Inter Press ServiceInequity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 23 Nov 2017 17:35:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Who Are Kenya’s Financially Excluded?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/kenyas-financially-excluded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-financially-excluded http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/kenyas-financially-excluded/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:17:23 +0000 William Cook http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153103 William Cook, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), World Bank

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Credit: Francis Minien, 2013 CGAP Photo Contest

By William Cook
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

The recent 2017 Finscope Tanzania report shows that while mobile money use in Tanzania continues to grow, the percentage of financially excluded adults has risen in parallel — from 27 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2017.

After a decade of significant declines in financial exclusion, these new numbers raise the question of whether the strongest mobile money markets, such as those in East Africa, might be reaching a plateau in financial access.

Perhaps the best bellwether is Kenya, where over 70 percent of adults have mobile money accounts. With a majority of people connected to mobile money, Kenya’s financial services and development organizations have increasingly refocused their efforts away from financial access and toward improving account use.

This move is perhaps not without good reason. As more people gain access to mobile money, the question of how it can be used to improve the lives of the poor becomes more critical.

The development of products like digital investment, credit and savings are essential for moving low-income customers from basic transaction accounts to services that meet financial inclusion’s broader promise of lifting people out of poverty.

But what about those people who are still outside the bounds of financial services today?

Based on the 2016 FinAccess survey, 17 percent of Kenyan adults remain fully excluded — meaning they do not have a bank account, use another formal product like mobile money, or even use an informal mechanism like a savings collective.

In a country where over 90 percent of the financially excluded population is aware of mobile money, where 67 percent live within walking distance of an access point, and where trust, financial literacy and comfort with technology do not rate as barriers to obtaining an account, why do these people remain outside the financial system?

FinAccess data provide some basic demographic answers to this question. Compared to the included population, Kenya’s financially excluded are more likely to be:

• Rural (80 percent)
• Older (38 percent are over the age of 45)
• Female (55 percent)
• Poor (42 percent are in the lowest wealth quintile)
• Informally employed or dependent (81 percent)
• Lacking formal education (37 percent have no formal education at all)
• Living in a female-headed household (twice as likely as financially included people)

Already with these data points, a picture begins to form of a population segment that may not have enough money to make financial services worthwhile. Other parts of the survey bolster this hypothesis.

Ninety-four percent of financially excluded FinAccess survey respondents cite lack of funds as a primary reason for not having an account, and 67 percent say they live easily without formal services. A Kenyan in the bottom wealth quintile is seven times more likely to be excluded than a top earner. Ultimately, wealth is a better predictor of financial exclusion than location, gender, marital status or age.

And yet there is one characteristic that easily beats out wealth: education.

A Kenyan with no formal education is 26 times more likely to be financially excluded than someone at the top of the education ladder. Education in this sense does not refer to technological know-how or financial training, but formal primary, secondary and university education.

It may seem surprising that education would weigh more heavily than any other factor in determining the use of financial services, but perhaps it should not. Education often defines livelihood, livelihood defines wealth and wealth, in many cases, defines the need for today’s digital financial services.

These findings imply that expanding access to the last remaining excluded users in countries like Kenya and Tanzania will not be as easy as erecting more cell towers or designing a smoother user experience.

Today’s exclusion might not be easily fixed by companies scaling their current financial products in response to customer demand. As best as we can tell, if you aren’t using mobile money in Kenya today, there is a good chance it is because you have little money to manage and believe the product does not dramatically improve your life.

So when it comes to expanding financial access, what can the financial inclusion community do right now alongside long-term efforts to improve access to quality education and boost incomes? The excluded population represents millions of people in these markets, and it is difficult to generalize about their financial needs. But given the insights above, a few more nuanced questions can be asked to better focus our efforts:

• Are there excluded people near a tipping point, who need only slightly better incentives to start using today’s financial services? How can we make today’s products more attractive for them? CGAP research on topics like merchant payments is attempting to answer this question.

• What portion of the excluded population might be covered by government-to-person (G2P) programs, and will these programs provide access to comprehensive financial services? G2P programs may offer a way to connect people who do not have the means to make more traditional services worthwhile to the financial system. However, the channels governments use to deliver many of today’s support payments are viewed by recipients as cash disbursement mechanisms more than financial products. Graduating the products offered through these channels to more comprehensive financial services solutions should also be a part of the conversation.

• For people who neither receive government payments nor have the resources to make today’s financial services worthwhile, what services are necessary to make financial inclusion more appealing? This is the group that David Ferrand of FSD Kenya refers to as the “missing middle” for financial access. How can markets innovate to not just bring existing products closer to the excluded, but adapt those products to make them more relevant for the excluded?

Mobile money has provided an essential on-ramp to financial services for portions of the developing world, especially those in East Africa. We must continue building on these platforms to help lift people out of poverty.

But as we do this, it is important to realize that today’s products will not work for everyone. Achieving financial inclusion in the years ahead will require not only applying and building on existing products, but also continuing to innovate to better meet the needs of the excluded.

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Beyond Piketty: on income inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/beyond-piketty-income-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-piketty-income-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/beyond-piketty-income-inequality/#comments Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:58:28 +0000 Varsha Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153092 Varsha S. Kulkarni is Research Affiliate of the Harvard Institute of Quantitative Social Science, Cambridge, MA, U.S. and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, England.

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Varsha S. Kulkarni is Research Affiliate of the Harvard Institute of Quantitative Social Science, Cambridge, MA, U.S. and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, England.

By Varsha S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
New Delhi, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

Have demonetisation and the GST aggravated income inequality?

With the Gujarat State elections barely a few weeks away, the debate on the Indian economy has become increasingly polarised. While the official view of demonetisation unleashed in November 2016 elevates it to a moral and ethical imperative, the chaos caused by the goods and services tax (GST) launched on July 1, 2017, is dismissed as a short-run transitional hiccup. Both policies, it is asserted, are guaranteed to yield long-term benefits, unmindful of large-scale hardships, loss of livelihoods, closure of small and medium enterprises and slowdown of agriculture. Critics of course reject these claims lock, stock and barrel. Lack of robust evidence is as much a problem for the official proponents of these policies as it is for the critics. Hence the debate continues unabated with frequent hostile overtones.

Varsha S. Kulkarni

Tracking income inequality

Beneath the debate are deep questions of inequality and its association with poverty. Thomas Piketty produced a monumental treatise, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, demonstrating that rising income inequality is a by-product of growth in the developed world. More recently, Lucas Chancel and Piketty (2017), in ‘Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?’, offer a rich and unique description of evolution of income inequality in terms of income shares and incomes in the bottom 50%, the middle 40% and top 10% (as well as top 1%, 0.1%, and 0.001%), combining household survey data, tax returns and other specialised surveys.

Some of the principal findings are: one, the share of national income accruing to the top 1% income earners is now at its highest level since the launch of the Indian Income Tax Act in 1922. The top 1% of earners captured less than 21% of total income in the late 1930s, before dropping to 6% in the early 1980s and rising to 22% today. Two, over the 1951-1980 period, the bottom 50% captured 28% of total growth and incomes of this group grew faster than the average, while the top 0.1% incomes decreased. Three, over the 1980-2014 period, the situation was reversed; the top 0.1% of earners captured a higher share of total growth than the bottom 50% (12% v. 11%), while the top 1% received a higher share of total growth than the middle 40% (29% v. 23%).

Raghav Gaiha

True to its modest objective, it offers a rich and insightful description of how income distribution, especially in the upper tail, and inequality have evolved.

Sharp reduction in the top marginal tax rate, and transition to a more pro-business environment had a positive impact on top incomes, in line with rent-seeking behaviour.

India’s wealth gain

According to Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2017, the number of millionaires in India is expected to reach 3,72,000 while the total household income is likely to grow by 7.5% annually to touch $7.1 trillion by 2022. Since 2000, wealth in India has grown at 9.2% per annum, faster than the global average of 6% even after taking into account population growth of 2.2% annually. However, not everyone has shared the rapid growth of wealth.

Our research, based on the India Human Development Survey 2005-12, focusses on a detailed disaggregation of income inequality, along the lines of Chancel and Piketty, recognising that incomes in the upper tail are under-reported; and examines the links between poverty and income inequality, especially in the upper tail, state affluence, and prices of cereals.

Our analysis points to a rise in income inequality. A high Gini coefficient of per capita income distribution, a widely used measure of income inequality, in 2005 became higher in 2012. The share of the bottom 50% fell while those of the top 5% and top 1% rose. The gap between the share of the top 1% and the bottom 50% narrowed considerably.

More glaring is the disparity in ratios of per capita income of the top 1% and bottom 50%. The ratio shot up from 27 in 2005 to 39 in 2012. Far more glaring is the disparity in the highest incomes in these percentiles. The ratio of highest income in the top 1% to that of the bottom 50% nearly doubled, from a high of 175 to 346.

All poverty indices including the head-count ratio fell but slightly.

Poverty and inequality

Higher incomes reduced poverty substantially. Inequality measured in terms of share of income of the top 10% increased poverty sharply but only in the more affluent States. Somewhat surprisingly, higher cereal prices did not have a significant positive effect on poverty. Similar results are obtained if the share of the top 10% is replaced with the Gini coefficient as a measure of inequality.

It is plausible that poverty reduction slowed in 2016-17 because of deceleration of income growth; and huge shocks of demonetisation and the GST to the informal sector have aggravated income inequality. Indeed, depending on the magnitudes of these shocks, poverty could have risen during this period.

In sum, regardless of the longer-term outlook and presumed but dubious benefits of the policy shocks, the immiseration of large segments of the Indian population was avoidable.

This opinion editorial was first published in The Hindu

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Rejoicing in the Other and Celebrating Diversity Are Needed More than Ever to Address the Root-Causes of Intolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:39:19 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153069 The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world. In his statement issued in relation to […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In his statement issued in relation to the observation of the 2017 International Day for Tolerance, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman remarked that people in conflict zones or in areas affected by climate change are left with no other option than to flee their home societies owing to the rise of violent extremism and the adverse impact of armed conflict. Dr. Al Qassim said:

“Meanwhile, populist movements and right-wing parties seek to legitimize their political ideologies through hate rhetoric, bigotry and stereotyping of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

“Exclusion and marginalization of displaced people – as witnessed in several countries – exacerbate xenophobia, bigotry and racism. Differences related to cultures and to religions are presented as obstacles and as being damaging to modern societies. This explains the rise of social exclusion which leaves the impression that cultural diversity is a threat, and not a source of richness,” stated the Chairman of the Geneva Centre.

Dr. Al Qassim called upon societies both in the Arab region and in the West to stand united in addressing simultaneously the rise of violent extremism and of populism. He also appealed to global decision-makers to step up their efforts to create a climate that is conducive to respecting the dignity of all communities and to the achievement of peace and stability in regions affected by conflict and violence.

“Changing people’s narratives and managing diversity is key to facilitating a successful integration process of displaced people in host societies and to overcome the worrying trend of a toxic discourse against the ‘Other’ that is gaining ground in many societies around the world.

“We need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about one another and to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that have insulated societies,”
highlighted Dr. Al. Qassim.

Against this background, he added the Geneva Centre is in the process of arranging a World Conference entitled “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.” This event – Dr. Al Qassim noted – will be convened at the United Nations Office in Geneva in June 2018 and will bring together leaders from the world’s main religions whether spiritual or lay.

“The ambition of this conference is to chart a more inclusive understanding and forward-looking discussion in addressing religious intolerance and in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights. This will obviate the need for diverse segments of a native population to fall back on sub-identities heretofore referred to as ‘minorities’.

