sanoko: "We don't want to conclude the Doha Round at any cost." Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

TRADE: “A Doha Round Collapse Is a Betrayal of Poor Countries”

"It would be bad news for poor countries in Africa if the Doha Round of trade talks fails. This round was meant to rebalance the rules of world trade in favour of developing countries. We have put a lot of resources and hopes into this process and a collapse would be a big betrayal for us."

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