“The World Conference will become an opportunity to harness the collective energy of religious and lay leaders to capitalize on the convergence between religious faiths, beliefs and value systems to respond with a unified voice to the sweeping rise of intolerance affecting the world.

“In moments where the fear of the stranger has become the norm in many societies, rejoicing in the Other and celebrating diversity are needed more than ever to address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Emerging Markets at Risk Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/emerging-markets-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=emerging-markets-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/emerging-markets-risk/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 06:59:41 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152932 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Very rarely are the root causes of economic crises and vulnerability addressed. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

Emerging market governments often draw lessons from previous financial crises – or at least claim to do so – to prevent their recurrence. However, such preventive measures are typically designed to address the causes of the last crisis, not the next one. Hence, some measures adopted may inadvertently become new sources of instability and crisis.

Very rarely are the root causes of crises and vulnerability addressed. In their efforts to prove themselves as worthy emerging markets, they tend to be pro-active in joining the financial globalization bandwagon. But premature financial liberalization – with hasty integration into the international financial system, typically without adequate prudential multilateral mechanisms for speedy and orderly resolution of external liquidity and debt crises – can be very dangerous and costly.

Future currency crises different
Many governments claim to have learnt from the 1997-1998 Asian financial crises and the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. But while measures implemented may be effective in preventing recurrence, they may be inappropriate, inadequate or worse, even counterproductive with changing, deepening financial integration.

After mid-1997, Southeast Asian governments abandoned their informal currency pegs after incurring high costs trying to defend them. Moving to flexible exchange rates ended ‘one-way (sure-win) bets’ for some speculators, while entailing disruptive currency devaluations.

Since the crises, banking regulation and supervision have undoubtedly improved, e.g., reducing currency and maturity mismatches in bank balance sheets. However, in this day and age, stable exchange rates can no longer be ensured with unregulated capital mobility.

In fact, currency crises can occur with either fixed or flexible exchange rates. With flexible rates, inflows cause currency appreciations, encouraging even more inflows, which will inevitably be reversed, often quite abruptly.

Capital inflows into securities markets are far more important today than banks intermediating cross-border capital flows in the 1990s. Corporate bond issues have also grown much faster than international bank lending, whether directly or through local intermediaries. Yet, such measures have not prevented credit and asset price bubbles.

Emerging markets have further liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) regimes and encouraged foreign participation in equity markets, presuming that equity liabilities are less risky than external debt. Hence, foreign shares of market capitalization have reached unprecedented levels, much higher than in the US. With emerging markets more susceptible, a little foreign investment can ‘make (emerging) markets’, causing large price swings.

Currency mismatches
East Asian authorities have also reduced currency mismatches in their own balance sheets and exchange rate risk exposure by opening domestic bond markets to foreigners and borrowing in their own currencies. Consequently, sovereign debt is now much more exposed to foreign creditors than in reserve currency countries.

Much higher shares of most emerging market sovereign bonds are held by foreigners, usually privately, rather than by central banks. In contrast, most of Japan’s very high sovereign debt is held by Japanese creditors while around a third of US Treasury bonds are held by non-residents.

Encouraging foreign participation in sovereign bond markets has helped pass currency risk to creditors, but also reduced autonomy over long-term rates and increased exposure to interest rate shocks from abroad, e.g., when the US Fed raises interest rates again.

Greater capital account liberalization besides encouraging domestic corporations to borrow from and invest abroad have resulted in massive debt accumulation in low interest rate reserve currencies, especially with recent ‘unconventional’ monetary policies. Thus, reducing sovereign debt currency mismatches has been offset by increased private corporate fragility due to greater exchange rate risks.

Regulatory constraints on resident individuals and institutional investors purchasing foreign securities and real estate have also been relaxed. Capital account liberalization has enabled resident capital outflows claiming these will ‘balance’ foreign inflows. But such private accumulation of foreign assets will not be available to national authorities in case of panicky capital flight.

Hence, national currencies are especially vulnerable when the capital account is open and foreign control of domestic financial assets is significant. As experience has shown, macro-financial volatility may suddenly precipitate massive outflows.

Self-insurance delusion
Since the turn of the century, emerging markets have been seeking ‘self-insurance’ in managing external balances by accumulating ‘adequate’ international reserves from trade surpluses and capital inflows. Hence, foreign reserves in most East Asian countries are often enough to meet conventional external liabilities, but not enough to cope with massive reversals of foreign portfolio investments and capital flight by residents.

Despite the crises of the last two decades, emerging markets’ capital accounts are much freer now than then. Asset markets and currencies of all East Asian emerging markets with ‘enough’ foreign reserves have nevertheless been shaken several times in the past decade.

But such short-lived instability episodes did not cause severe damage as they only involved temporary shifts in market sentiments. Nevertheless, they hint at likely threats when ‘quantitative easing’ in the North could be reversed soon.

As ‘self-insurance’ is probably insufficient to cope with massive capital flight, the usual option is to ‘seek help’ from the IMF and reserve-currency countries. Another involves ‘bailing in’ international creditors and investors using foreign exchange controls, temporary ‘debt standstills’ and other measures to protect jobs and the economy.

But such unilateral measures may be difficult and costly due to resistance from creditor country governments, acting at the behest of the powerful financial interests involved.

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Mounting Illicit Financial Outflows from Southhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mounting-illicit-financial-outflows-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mounting-illicit-financial-outflows-south http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mounting-illicit-financial-outflows-south/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:25:02 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Zera Zuryana Idris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152831 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Zera Zuryana Idris are Malaysian economic researchers.

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The latest Global Financial Integrity report shows that illicit financial outflows from developing countries continue to grow rapidly. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Zera Zuryana Idris
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Although quite selective, targeted, edited and carefully managed, last year’s Panama Papers highlighted some problems associated with illicit financial flows, such as tax evasion and avoidance. The latest Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report shows that illicit financial outflows (IFFs) from developing countries, already at alarming levels, continue to grow rapidly.

Illicit financial flows growing rapidly
With international financial liberalization enabling investments abroad, ‘legitimate outflows’ have also been growing rapidly, heightening macro-financial risks to countries. Many of today’s financial centres compete intensely to attract customers by offering lower tax rates and banking secrecy.

It is generally presumed that IFFs are related to tax evasion and corruption. Such financial flows largely involve financial service providers, law offices and companies with transnational activities, often involving investments in real estate and other assets worth billions. Besides enabling governments and legislation, legal and accounting firms as well as shell companies have been crucial.

The GFI report estimates that developing countries lost somewhere between $620 billion (bn) and $970 bn in illicit outflows in 2014. The Washington-based think tank found IFFs from the South to be 4.2-6.6% of total developing country trade for 2014, while inflows were 9.5-17.4%. Total IFFs of all developing countries in 2014 were estimated at $2,010-3,507 bn.

Illicit financial flows of all developing countries, 2004-2013

During 2005-2014, IFFs from the South were 4.6-7.2% of developing countries’ total trade, while such inflows were 9.5-16.8%. GFI attributes about 3.3% of IFFs over this period to fraudulent trade mis-invoicing or ‘transfer pricing’.

China, Russia, Mexico, India and Malaysia lead all countries in illicit capital flight. Since 2012, emerging and developing countries have lost over a trillion dollars yearly that could invested productively in industry, agriculture, healthcare, education, or infrastructure.

Methodological doubts

GFI estimates have been criticized, e.g., for making unrealistic assumptions about trade-related transport costs and ignoring other explanations for ‘errors’. For instance, estimated GFI outflows include IFFs and trade mis-invoicing estimated from inconsistencies in trade data.

For GFI, ‘leakages’ (errors and omissions) in the balance of payments (BoP) are a type of IFFs. It assumes that all unreported leakages in inflows and outflows of a country are illicit. While long associated with capital flight, such BoP leakages may include legitimate reporting errors, as the report recognizes. But as such leakages only account for a small fraction of total IFFs estimated by GFI, they are not likely to appreciably affect overall estimates.

Criminal activities
IFFs in developing countries may also be due to transnational criminal activities, which GFI estimates globally for 2014 as follows: counterfeiting ($923-1,130 bn), drug trafficking ($426-652 bn), illegal logging, ($52-157 bn), human trafficking ($150.2 bn), illegal mining ($12-48 bn), illegal fishing ($15.5-36.4 bn), illegal wildlife trade ($5-23 bn), crude oil theft ($5.2-11.9 bn), small arms and light weapons trafficking ($1.7-3.5 bn), organ trafficking ($840m-1.7 bn), trafficking in cultural property ($1.2-1.6 bn), totalling $1.6-2.2 trillion.

‘Legitimate outflows’ have also increased rapidly in recent years. Besides the decades-old promotion of tax exemption for ‘free trade’ or export-processing zones, some emerging market economies have recently promoted and enabled outward foreign direct and portfolio investments.

Such capital outflows are said to balance portfolio investment inflows increasing foreign ownership of emerging market economies’ corporate sectors. But such ‘balancing’ provides no protection in the event of financial panic and a rush to exit. The push for ever greater financial liberalization thus exposes them to greater fragility and vulnerability.

Participating in such a ‘race to the bottom’ by offering tax loopholes typically involves making ever more concessions to the rich and powerful. Rich countries have been quite selective in administering anti-bribery rules, and rarely take effective action, e.g., to prevent anonymous companies being abused, as highlighted by last year’s Panama Papers revelations.

International cooperation needed
The nature and scale of illicit flows mean that international cooperation is urgently needed. While progress has been slow at the United Nations, the cooperation of the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral institutions will be vital for progress. If not, rich countries will continue to ‘call the shots’ through the OECD ‘rich country club’, which has been dominant on international tax matters.

Peak national authorities should work closely with different bodies like the central bank, tax revenue authorities, customs authorities and police to enhance tax collection, increase government transparency, improve natural resource control by government, and enable public scrutiny of revenues and other public accounts.

Such efforts will require more evidence and modes of investigation, as well as the cooperation of all relevant parties. Ultimately, political will, especially to take on powerful vested interests, will make the difference.

Further international financial integration after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crises and the 2007-2009 global financial crisis has resulted not only in fast growing financial outflows from the South, but also in greater vulnerability to new sources of volatility and instability.

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Why 1997 Asian Crisis Lessons Losthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/1997-asian-crisis-lessons-lost-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1997-asian-crisis-lessons-lost-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/1997-asian-crisis-lessons-lost-2/#comments Tue, 24 Oct 2017 17:10:28 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152689 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The initial response to the East-Asian crises was to blame poor macroeconomic and fiscal policies. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

Various different, and sometimes contradictory lessons have been drawn from the 1997-1998 East Asian crises. Rapid or V-shaped recoveries and renewed growth in most developing countries in the new century also served to postpone the urgency of far-reaching reforms. The crises’ complex ideological, political and policy implications have also made it difficult to draw lessons from the crises.

Conventional wisdom
The conventional wisdom was to blame the crisis on bad economic policies pursued by the governments concerned. Of course, the vested interests favouring the international financial status quo or further liberalization also impede implementing needed reforms. Such interests continue to be supported by the media.

Citing currency crisis theory, the initial response to the crises was to blame poor macroeconomic, especially fiscal policies, although most East Asian economies had been maintaining budgetary surpluses for some years. Nevertheless, the IMF and others, including the international business media, urged spending cuts and other pro-cyclical policies (e.g., raising interest rates) which worsened the downturns.

Such policies were adopted in much of the region from late 1997, precipitating sharper economic collapses. By the second quarter of 1998, however, it was increasingly recognized that these policies had worsened, rather than reversed the economic deterioration, transforming currency and financial crises into crises of the real economy.

By early 1998, however, as macroeconomic orthodoxy lost credibility, the blame shifted to political economy, condemning ‘cronyism’ as the cause. US Federal Reserve Bank chair Alan Greenspan, US Treasury Deputy Secretary Lawrence Summers and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus formed a chorus criticizing Asian corporate governance in quick sequence over a month from late January.

The dubious conventional explanations of the Asian crises were not shared by more independently minded mainstream economists with less ideological prejudices. The World Bank’s chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and other prominent Western economists such as Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs supported Keynesian counter-cyclical policies.

Regional contagion and response
The transformation of the region’s financial systems from the late 1980s had made their economies much more vulnerable and fragile. Rapid economic growth and financial liberalization attracted massive, but easily reversible, footloose capital inflows.

New regulations encouraged short-term lending, typically ‘rolled over’ in good times. Much of these came from Japanese and continental European banks as UK and US banks continued to recover from the 1980s’ sovereign debt crises. But these gradual inflows suddenly became massive outflows when the crisis began.

Significant inflows were also attracted by stock market and other asset price bubbles. The herd behaviour characteristic of capital markets exacerbated pro-cyclical market behaviour, heightening panic during downturns. Fickle market behaviour also exacerbated contagion, worsening regional neighbourhood effects.

Japan’s offer of US$100 billion to manage the crisis in the third quarter of 1997 was quickly stymied by the US and the IMF. Instead, a more modest amount was made available under the Miyazawa Plan to finance more modest facilities, institutions and instruments.

Much later, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the region’s finance ministers approved a series of bilateral credit lines or swap facilities, conditional on IMF approval. Many years later, the finance ministers of Japan, China and South Korea ensured that these arrangements were regionalized, and no longer simply the aggregation of bilateral commitments, while increasing the size of the credit facility.

New International Financial Architecture
A year after the crisis began in July 1997, US President Clinton called for a new international financial architecture. The apparent spread of the Asian crisis to Brazil and Russia underscored that contagion could be more than regional.

The collapse of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) following the Russian crisis led the US Federal Reserve to intervene in the market to coordinate a private sector bailout. This legitimized government interventions to ensure functioning financial systems and sufficient liquidity to finance economic recovery.

After the US Fed lowered interest rates, capital flowed to East Asia once again. The Malaysian government’s establishment of bailout institutions and mechanisms in mid-1998 and its capital controls on outflows from September 1998 also warned that other countries might go their own way.

Ironically, the economic recoveries in the region from late 1998 weakened the resolve to reform the international financial system. Talk of a new international financial architecture began to fade as recovery was presented as proof of international financial system resilience.

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An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

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A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

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Searching for a Doctor at 3,000 Metres Highhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/searching-doctor-3000-metres-high/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=searching-doctor-3000-metres-high http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/searching-doctor-3000-metres-high/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 12:15:17 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152379 Good healthcare can be hard to get – particularly when one lives on top of a mountain. The road to Porcón in the Cajamarca region of Peru, therefore, is as breathtaking as it is sobering. With every step further into its isolated natural beauty, a group of volunteers sent to deliver healthcare essentials are reminded […]

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Celestina of Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes, whose family has lived on the same plot of land for generations. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

Celestina of Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes, whose family has lived on the same plot of land for generations. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

By Andrea Vale
PORCÓN, Peru, Oct 6 2017 (IPS)

Good healthcare can be hard to get – particularly when one lives on top of a mountain. The road to Porcón in the Cajamarca region of Peru, therefore, is as breathtaking as it is sobering. With every step further into its isolated natural beauty, a group of volunteers sent to deliver healthcare essentials are reminded how long the trek would be in an emergency.

After a bus has taken the volunteers as far as it can, to the rim of a sweeping valley dipping into the basin of a ring of mountains, they start their hike.“We have a lot of fear,” Celestina says. “The doctors are always telling us that they’re going to help us and heal us, but we can’t always get to them and they’re not able to get to us."

It’s not very long mile-wise, but they stumble over unforgiving drops in a rocky wind that leads them through tilted pastures resting on the sides of the mountains. The looming brown stillness is disrupted by their panting, at a loss of breath from the gasping altitude.

At the end lies a community of artisans who live in close proximity to one another in Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes.

They’ve been waiting. Once the volunteers arrive, several women filter out into the pasture where they’ve set up shop and sit cross-legged around them, all accompanied by toddlers clutching at their long skirts and babies peeking out of the tops of the shawls slung over their backs to carry infants, or vegetables.

They have a flood of questions ready, about basic nutrition, exercise, disease prevention. They have a waiting list of ailments to look at – my child has this rash. My child can’t say his R’s. It hurts when I stand up from bed.

Immediately put to work, volunteers begin taking their blood pressure, weighing them, measuring their heart rates and their blood glucose levels. Under the shadow cast by one woman’s tall brimmed hat her skin is wrinkled in layers, leathery and toughened from years of work in the sun. She looks anywhere between 40 and 60, balancing a squirming toddler in her lap while she squints at the volunteer helping her with rapt attention and concern. But a glance at her chart reveals that she is only 22.

One woman sits in the center of the others, shucking corn with a baby tied to her back. Her eyes crinkle with smile lines and her elements-exposed skin is a mosaic of black freckles and brown creases. Her name is Celestina.

Porcón is home to her in a deep sense – her family has lived on this exact plot of land for generations.

“The house over there was taken down, but that’s where my grandmother and her mother lived,” she says in Spanish, gesturing out towards a rolling plot of land.

As to what life has been like, living high up here: “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes I get worried. My daughter is sick right now, so I’m sad right now,” Celestina says, touching her daughter’s face as the baby girl plays in her lap. Baby Analee, she says, was bit by an insect just this morning. Analee’s cheek is already massively swollen with a red welt.

Fearing for her daughter is a constant reality of existence for Celestina.

“When I’m sleeping I can forget, but otherwise there’s always that worry for my child,” she says. “She needs to go to school, she needs to work, and I’m always worried about her, to know that she’ll be okay.”

Despite how long her family has lived on this land, Celestina says without a hint of hesitation that she wishes Analee could grow up in an urban area, perhaps the city Cajamarca below.

“Of course I want to live out in the city, but we don’t have land. Where would we build a house? Here, being out in the country, we just cook, we clean, we try to bathe, and we wait. All we can do is wait for the proper transportation to get to Cajamarca to try to get the proper attention if someone is sick.”

She says that there are no home remedies that she or anyone in the community uses to try to treat illness. Their best defense is simply the best level of hygiene they can achieve, and oftentimes it isn’t enough.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, only 19.1% of the urban population in Peru make up the country’s total poverty – as compared to 54.2% of rural peoples. In regards to extreme poverty, the contrast is even starker – 2.5% of the urban population, and 23.3% of the rural.

Celestina is 38 years old. She has the health of a 60-year-old. Plagued with health struggles since childhood, she currently suffers from chronic eyesight and stomach trouble.

But she brushes this acknowledgement off and automatically returns her attention to her baby.

“My daughter is sick and I am worried,” she says. “Always, I am scared for her.”

Celestina may worry about emergency illness striking, but what her and the other community members don’t realize is that the real threat of living in such isolation is not one-time tragedies, but rather chronic health problems. Of the children screened in Porcón, one-fourth were underweight and one-fourth were either at risk of being overweight or actually overweight. Of the adults screened, 33% were obese and 42% were overweight.

Most of the people examined during the health screenings, both in Porcón and across Cajamarca, had hypertension and were overweight. An inordinate number had diabetes and were completely unaware of it, ignorant to what caused the disease. One woman’s blood glucose level was close to 230 – the volunteer who tested her was so shocked that she tested the level twice more, sure that that initial reading couldn’t be possible.

Uneducated on signs of cancer and prevention techniques, many have had parents and grandparents pass away from the disease and simply chalked it up to having ‘just died,’ without a known cause.

According to the World Health Organization, the current national Human Resources for Health Density in Peru – meaning doctors, nurses and midwives – is 17.8 per 10,000 population. That distribution, however, is extremely inequitable, with rural areas usually having an HRH density of below ten. Lima, for instance, has three times more physicians per population – 15.4 – than Huancavelica, one of the poorest cities in Peru and populated in majority by indigenous peoples. 89.1% of births in urban regions are assisted by a professional – while only 42.9% of births in rural areas are.

Consequently, it’s perhaps not surprising that child mortality rates in Peruvian rural areas are almost twice that of urban areas – 40% to 26%.  According to the Pan American Health Organization, 35.3% of adults in rural areas of Peru are overweight, and 16.5% are obese. Only 40% of them perform any “moderate physical activity” – all of the health screenings concluded with group exercise classes.

Without doctors nearby, without easy and reliable transportation to get to the closest doctors, and without health education, Celestina has to live in constant fear. There is fear for her neighbors and for herself – but above all, fear for her baby. There is fear that disease will strike, that accidents will happen, that unexplained illness will come. Because when it does, Celestina and the rest of the community are left alone on top of the Andes with only their best abilities as a defense – uneducated, unequipped and without adequate and reliable transportation.

“We have a lot of fear,” Celestina says, “The doctors are always telling us that they’re going to help us and heal us, but we can’t always get to them and they’re not able to get to us. They’re always promising that they’re going to help us, but it never happens because they’re so far.”

For now, all that Celestina and the rest of Porcón can do is wait.

“The only thing we can do is wait until we can go to the doctor,” she says, “To go to the doctor and then wait again. Sometimes there’s nobody.”

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Thousands Rally to Mark Second Anniversary of UN´s SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/thousands-rally-mark-second-anniversary-uns-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-rally-mark-second-anniversary-uns-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/thousands-rally-mark-second-anniversary-uns-sdgs/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 09:34:01 +0000 Tanja Gohlert http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152257 Tanja Gohlert is Member, European Secretariat of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty

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Tanja Gohlert is Member, European Secretariat of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty

By Tanja Gohlert
BRUSSELS, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Two years ago on 25 September 2015, 193 governments agreed to an action plan to end poverty, protect the planet and foster international peace by adopting the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To mark the anniversary, thousands of people participated in over 850 events across 110 countries to raise awareness for the goals and to hold governments accountable for their slow rollout of national implementation programs.

Thousands Rally to Mark Second Anniversary of UN´s SDGs

Map: Over 850 events across 110+ countries, led by Global Call for Action against Poverty, Action for Sustainable Development, the UN´s SDG Action Campaign and in conjunction with CIVICUS´SPEAK! Campaign.

“The goals will only be implemented if people demand action by their governments” said Beckie Malay from the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), who organised an event with university students in Manila, Philippines

Community events were held all shapes and sizes, with marches, panel discussions, art performances, lesson plans and an #Act4SDGs social media conversation that reached over 80 million people. Central to these actions, was the recognition that the most marginalised groups of people require priority access to the resources and programs being mobilised by the goals.

“Today we should be celebrating, but the situation is worrying. Social injustices are increasing and people are going hungry again” commented Salina Sanou of Action for Sustainable Development in Kenya. Last week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced that despite a steady decline in recent years, 815 million people suffered from hunger in 2016 – 38 million more than 2015. This is unacceptable in these times of over-production and over-consumption in rich countries, says Sanou. “It is time to break the cycle of inequality in all our systems.”

Standing in front of a large pink elephant in front of the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, Ingo Ritz, coordinator of the Global Day of Action, pointed out that the European Commission was very supportive when the Agenda 2030 was negotiated. “However, now the EU leadership is not seriously interested and the SDGs have become the elephant in the room. They cannot afford to ignore them – making Europe sustainable for all will be key for the legitimacy of the EU.”

Thousands Rally to Mark Second Anniversary of UN´s SDGs

The elephant in the room for governments: The Sustainable Development Goals

46 events were organised in India alone. Young people, women, Dalits, urban poor and religious minorities, gathered at various landmarks with banners and placards highlighting which SDGs would have an impact on their lives. The goals have not reached these communities, the main concerns continue to be basic – education, housing issues, health issues, as well as water and sanitation, noted Manshi Singh of the national network Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA).

Thousands Rally to Mark Second Anniversary of UN´s SDGs

Wadanatodo organised a public mobilisation event outside the red fort in Delhi

In Buenos Aires, banners highlighting the SDGs were hung on main streets in all 15 communes of the city and murga dancers and jugglers shared information on the SDGs. Agustina Carpio, from the Argentinian NGO FOCO, said the idea is to have an impact on each and every citizen. “We need everybody to be aware of what the SDGs mean and understand that we have a humanitarian commitment ahead of us and not an act of propaganda.”

Note: More information as well as photos and stories from all over the world can be found at act4sdgs.org

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Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME/NEW DELHI, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week.

Of course, these are not easy challenges. But according to the discussions of a representative group of around 50 legislators and experts from the two most populous continents, parliamentarians – as representatives of the stakeholders themselves – must be the “fourth pillar” to promote the 2030 Agenda, along with government, private enterprises, and civil society."If our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.” --Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population

“It is not just simply a question of adopting particular legislation and budgetary measures,” said Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in his keynote speech.

“Equally vital will be possession of an overarching vision and the conduct of oversight to ensure that the work is being implemented properly. Promoting the global partnerships that have been discussed to date will also be crucial. That is precisely the role that parliamentarians in every country are to fulfill. It is furthermore a role to be fulfilled by parliamentarians both within regions, and between regions.

“Given the law and tax system reforms that will be needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, parliamentarians will have an extremely big role to play,” Mashiko stressed.

Jointly organised by the Japan-based Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) — which is the Secretariat of the JPFP — and the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD), the conference approached what has been considered as the key challenge: the linkage between population issues, in particular youth, and the global sustainable development agenda, also known as the SDGs.

Youth

No wonder — while youth in the African continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants face extremely high rates of unemployment, in Asia and the Pacific, nearly 40 million youth – 12 per cent of the youth labour force – were unemployed in 2015. That year, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

However, despite these apparently moderate youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-East Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

This region also faces a big gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And this gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

“Building societies where every person can live with dignity - this is the essential principle of our parliamentarians’ activities,” Mashiko said.

“One of the principles of the SDGs is that ‘no-one is left behind’. From that perspective, ensuring equality of opportunity to young people, despite their differences in birth and wealth, has a definite meaning. So to that end, ensuring education and employment opportunities ought to be treated as priority issues.”

Population Growth

Growing populations across the world are the biggest hurdle in the path of equitable development, said India’s Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, adding that in order to achieve the SDGs, it is of “utmost importance” for all the countries to take care of their populations.

He stressed that there is a need for large-scale awareness on population issues, and that increasing population has created problems around the entire world regarding sustainable development, employment opportunities and health services.

Ena Singh, the India Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his country, India, has registered a rapid decline in fertility rates since its Independence and that currently the average fertility rate is 2.2 children, with the challenge now to bring down the total fertility rate to 2.1.

For her part, Marie Rose Nguini Effa, MP from Cameroon and President of the Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population Development, emphasised the Forum’s readiness to work with APDA to promote investment in youth, “which is critical to Africa’s development and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

The Inter-Linkage

New Delhi’s meeting is the latest of a series of dedicated Parliamentarian conferences focusing on the inter-linkages between population issues and the 2030 Agenda, examining ways in which both developed and developing countries as equal partners serve to be the driving force to address population issues and achieve sustainable development.

According to the meetings of Parliamentarians organisers, the fundamental underlying concept is that addressing population issues is imperative to attain universal health coverage (UHC), turning the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, achieving food security, promoting regional stability, and building economically viable societies where no one is left behind.

Bigger than the Whole African Population

“India is the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, which is bigger than the whole African population. Being a highly diverse country with a multitude of cultures, languages and ethnicities, India now enjoys one of the fastest economic growth rates,” according to the organisers.

The country’s serious investment in young people is the driving force behind such growth; the pool of well-educated, skilled young people is making the country an IT capital, they said, adding that the Indian economy also has a great influence on the African continent, especially East Africa, due to long-standing historical, cultural and commercial connections between them.

“Furthermore, with its longstanding history of democracy, the power and role of the Parliament of India is well-established and fully exercised, and its democratic system has contributed to promoting unity of diversity and national development.”

Given that addressing population issues calls for an approach to help people to make free and informed RH choices, parliamentarians as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play in this regard as well, they conclude.

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

Lawmakers from the Asia and Arab region had gathered last July at a meeting in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population, the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development convened on 18-20 July in the Jordanian capital to analyse these challenges and how to address them.

Since its establishment, APDA has been holding an annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care.

Through exchanges between lawmakers from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

“Japan is embracing its aging society, where individuals in every age group are finding uses for their particular skills and attributes, and is planning to build a vibrant society which makes the maximum use of what its older citizens can offer and helping to achieve sustainable development, which is what humanity should be striving for,” Mashiko concluded.

“This may possibly apply equally everywhere throughout the world. Given their population structure and social systems, the situation in the countries from Africa, the Arab world and Asia represented at this conference will be very, very different. However, the very presence of such differences means that if our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.”

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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Monitoring Progress on UN’s Sustainable Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 05:57:44 +0000 Abby Maxman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152197 Abby Maxman is the President and CEO of Oxfam America

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Abby Maxman is the President and CEO of Oxfam America

By Abby Maxman
BOSTON, Massachusetts, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Two years ago, world leaders joined together to endorse a new and ambitious agenda not to reduce poverty but to eradicate it, not to lessen hunger but to end it once and for all, and not to overlook inequality but jointly to attack it.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) broke new ground in the fight against poverty by moving beyond social development targets to better protect our fragile planet, reduce economic and social inequalities, and promote human rights. Today, the hard work to achieve this ambition is just beginning.

Delivering on the development goals will not be a technocratic exercise. Systematic and efficient monitoring, including good quality data, is crucial to tracking progress, but action on this front has been too slow.

Let’s look at inequality, for example. The importance of a global goal specifically aimed at tackling income inequality cannot be overstated. Extreme economic inequality has been shown to impede poverty alleviation, slow economic growth, compound gender inequality, drive inequality in health and education outcomes, undermine economic mobility over generations, fuel crime, undermine social cohesion, and harm democracy.

But turning the inequality goal into a reality requires a fundamental change of approach on how governments take on vested interests, and how resources are shared.

Earlier this year, we at Oxfam’s pointed out that just eight men own the same wealth as half of humanity, the poorest 3.6 billion people. Worse yet, the gap between rich and poor is growing in countries across the world, in countries rich and poor.

At the same time, there are no shortage of tools proven to reduce the gap between rich and poor. What we need then are transparency, data, and accountability to ensure governments are using them.

Oxfam’s contribution to the effort is a global index that ranks 152 countries by the policies they have in place to reduce economic inequality, including fair and effective taxation, spending on health, education and social protection, as well as fair labor policies.

Our first version of this index, which we launched in July, found that the vast majority of governments – three quarters of those in our index – are doing less than half of what they could be doing to tackle inequality.

Sweden, Belgium and Denmark top the index because of high levels of social spending and good protections for workers. Nigeria, Bahrain and Myanmar come in at the bottom of the index because of exceptionally low levels of government spending on health, education and social protection, extremely bad records on labor and women’s rights, and a tax system that overburdens the poorest in society and fails to tax its wealthiest citizens.

But this is not a clear-cut story of rich country good, poor country bad.

The US, for example, ranks 23rd out of 152. That may not sound too bad, but it is not great for the richest country on earth. In fact, the US comes at the bottom among G7 countries when it comes to fighting inequality, and ranks 21st out of 35 OECD countries.

And even those countries at the very top of the list could do more. For example, Belgium’s corporate tax incentives allow big business to avoid paying their fair share, and Denmark has cut taxes for the richest. Worse yet, many countries at the top effectively export inequality by acting as tax havens.

More than $100 billion in tax revenues are lost by poor countries every year because of corporate tax dodgers — enough money to provide an education for the 124 million children who aren’t in school and fund healthcare interventions that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children.

Our hope with this Index is to build a public conversation about how to tackle this inequality crisis. Governments need to build fairer tax systems, uphold the rights of workers, and invest more money in our public services. We will only achieve the SDGs if our economies work for all of us, not just a few.

While achieving the SDGs will indeed be expensive, the world has enough resources. Now it’s up to governments to find the political will to allocate these resources towards ending extreme poverty, realizing human rights, and achieving sustainable development that truly leaves no one behind. And it’s up to us to hold them accountable to do so.

No doubt about it, we have much work ahead of us. And given everything else that’s going on in the world, it certainly feels like a rather daunting task. But together, we can be the generation that ends extreme poverty once and for all.

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Taking Stock of SDG Actions on UN’s Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:47:38 +0000 Peter Thomson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152006 Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

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Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

By Peter Thomson
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 11 2017 (IPS)

Taken together, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, provide humanity with a masterplan for a sustainable way of life on this planet.

Peter Thomson

If we maintain our fidelity to this masterplan, we will end extreme poverty and create economic growth and prosperity that is more equitably shared both between and within countries. And in so doing, we will empower billions of women and girls; advance human rights and reduce the risk of violent extremism. Most importantly, we will restore balance to our relationship with the planetary ecosystem, both on land and in the Ocean, while addressing the realities of Climate Change.

We set the bar high with the Agenda because conditions, both today’s and those to come, demand that we do so. Thus the goals we have set ourselves present enormous challenges and require of us huge transformations of systems and behavior.

Their realization demands political foresight, collaboration and the deployment of resources, expertise and technology on a scale that has perhaps never before been seen. But we do have these qualities and resources. Potentially, we have reserves of them sufficient to well exceed the goals before us. Thus it is a matter of deployment, of marshalling our forces, both morally and practically, to undertake the tasks at hand in a spirit of inclusivity and universality.

In these early years of the 2030 Agenda, it is essential that we generate an unstoppable momentum towards the way stations of 2020 and 2025, and ultimately on to our 2030 destination. In November last year, I presented to you my PGA plan to generate such momentum. As you know, I assembled a high-quality team of SDG experts within my office, supported by Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen, my Special Adviser on SDGs, Ambassador Dessima Williams, and the PGA’s Special Envoy on SDGs and Climate Change, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, to help me implement that plan.

Over the course of the last twelve months, we have pursued activities to bring progress to each of the 17 SDGs. This work has been captured in the report prepared for today’s meeting, a copy of which should now be with you.

I will summarize a sample of those activities now, by talking to three main streams of work.

The first work-stream relates to SDG Advocacy.

In order to keep the SDGs at the top of the global agenda, my office travelled to 32 countries across every region of the world. This was a time-consuming exercise, and I particularly want to thank Ambassadors Kamau and Williams for putting in the hard yards attained. From COP22 in Morocco to Habitat III in Ecuador; from the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and the OECD in France; from the African Union in Ethiopia to the European Union in Belgium, to the Belt and Road Forum in China and to the SIDS Symposium in the Bahamas, we were present at the forefront.

We visited the UN Offices in Bangkok, Nairobi, Vienna, Rome and Geneva to convene with them on the Sustainable Development Goals. On each occasion, we drove home our key 2030 Agenda messages, urging all actors to get on board the SDG train, to get the wheels of implementation turning, and to join the journey to a better world by 2030.

During the 71st session, we placed particular focus on engaging young people, believing them to be the most effective agents of transformation given the importance of the 2030 Agenda to their lives. We met with groups of young people at every given opportunity and I wrote to every Head of State and Government encouraging them to incorporate the SDGs into national school curricula, making a similar request to the heads of over 4,000 universities.

In addition, we strove to bring the attention of the global public to the SDGs. As part of this effort, we organized a series of SDG Media Zones to allow the global social media community to engage with leaders and speakers at the High Level Week in September and other High Level Meetings. All this to burn the candle of enlightenment better and brighter.

The second work-stream has focussed on generating collaboration across a range of SDGs.

Here, we convened a host of meetings in New York and elsewhere. You will recall the five SDG Action Events convened during the resumed session. Cognizant of the busy GA, ECOSOC and Security Council schedules, many of these action events were organized back to back with other meetings.

The first of them was held in January; when in keeping with the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and in advance of next year’s High Level Meeting on Sustaining Peace, we looked closely at the links between the 2030 Agenda and the concept of Sustaining Peace. We emerged from that day with the mantra, ‘There can be no sustainable development without sustaining peace, and no sustaining peace without sustainable development.’

In March, we held a meeting with UNFCCC on the SDGs and Climate Change. It was hugely reassuring to observe at this meeting that the great mass of humanity, along with the governments that lead us, are united behind the Paris Agreement. The meeting made clear that proactive Climate action will have direct positive impacts across all of the SDGs, with a lack of Climate action having the opposite effect.

In April, with a view to identifying the steps required to unlock the massive resources required by the 2030 Agenda from international private finance, we held an SDG Financing Lab. This event illustrated how different goals require different sources of finances; how action must be taken to bring key financial stakeholders together on a UN platform to get investments flowing; and how the financial system must be aligned with the SDGs in order to facilitate the financing of the Goals.

In May, we held a memorable meeting on Innovation, kick-starting a reflection on how the UN system and Member States alike can embrace innovation for the benefit of SDG progress. We concluded that the fourth industrial revolution will be a boon to the 2030 Agenda, but that we must manage both the benefits and the risks associated with exponential technological change.

As we engaged with both the worlds of finance and technology during the 71st session, it became clear to us that there is a strong demand from outside the UN for a port of call, a docking station at the UN, for partnerships to be structured in support of the implementation of the SDGs.

And then in June, to bring a fresh spirit of collaboration and action to one of the most crucial SDGs, we held the SDG Action Event on Education and SDG 4. The meeting brought together key stakeholders to discuss what it will take to realize the Education Goal, looking at financing needs, at empowering youth, at education in humanitarian and emergency settings as well as at education for sustainable development, and at how connectivity and exponential technology advances can transform the way we educate for progress.

Finally, there was The Ocean Conference, held in support of the implementation of SDG14. Working with the Co-Chairs, Fiji and Sweden, with DESA, OLA, DOALOS, UNDP, UNEP, FAO, IOC and the entire UN membership, agencies and programmes, we raised global consciousness on the plight of the Ocean and produced a huge work plan of solutions from the congregation of world expertise assembled. The conference generated almost 1400 voluntary commitments for Ocean action and a global community of actors now committed to working with us in reversing the cycle of decline in which the Ocean has been currently caught.

I am very proud of what The Ocean Conference achieved. Ahead lies the implementation of the work plan, with the necessary discipline of the proposed 2020 UN Ocean Conference to work towards in support of SDG14.

The third work-stream has been the implementation of SDG-related mandates within the General Assembly.

Here, resolutions were passed on key issues like the Technology Bank for LDCs, and the Global SDG Indicator Framework. Lengthy consultations were conducted on the alignment of the GA Agenda with the SDGs, and important GA meetings were held on the UN’s response to individual SDGs such as those relating to biodiversity, water and urbanization. During the session, we advanced preparations for major meetings on SDG-related matters including migration, human trafficking, and South-South cooperation.

Having analyzed and reflected on what we have busied ourselves with during the 71st session, I draw a few key conclusions that I would like to share with you.

First, I believe that together we have generated momentum across the SDGs. Through our advocacy efforts, the New York element of the 2030 Agenda has been properly applied to ensuring the SDGs are at the forefront of the global agenda. Through our SDG action events, we have brought new actors to the table and encouraged those already involved to collaborate more actively with others. And through our work here at the General Assembly, we have strengthened the overall architecture for implementing and following up on the SDGs, and broadened global awareness of the SDGs.

Second, based on our experience and on all of the above-mentioned efforts and more, the outlook for SDG implementation is positive.

Headway is being made in many key areas, as captured in this year’s UN SDG Progress Report. Governments have made great strides in incorporating the SDGs into their national development plans, as was further evidenced by the strong interest in voluntary national reviews at this year’s HLPF.

Meanwhile it is heartening to see the business sector becoming increasingly aware of the SDGs and expressing a desire to play an active part in their implementation. Progressive actors in the financial world see that the future is green and that the 2030 Agenda presents incredible investment opportunities.

An army of innovators are at their keyboards and in their labs ready to unleash their ideas and new technologies to support the SDGs. And civil society actors, many of whom helped us to conceive this masterplan, are ready to push us forward day in day out.

Here at the UN in New York we see positive signs. The High Level Political Forum is growing in strength year on year. The appointments of Secretary General Guterres; of DSG Mohammed; of UNDP Administrator Steiner; and of UN DESA’s Mr Liu and many more, means that the UN has recruited an inspiring team to lead the charge of the 2030 Agenda.

The Secretary General’s report on the UN System that was released in July demonstrates his resolve to do what is needed to ensure the UN is fit to discharge its mandates to best effect and to better support Member States in realizing the SDGs. In this regard, I urge Member States to get behind the Secretary General’s efforts, to look beyond the pain of short-term changes and embrace the systemic shift needed to move us closer to the achievement of our universal goals.

My third conclusion is not yet an alarm bell, more in the nature of an early morning wake-up call. Two years after the momentous adoption of the 2030 Agenda, implementation is not yet moving at the speed or scale required to meet our ambitious goals.

Progress on individual goals is at best uneven, as evidenced on the ground where it matters most. This mixed picture is reflected across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages, wealth and locales, including urban and rural dwellers. Thus a much greater focus on leaving no one behind, on empowering women and girls, young people and vulnerable groups is asked of us at all levels.

UN DPI, the SDG Action Campaign and Project Everyone are diligently performing their respective roles in bringing the SDGs to the people. But popular awareness of the SDGs at individual and community levels across the world remains far too low. This is a serious flaw, for without knowledge of the rights and responsibilities inherent in the SDGs, people are not directly motivated to work on the transformations of thought and action the 2030 Agenda requires.

To correct this, further emphasis is needed in national plans and policies – be they in the global North or South – to better promote the central demands of the 2030 Agenda. These should include a focus on inclusion; an integrated approach across the three dimensions of sustainable development; and an emphasis on participation, transparency and accountability.

As indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, big gaps also exist in the UN’s current approach, particularly in the areas of partnership, finance, data and innovation.

More broadly, it is clear that we have yet to see the levels of collaboration and collective action that helped governments make major inroads on the MDGs. There is clearly a need for a more systematic approach to SDG partnerships and collective action across the range of SDGs and the UN has a critical role to play in making this so. The Ocean Conference demonstrated the power of bringing together a wide-range of actors to support the implementation of a particular SDG, and this model can be replicated elsewhere.

Similarly, we have yet to witness the dramatic shift in financing and global economic policy that is necessary to align the financial system with the SDGs. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be implemented, say it loud and say it clear. A shift away from unsustainable investments and a surge of private investment into developing countries, particularly in areas such as energy and infrastructure, is urgent business at hand. We need to see a significant increase in development assistance; a dramatic improvement in global tax cooperation; and meaningful review of macroeconomic policies to align them with the SDG’s focus on inclusion and sustainability. The UN has a more proactive role to play in promoting these issues, given its status as a trusted convener.

In conclusion, the UN needs to build a capacity, a docking station capacity, to convene, engage and create coalitions for collective action across the Means of Implementation, be it partnerships with the private sector, harnessing the potential of exponential technological change or convening the titans of public and private finance to support achieving the SDGs.

During the 71st session, we tried to leave no stone unturned in the search for SDG momentum.

I want to thank you, the Member States, for your support and good advice throughout. For those among you who at my request took on onerous roles of facilitation and chairmanship, I applaud you here in front of your peers. I congratulate the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General for grasping the baton of responsibility and leadership without breaking stride.

I thank UN DESA and many other parts of the Secretariat, especially those in the field in the service of the UN system, for putting their shoulders to the wheel; likewise, the wonderful team at the Office of the President of the General Assembly for doing all that was possible to keep us moving forward on the 2030 Agenda.

As you begin your preparations for the High-level week of the 72ndsession, I urge you to give this message to your capitals: we have achieved momentum on the SDGs, but there can be no rest. To get to the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we now need a shift in gears. It is time to crank it up a notch, for time is not on our side.

The message should also be that we find ways to collaborate better with non-governmental actors. Partnerships at times may involve risks, but if we partner right and partner strong, the rewards far outweigh them. And the message should include strong support for the Secretary-General in bringing forward his reforms of the UN System, so that we are in best possible shape to help others along the journey to 2030.

We have the resources, the ideas, the technology and the motivation. Add leadership, courage and an unwavering commitment to progress and we will reach our 2030 destination with goals fulfilled. As I have said many times, together we are strong.

When it comes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we succeed or fail together, for we are addressing the sustainability of our planetary ecosystem, the integrity of our global economic system, and the equity of humanity. We will not fail because we love our grandchildren. We will succeed because we have not come this far only to be defeated by greed.

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UN Analytical Leadership in Addressing Global Economic Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-analytical-leadership-addressing-global-economic-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-analytical-leadership-addressing-global-economic-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-analytical-leadership-addressing-global-economic-challenges/#respond Thu, 03 Aug 2017 07:42:45 +0000 Jose Antonio Ocampo and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151552 José Antonio Ocampo was Executive Secretary of the UN-ECLAC from 1998 to 2003 and UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs from 2003 to 2007. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development from 2005 to 2015.

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International solidarity is necessary for reinvigorating and rebuilding the global economy as well as inclusive and equitable development. Credit: Jenny Lopez-Zapata/IPS

By José Antonio Ocampo and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations recently released the 70th anniversary issue of its flagship publication, the World Economic and Social Survey (WESS). First published in January 1948 as the World Economic Report, it is the oldest continuous publication analyzing international economic and social challenges. The 2017 issue reviews 70 years of WESS policy recommendations, many of which remain relevant today to address global challenges and to achieve the 2030 Agenda or Sustainable Development Goals.

Created in 1945 to ensure world peace, the United Nations charter recognized that economic and social progress for all is fundamental for ensuring sustainable peace. The UN has thus been monitoring socio-economic developments globally since the 1940s. Its analyses have long highlighted the interdependence of the global economy, and advocated international policy coherence and coordination for sustainable, inclusive and balanced socio-economic progress.

The picture which emerges is that the UN has been ahead of the curve on many issues, especially on closing gaps in human well-being between and within countries. From early on, it has urged developed countries to support socio-economic progress in developing countries, not only in their own interest as trading partners, but also to maintain conditions for greater economic stability and more equitable global development. It has also long called for predictable transfers of finance and technology to developing countries, and for opening up developed country markets to developing countries’ exports.

The UN has also pioneered innovative multilateral institution building to fill lacunae. In the 1960s, WESS provided the analytical rationale for establishing the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to support developing countries seeking to equitably benefit from international trade and investment, and to industrialize.

The 2017 review of issues WESS has underscored the importance of its analyses. The 1951-52 issue identified three major challenges: “maintenance of economic stability, those concerned with persistent disequilibrium in international payments, and those arising from the relatively slow advance of the under-developed countries”. Needless to say, these challenges remain relevant today.

The 1956 issue warned against monetarism and monetary policy solutions, arguing that “a single economic policy seems no more likely to overcome all sources of imbalance … than is a single medicine likely to cure all diseases”. Along these lines, the 1959 issue acknowledged the “evils of large-scale inflation”, but argued that “economic stagnation or large-scale unemployment is not an acceptable cost to pay for price stability or equilibrium in the balance of payments”.

The 1965 issue warned that tying aid would reduce aid effectiveness, external debt burdens were rising rapidly, and capital would flow from developing to developed countries.

The 1971 issue warned of the “unsettling effects of massive movements of short-term capital” and argued for an “international code of conduct and mechanism for surveillance” to curb their disruptive effects. It also warned that IMF governance arrangements dangerously limited developing country voice, and called for Special Drawing Rights to be used to provide development finance.

In the 1970s and 1980s, WESS repeatedly warned that putting the burden of adjustment on deficit countries alone would not only stifle their growth, but also exert deflationary pressure on the world economy. The UN urged provision of additional finance by surplus countries and international financial institutions on less stringent terms and conditions to support robust recoveries and prevent widespread welfare losses.

The 1982 issue warned against the reluctance to undertake expansionary policies at a time of a global crisis for fear of undermining investor confidence: “without more vigorous expansionary policies, recovery will lack strength, levels of demand will not be sufficient to bring present productive capacity into full use, and the incentive to undertake new investment will remain weak”.

WESS’s rich legacy reminds us of the continuing relevance of multilateral institutions, especially in facing major challenges. The global economy needs strong institutions and coordinated international actions, with adequate voice and participation by developing countries. This is particularly true for ensuring international monetary stability and trade dynamism, which remain crucial for global development.

It also underscores that international solidarity is necessary for reinvigorating and rebuilding the global economy as well as inclusive and equitable development. Sustainable development is necessarily multidimensional and often context-specific; requiring strengthened state capacities and capabilities, strategic development planning and appropriate adaptation to local conditions.

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US Lags Far Behind in Banning Dental Health Hazardhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/us-lags-far-behind-banning-dental-health-hazard/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-lags-far-behind-banning-dental-health-hazard http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/us-lags-far-behind-banning-dental-health-hazard/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 05:16:40 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151496 The United States is lagging far behind its Western allies – and perhaps most of the key developing countries – in refusing to act decisively to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry. The 28-member European Union (EU), with an estimated population of over 510 million people, recently announced […]

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The United States is refusing to act decisively to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry

Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right: Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Credit: UNDP

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 31 2017 (IPS)

The United States is lagging far behind its Western allies – and perhaps most of the key developing countries – in refusing to act decisively to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry.

The 28-member European Union (EU), with an estimated population of over 510 million people, recently announced its decision to ban amalgam use in children under age 15, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. The ban comes into effect July 2018.

“In sharp contrast, the U.S. government has done nothing to protect these vulnerable populations from exposure to amalgam’s mercury,” says a petition filed by Consumers for Dental Choice (CDC), which has been vigorously campaigning for mercury-free dentistry, since its founding back in 1996.

In Norway and Sweden, dental amalgam is no longer in use, while it is being phased out in Japan, Finland and the Netherlands. In Mauritius and EU nations, it is banned from use on children. Denmark uses dental amalgam for only 5% of restorations and Germany for 10% of restorations.

In Bangladesh, it is to be phased out in 2018, and in India, there is a dental school requirement of eliminating amalgam in favour of alternatives.

In Nigeria, the government has printed and distributed consumer-information brochures while the government of Canada has recommended that all dentists stop its use in children and pregnant women — and those with kidney disorders.

Dental amalgam has been described as a dental filling material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. And it is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper.

In its petition, addressed to the FDA Commissioner, CDC says the United States – the only developed nation with no warnings or restrictions on the use of dental amalgam in children – is the outlier.

“Why are other countries protecting their children while the FDA lets American children be exposed to dental mercury? In order to catch up with other developed nations, the Commissioner must amend FDA’s mercury amalgam rule,” says the lengthy petition replete with facts and figures—and worthy of a research project.

The petition presents its case citing several sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly-Identified Health Risks and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

According to the Wall Street Journal last week, FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb, in a sweeping regulatory overhaul of Big Tobacco, has cracked down on tobacco companies, demanding that all cigarettes should have such low levels of nicotine so they no longer are considered addictive.

But dental mercury apparently continues to get a free pass.

Charlie Brown, executive director of Consumers for Dental Choice, told IPS that with all the modern mercury-free dental fillings available today, it is inexcusable that FDA remains the world’s chief defender of implanting neurotoxic mercury in children’s mouths – mere centimeters from their developing brains.”

It’s time for FDA to catch up to the European Union and ban amalgam use in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers,” he added.

Michael Bender, Director, Mercury Policy Project in Vermont, USA, told IPS: “During negotiations, the U.S. stated position was ‘to achieve the phase down, with the goal, the eventual phase out’ of dental amalgam. FDA should stop acting like a rogue agency and follow the US position.”

In its petition, CDC urges the Commissioner to take three key measures to stop amalgam use in children under age 15, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers:

Firstly, issue a safety communication warning dentists, parents, and dental consumers against amalgam use in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

Secondly, require manufacturers to distribute patient-labeling that includes warnings against amalgam use in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

Thirdly, develop and implement a public information campaign (including FDA’s website, social media, press releases, and a press conference) to warn dentists, dental associations, parents, and dental consumers against amalgam use in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

The petition also says the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury requires nations to “phase down the use of dental amalgam.”

The U.S. government signed and accepted the Minamata Convention on 6 November 2013. FDA’s official support for “change towards use of dental amalgam” and its rejection of “any change away from use of dental amalgam” in its 2009 dental amalgam rule is contrary to the Minamata Convention’s requirement that parties “phase down the use of dental amalgam.”

FDA’s push for phasing up amalgam use has raised major concerns in the international community, says the petition.

The Convention enters into force – and becomes legally binding– on 16 August. On 18 May the 50th nation ratified, and with that threshold reached, the Convention enters into force in 90 days– namely, 16 August. Jamaica was the 71st nation to ratify the convention last week.

Asked for an FDA response, Stephanie Caccomo, Press Officer, Office of Media Affairs & Office of External Affairs, told IPS the FDA has neither promoted the use of dental amalgams nor supported an increase in their use.

FDA serves as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lead representative to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and takes very seriously the Convention’s objective of protecting human health from the possible adverse health effects of mercury exposure, she added.

“The U.S. actively supported the Convention throughout its development and the FDA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of State on how the United States will implement the treaty obligations.”

She pointed out that the U.S. government is committed to complying with the Convention by taking at least two of the nine specific measures set forth in Part II of Annex A of the Convention with respect to dental amalgam.

Elaborating further, she said in an email message, that dental amalgam contains elemental mercury. It releases low levels of mercury in the form of a vapor that can be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys.

“FDA has reviewed the best available scientific evidence to determine whether the low levels of mercury vapor associated with dental amalgam fillings are a cause for concern. Based on this evidence, FDA considers dental amalgam fillings safe for adults and children ages 6 and above.”

The weight of credible scientific evidence reviewed by FDA does not establish an association between dental amalgam use and adverse health effects in the general population. Clinical studies in adults and children ages 6 and above have found no link between dental amalgam fillings and health problems, she noted.

“The developing neurological systems in fetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor. Very limited to no clinical data is available regarding long-term health outcomes in pregnant women and their developing fetuses, and children under the age of six, including infants who are breastfed. Pregnant women and parents with children under six who are concerned about the absence of clinical data as to long-term health outcomes should talk to their dentist.”

However, the estimated amount of mercury in breast milk attributable to dental amalgam is low and falls well below general levels for oral intake that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe, she added.

“Despite the limited clinical information, FDA concludes that the existing risk information supports a finding that infants are not at risk for adverse health effects from the mercury in breast milk of women exposed to mercury vapor from dental amalgam.”

Some individuals have an allergy or sensitivity to mercury or the other components of dental amalgam (such as silver, copper, or tin). Dental amalgam might cause these individuals to develop oral lesions or other contact reactions.

“If you are allergic to any of the metals in dental amalgam, you should not get amalgam fillings. You can discuss other treatment options with your dentist,” she advised.

To the extent there are any potential risks to health generally associated with the use of dental amalgam, FDA issued a final rule and related guidance document establishing special regulatory controls to mitigate any such risks.

“Moreover, while FDA does not believe additional action is warranted at this time, FDA continues to evaluate the literature on dental amalgam and any other new information it receives in light of the 2010 advisory panel recommendations and will take further action on dental amalgam as warranted,” Caccomo added.

Asked for a response to the FDA statement, Charlie Brown said: “Consumers for Dental Choice’s petition demands that FDA carry out its duty to provide American children the same protection from amalgam’s mercury that the European Union does over there.”

He pointed out that FDA admits repeatedly that no evidence exist that amalgam’s mercury is safe for young children, yet FDA will not stop being the world’s most stubborn defender of implanting mercury into children’s mouths (and bodies).

“FDA must now fish or cut bait. With our petition in its lap, FDA must choose between, on the one hand, doing its duty as a federal agency, and, on the other hand, keeping in place its four-decade-long program of putting profits for pro-mercury dentists ahead of lives of American children,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Consumers for Dental Choice says its campaign goal for Mercury-Free Dentistry is to phase out the use of amalgam, a 50% mercury product — worldwide. The recently concluded draft mercury treaty requires each signing nation to phase down its use of amalgam, and it provides a road map how.

“We aim to: educate consumers about the use of mercury in dentistry so they can make informed decisions; stop dental mercury pollution; protect consumers – especially vulnerable populations such as children and the unborn – from exposure to dental mercury; empower dental workers – dental assistants and hygienists – to protect themselves from mercury in the workplace; and promote access to mercury-free alternatives to amalgam.

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Sinking Island Seeks Seat in Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:44:55 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151443 The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity. And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development […]

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An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity.

And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development aid or diverting funds to boost domestic security.

“The danger of sea level rise is very real and threatens not just the Maldives and other low-lying nations, but also major coastal cities like New York and Miami,” Ambassador Ahmed Sareer, the outgoing Permanent Representative of the Maldives, told IPS.

Sareer, who held the chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for over two years, said that even though projections vary, scientists anticipate at least three feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

“This would be problematic for the Maldives, SIDS and many other coastal regions. We are currently building coastal defences to mitigate the danger, but need more support,” said Sareer, currently Foreign Secretary of the Maldives.

Along with Maldives, there are several low lying UN member states who are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth, including the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau and Micronesia.

Asked if the United Nations and the international community were doing enough to help alleviate low-lying small island states, Sareer told IPS: “There has been a heightened focus on the risks SIDS face in recent years, not just from climate change but economic challenges as well. We are grateful for the progress, of course, but it is fair to say we still have much further to go.”

Beginning July 31, the Columbia Broadcast System (CBS), one of the major US television networks, is planning to do a series of stories on “Sinking Islands” threatened by rising sea levels triggered by climate change.

Described as “one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries” and comprising more than a thousand coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has a population of over 390,000 people compared to India, one of its neighbours, with a hefty population of over 1.2 billion.

The island nation was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami, and according to one report, 57 islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, 14 had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of tsunami damage estimated at over $400 million.

As part of its defences, the Maldives has been erecting a wall around the capital of Malé to thwart a rising sea and a future tsumani.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic publicity gimmick back in October 2009, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers in scuba diving gear, to highlight the threat of global warming.

And earlier, at a Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Kuala Lumpur in October 1989, then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told delegates that if his country is to host the annual meeting in the foreseeable future, the meeting may have to be held underwater in a gradually disappearing island nation.

The World Bank has warned that with “future sea levels projected to increase in the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, the entire country could be submerged”.

But still, the Maldives which graduated from the status of a least developed country (LDC) to that of a developing nation in 2011, is very much alive – and currently campaigning for a two-year non-permanent seat in the most powerful body at the United Nations: the 15-member Security Council.

This is the first time in its 51 years of UN Membership that the Maldives has presented its candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Over the past 25 years, only six SIDS have served on the Council, out of the 125 elected members during that period. SIDS constitutes 20% of the UN Membership.

Since January 2015, the Maldives has chaired the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group it helped form in 1990, leading a coalition of 39 member states, of which 37 are UN Members, through landmark agreements on sustainable development, climate change, disaster risk reduction, financing for development, sustainable urbanization, and the follow-up to the SAMOA Pathway- the sustainable development programme of action for SIDS.

In a long-planned effort, the Maldives put forward its candidature on 30 January 2008: ten years before the election, which will take place next year in the 193-member UN General Assembly which will vote for new, rotating non-permanent members of the UNSC.

Sareer said the Maldives seeks to bring a fresh and unique perspective to old challenges.”

And the Maldives believes that non-traditional security threats are as important if not more, than traditional security threats, in today’s world. The Maldives also believes in multi-dimensional approaches to solving issues.

Despite its size, he said, the Maldives has always punched above its weight on the international stage. And it has been a staunch advocate for climate change, and a champion of small States.

Sri Lanka’s former Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona told IPS Maldives has a commendable mission to realise – to push for action on climate change through the Security Council.

This, though a laudable aspiration, will be an uphill battle given that a powerful Permanent Member of the UNSC (the United States) is a declared opponent of the majority global view on climate change, having recently pulled out of the Paris Accord. It will also run in to opposition from the fossil fuel lobby.

However, if elected to the UNSC, Maldives is likely to enjoy the sympathy of the vast majority of the membership of the UN, including those who initiated a movement to seek an advisory opinion in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on responsibility for global warming and climate change in 2012, said Kohona, who co-chaired the UN Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and is a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section.

“It will need to deploy considerable resources to secure a seat and then to realise its goal
because Security Council elections, unfortunately, have become a competition among aspirants to see who can spend most on entertaining, junkets and obligatory visits to capitals. These ‘poojas’ become bigger and bigger by the year,” said Kohona.

He said Maldives will be a trend setter for small island developing states, which also must be able to play a role in the UNSC. “They have concerns of global import. It is unsatisfactory in every sense for the UNSC to increasingly become a preserve of big and the powerful.”

He also pointed out that Maldives is well placed and eminently qualified to raise awareness on climate change, global warming and sea level rise. These are threats to the very existence of humanity and could very well morph in to threats to global peace and security.

Already the flood of refugees is having a destabilizing effect on Europe. Refugee flows, which could be massive, resulting from climate change would pose a greater threat to global peace and stability requiring UNSC action. Such action could be taken preemptively rather than after the catastrophe has occurred, he noted.

“Seeing our loyal friend and neighbour seeking a non permanent Security Council seat should also encourage Sri Lanka to do the same in the not-too-distant future,” he added.

Asked whether the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement reflected the fears expressed by SIDS on sea level rise, Sareer said sea level rise is just one of the many impacts of climate change, which are of significance to SIDS.

“The Paris Agreement’s main objective is to enhance climate actions, and hence doesn’t directly address sea level rise. However it did include a strong temperature goal and a stand-alone article on loss and damage, which indirectly address these concerns. What is important now is for countries to make deep cuts in their emissions immediately.”

Asked whether the Maldives expects funding from the multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund (GCF), he said: “We do. The GCF is a primary multilateral vehicle to deliver climate financing to developing countries and therefore ramping up support for the GCF will be critical for all vulnerable countries.”

However, other funds under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are also crucial for transforming climate action in SIDS and also in developing countries.

He said changing rainfall patterns and increasing salinization caused by rising sea levels have led to challenges in securing reliable supplies of drinking water in many Small Island Developing States.

In this context, the Maldives submitted one of the first projects approved through the GCF which will see almost a third of the population of the Maldives becoming freshwater self-sufficient over the next five years.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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To Achieve Ambitious Goals – We Need to Start with our Basic Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:16:40 +0000 Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151434 Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

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By Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin
NEW YORK, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Recent protests in Ethiopia have seen people demonstrate in their thousands, angry at their authoritarian government, its favouritism towards those close to the ruling elite, and its failure to share the country’s wealth more equally.

The response of the state, in a country where dissent is simply not tolerated, has been predictably brutal: at the height of protests last year hundreds of people were killed, and a staggering estimated 24,000 were arrested, many of whom remain in detention today.

Perhaps not many of those marching in Ethiopia were aware of Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies with provisions to protect civic freedoms, ensure equal access to justice and uphold the rule of law.

Clearly, in countries like Ethiopia, the current reality falls a long way short of these basic standards: if people felt that the government was listening to them and they could take part in making the decisions that affect their lives, they wouldn’t have protested in such large numbers.

If fundamental freedoms were upheld, including the essential civil society rights of association, peaceful assembly and expression, then people wouldn’t have been met with mass killings and detentions. It is no surprise that on the CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that assesses the space for civil society – civic space – in every country of the world, Ethiopia is rated in the worst category, as having an entirely closed civic space.

It’s a matter of disappointment for civil society that progress on Goal 16 was not one of the goals reviewed by the governance body of the global goals at last week´s High Level Political Forum, which convened all UN member states and leaders from across sectors to review goal progress. A common concern amongst the 2,5000 civil society representatives that attended the global forum is that without progress on Goal 16, all the other goals cannot be achieved. And Goal 16 can only be realised if the role of civil society is respected and civic freedoms are protected.

On this score, two years into the Sustainable Development Goals, the early signs are worrying. Of the 44 countries whose progress was checked, four of them – Azerbaijan, Belarus and Iran, alongside Ethiopia – have entirely closed civic space, according to CIVICUS Monitor ratings. A further 18 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and from Brazil to Thailand – are rated as also having serious civic space restrictions. Only ten countries are assessed as having entirely open civic space.

The fact that there are worrying levels of restrictions placed on civil society in over three quarters of the countries up for review in New York indicates that civil society’s ability to realise Goal 16 is being hampered, and potential for SDG progress is being lost.

The SDGs must go further than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which enabled governments to receive praise for making advances on a narrow set of indicators even while they were cracking down on fundamental freedoms: Ethiopia, for example, was rated highly for its MDG performance, alongside other countries where civic space is heavily restricted. It must be remembered that the promise of the SDGs is to be much more ambitious than the MDGs, and to advance social justice and human rights.

The ambition of the SDGs calls for everyone – governments, businesses and civil society – to play their part; the agenda is too big for any one sector to deliver on its own. But when civil society is being constrained – including widespread restrictions on the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs) to receive funds and organise the masses – then its capacity to help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals at the community level is severally limited.

Goal 16 must be on the agenda whenever countries meet to evaluate progress on the SDGs. As of now it is only scheduled to be reviewed in 2019. The key test for Goal 16, for Ethiopia’s citizens, and the many other countries with restricted civic space, is if people are able to freely express their opinions, protest in peace and promote the interests of their communities without fear of persecution. On these measures, the Sustainable Development Goals still have a long way to go.

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The G20 Needs To Go Back to its Rootshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20-needs-go-back-roots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20-needs-go-back-roots http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20-needs-go-back-roots/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 21:36:56 +0000 Inge Kaul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151418 Inge Kaul is adjunct professor at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany; advisor to various governmental, multilateral and non-profit organizations; and the first director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, a position, which she held from 1989 to 1994, and director of UNDP’s Office of Development Studies from 1995 to 2005

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Inge Kaul is adjunct professor at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany; advisor to various governmental, multilateral and non-profit organizations; and the first director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, a position, which she held from 1989 to 1994, and director of UNDP’s Office of Development Studies from 1995 to 2005

By Inge Kaul
BERLIN, Jul 24 2017 (IPS)

When the finance ministers of the G7 countries proposed the G20 in the late 1990s, a good sense of realism prevailed. They recognized that addressing issues of global finance required the political support from—and involvement of—emerging market economies.

Inge Kaul

This view proved prescient in seeking policy responses to the 2007–08 global financial crisis. The leaders of the G20 met at their first summit in Washington D.C. in 2008 to agree on measures to resolve the crisis through dialogues among the “systemically relevant” countries.

At its creation, the G20 was thus meant to facilitate coordination, cooperation and problem-solving among key actors in a specific policy field, which then was global financial stability. The G20 was not meant to be a jack-of-all-trades, offering welcoming words and restating support for long-accepted and previously reconfirmed goals, as most subsequent G20 summits did.

Why had there been so little real progress? What concrete measures would be taken? Neither question was asked let alone answered—to avoid a spiral of reiterations at subsequent summits.

Not solving the most pressing problems

So far, the G20’s record of practical follow-up to its communiqués has been less than sterling. But this could reflect its shift from solving the most pressing problems to considering all possible facets of a more desirable world.

Forget for a moment the failure to clearly add value. What would the 2017 Hamburg summit have done, if it had stuck to the original G20 idea and approach? Which one or two global key challenges could it have focused on to suggest concrete measures?

One focus could have been mass starvation in Africa, with a clear promise to augment, in a meaningful way and within a few days, financial and other support for the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Programme. A second could have been mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Even if only 19 of the 20 had stated what concrete breakthroughs they would make on the Monday morning following the Hamburg summit, much could have been gained by inspiring others to ratchet up their corrective measures. Why was such a determination to lead not in evidence?

Trend away from multilateralism

Many factors come into play. Among them might be that the G20 has increasingly been promoted as a core element and driving force of the ongoing trend away from genuine multilateralism to increasing minilateralism and club-based global governance.

The G20 agenda has been loaded with diverse issues, and the preparatory processes have accordingly been broadened to afford many parties a chance to raise their pet topic and see it in the summit communiqués. That would also give them a sense of importance as they commented on how to run the world, while the other 173 countries and their people could only observe the summits from the sidelines.

Would the world miss something if such G20 summitry were stopped? Not really. It is important for world leaders to talk and to consult each other. However, plenty of opportunities exist for that.

Just think of the high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly each September, or the regular Bretton Woods meetings, or the many global conferences convening heads of state or government, or such informal meetings as the Syrian Peace Talks.

There is no scarcity of opportunities for world leaders to announce intentions and explore common ground. What is rare is translating words into action—and into action that is up to the challenge.

Time to revisit the role of the G20

Despite nearly 10 years of G20 summitry, the list of unmet global challenges is lengthening and the human, political, environmental and economic costs of global crises are mounting. So wouldn’t this be the time to revert to the original G20 concept as a global forum for announcing concrete measures to resolve—not just chat about—the most pressing global challenge?

Any other challenges could be taken up in other multilateral forums. And if leaders feel that these challenges also deserve attention and solution, they could instruct their representatives at those forums to announce their country’s ongoing or planned corrective actions—to lead by example and make a real difference that all would perceive as fostering sustainable and inclusive growth and development. How, then, to engineer such a return of the G20 to its original purpose?

Argentina, as the host of the next G20 summit, would be well positioned to initiate debate on this issue and to invite views and suggestions on what should be the basic features of a system of global governance fit for the 21st century and on what should be the potential role of the G20 within this system alongside other informal bodies of various groups of state and non-state actors. Perhaps, it could do so together with the hosts of the last two G20 summits, China and Germany.

The best outcome would be for the G20 leaders to recognize that the G20 is not the right forum to decide on a new, reformed system of global governance that will affect all countries and to instead encourage debate on this issue at the United Nations. This could also be a way for the G20 to clarify its future role and eventually, in whatever form it may continue, to invite less opposition and enjoy more political acceptance, legitimacy and effectiveness.

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Reforming the International Financial Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reforming-international-financial-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reforming-international-financial-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reforming-international-financial-system/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:27:43 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151294 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The 1997-1998 East Asian crises provided major lessons for international financial reform. Two decades later, we appear not to have done much about them

In Southeast Asia, existing mechanisms and institutions for preventing financial crises remain grossly inadequate. Credit: Sandra Siagian/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

When we fail to act on lessons from a crisis, we risk exposing ourselves to another one. The 1997-1998 East Asian crises provided major lessons for international financial reform. Two decades later, we appear not to have done much about them. The way the West first responded to the 2008 global financial crisis should have reminded us to do more. But besides accumulating more reserves, Southeast Asia has not done much else.

Crisis prevention and management
First, existing mechanisms and institutions for preventing financial crises remain grossly inadequate. Financial liberalization continues despite the crises engendered. Too little has been done by national authorities and foreign advisers to check short-term capital flows while unwarranted reliance has been put on international adherence to codes and standards. There is also little in place to address the typically exaggerated effects of movements among major international currencies.

Second, existing mechanisms and institutions for financial crisis management are grossly inadequate. The greater likelihood, frequency and severity of currency and financial crises in emerging market economies in recent times — with devastating consequences for the real economy and innocent bystanders — makes speedy crisis resolution imperative.

Economic liberalization has also compromised macro-financial instruments available to governments for crisis management and recovery. Instead, governments have little choice but to react pro-cyclically, which tends to exacerbate economic downturns. Governments thus fail to act counter-cyclically to avoid and overcome crises, which have been more devastating in developing countries.

There is a need to increase emergency financing during crises and to establish adequate new procedures for timely and orderly debt standstills and work-outs. While IMF financing facilities were significantly augmented in 2009, little else has changed.

Only governance reform of international financial institutions can ensure more equitable participation and decision-making by developing countries. The concentration of power in some apex institutions can be reduced by delegating authority to others, and by encouraging decentralization, devolution, complementarity and competition with other international financial institutions, including regional ones.
International financial institutions, including regional institutions, should be able to provide adequate counter-cyclical financing, including for ‘social protection’. Instead of current arrangements which mainly benefit foreign creditors, new procedures and mechanisms can help ensure that they too share responsibility for the consequences of their lending practices.

Developmental reforms
Third, international financial reform needs to go beyond crisis prevention and resolution to improve provision of development finance, especially to small and poor countries that face limited and costly access to funding their development priorities. For years now, the World Bank and other multilateral development banks have abandoned or cut industrial financing.

Fourth, powerful vested interests block urgently needed international institutional reforms. Only governance reform of international financial institutions can ensure more equitable participation and decision-making by developing countries. The concentration of power in some apex institutions can be reduced by delegating authority to others, and by encouraging decentralization, devolution, complementarity and competition with other international financial institutions, including regional ones.

Fifth, reforms should restore and ensure greater national economic authority and autonomy, which have been greatly undermined by national level deregulation as well as international liberalization and new regulation. These can enable more effective, especially expansionary and counter-cyclical macroeconomic management, as well as adequate development and inclusive finance facilities.

One size clearly cannot fit all. Policy ownership will ensure greater legitimacy, and should include capital account regulation and choice of exchange rate regime. As likely international financial reforms are unlikely to adequately provide what most developing countries need, national policy independence in regulatory and interventionist functions must be assured.

Regional cooperation
Finally, appreciation is growing of the desirability of regional monetary cooperation in the face of growing international financial challenges. The Japanese proposal for an Asian monetary facility soon after the outbreak of the 1997 crises could have helped check and manage the crises, but US opposition blocked it. With its opposition to more pro-active global initiatives, alternative regional arrangements cannot also be blocked.

Such regional arrangements also offer an intermediate alternative between national and global levels of action and intervention, besides reducing the monopoly power of global authorities. To be effective, regional arrangements must be flexible, but also credible and capable of both crisis prevention and management.

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G20’s Record Does Not Inspire Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20s-record-not-inspire-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20s-record-not-inspire-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20s-record-not-inspire-hope/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 13:35:33 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151199 The G20 leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July comes almost a decade after the grouping’s elevation to meeting at the heads of state/government level. Previously, the G20 had been an informal forum of finance ministers and central bank governors from advanced and emerging economies created in 1999 following the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

The G20 leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July comes almost a decade after the grouping’s elevation to meeting at the heads of state/government level. Previously, the G20 had been an informal forum of finance ministers and central bank governors from advanced and emerging economies created in 1999 following the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

Anis Chowdhury

The new grouping’s record in steering the global economy since the first summit in Washington, DC in November 2008 after the global financial crisis (GFC) was acknowledged by financial markets to have begun a couple of months before.

London Summit’s high point
At the following April 2009 London Summit, hosted by Gordon Brown, the G20 leaders demonstrated unprecedented solidarity in confronting the global meltdown with financial packages for the IMF, World Bank and others worth USD1.1 trillion. The London financial package included USD250 billion to help developing countries secure trade finance in the face of financial uncertainty.

These measures succeeded in turning the tide, with world economic growth recovering robustly from minus 2.1% in 2009 to plus 4.1% in 2010, exceeding the pre-crisis 2007 level of 3.8%. G20 boosters are inclined to claim that the London Summit pulled the global economy from the cusp of the first post-Second World War “great depression”.

However, there has been little evidence of how the funds may have saved the world economy. There has been modest trade growth since 2008 — after earlier sustained trade expansion — as most G20 member countries introduced essentially ‘protectionist’ trade measures despite their declared commitment to the contrary. The leaders also agreed to develop new financial regulations and improve financial supervision, but the patchwork which emerged has had limited and mixed consequences.

Toronto U turn
G20 leadership, evident at the April 2009 London summit, was abdicated with its U turn at the June 2010 Toronto summit while claiming success for its earlier collective efforts. The Canadian hosts trumpeted its own strong recovery from around -3% in 2009 to +3% in 2010 as the G20 exaggerated hints of recovery to pave the way for ‘fiscal consolidation’ instead.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Canada received strong support from Germany and Japan which also claimed strong recoveries. Further support came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) which invoked the ‘expansionary fiscal consolidation hypothesis’ to claim that urgent U turns would boost investor confidence to sustain economic recovery.

The U turn from Keynesian-style debt-financed fiscal stimulus measures deprived the modest recovery of the means for sustaining renewed expansion, thus ensuring the GFC’s ‘Great Recession’, which has dragged on in much of the North for almost a decade since, dragging down world and developing country growth in recent years.

Recession self-inflicted
Despite warnings from the United Nations and a few others against premature fiscal consolidation, G20 leaders at the Toronto Summit agreed to cut budget deficits in half by 2013, and to eliminate deficits altogether by 2016! The decision triggered a double dip recession in Japan and some Eurozone countries.

Canada and Germany, which pushed for rapid fiscal consolidation, have since experienced significantly slower growth averaging 1.8% and 1.2% respectively. The global economy thus began a prolonged period of anaemic growth averaging around 2.5% per annum.

Clearly, G20 economic growth continues to be modest. They are still unable to attain the 2010 growth rate, giving the lie to the ‘expansionary fiscal consolidation’ claim. The IMF has since acknowledged that its initial recommendation of rapid fiscal consolidation was based on “back of the envelope” calculations!

Research also shows that fiscal consolidation has exacerbated income inequality while fiscal consolidation basically began once financial sectors had been rescued from the consequences of their own greedy operations.

Ersatz substitute
Lack of accountability to the rest of the world has also meant that the G20 continues to undermine multilateralism. Inclusive multilateralism is now being threatened on many other fronts as well, not least by the Trumpian turn in the White House and the growing tendency for the Europeans to act as a bloc.

The G20’s broader membership has made negotiations and consultations more difficult than those involving the G7 grouping of major developed economies. But its greater inclusion and diversity has also ensured its superior record compared to the G7, which continues to decline in relevance.

As the Toronto U turn and its devastating legacy remind us, the G20’s finest moment after its London summit in 2009 was easily reversed through host country efforts although the US and China were acting quite differently in practice.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

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Post-Soviet Russian economic collapsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/post-soviet-russian-economic-collapse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-soviet-russian-economic-collapse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/post-soviet-russian-economic-collapse/#comments Tue, 06 Jun 2017 14:24:17 +0000 Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150769 Vladimir Popov was a Senior Economics Officer in the United Nations Secretariat. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

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Was the post-Soviet transition the greatest 'man-made' economic disaster ever?. Credit: IPS

By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 6 2017 (IPS)

Wide-ranging economic reforms following the demise of the Soviet Union at the end of December 1991 mainly resulted in economic collapse in most successor states. By the mid-1990s, output had fallen by about half compared to 1989.

Meanwhile, income inequalities rose sharply as real incomes declined dramatically for most, while death rates increased by over half as life expectancy declined dramatically.

In Russia, output fell by 45% during 1989-1998, as death rates increased from 1% in the 1980s to over 1.5% in 1994, equivalent to over 700,000 additional deaths annually. In some former Soviet states embroiled in military conflicts, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan, GDP in 2000 was 30-50% of pre-transition levels! Even without military conflict, Ukraine’s GDP fell by nearly two thirds. In Eastern European countries, output fell less, averaging 20-30% over 2-4 years, whereas growth accelerated in China and Vietnam following reforms.

The huge collapses in output, living standards and life expectancy in the former Soviet Union during the 1990s without war, epidemic or natural disaster was unprecedented. During the Great Depression, GDP in Western countries fell by some 30% on average in 1929-1933, but then recovered to pre-recession levels by the end of the 1930s.

Transition debate

Why was the decline in output and incomes in the former Soviet Union so deep and protracted? To what extent was it due to ‘initial conditions’, and to what extent was it due to poor economic policy choices? If the latter was mainly responsible, the post-Soviet transition was the greatest ‘man-made’ economic disaster ever.

Many believe that “things went terribly wrong”, and that it would have been possible to avoid the fate of the former Soviet republics in the 1990s with different policies. After all, most other transition economies did better than them, and no Russian seriously believes that the exceptional length and depth of its post-Soviet recession was inevitable.

The question of the most appropriate post-Soviet economic transition policies is the subject of considerable debate, not least between those who advocate comprehensive ‘shock therapy’ and others who believe that pragmatic, gradual, piecemeal reforms, rather than policies driven by ideological dogmas, would have had much better consequences.

World Bank policy advice
The World Bank’s 1996 World Development Report (WDR), From Plan to Market, argued that differences in economic performance were mostly associated with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ policies, particularly in terms of economic liberalization and macroeconomic stabilization. “Consistent policies, combining liberalization of markets, trade, and new business entry with reasonable price stability, can achieve a great deal even in countries lacking clear property rights and strong market institutions”.

However, contrary to mainstream Western coverage, there is no evidence that rapid economic liberalization and macroeconomic stabilization would have improved post-Soviet economic performance. The apparent link between liberalization and performance is due to the greater depth of the recession in the former Soviet republics compared to Eastern Europe.

Attempts to correlate differences in output changes during transition to the cumulative liberalization index and to inflation rates have no explanatory value. Once a number of ‘initial conditions’ are taken into consideration, the liberalization index becomes insignificant. Although the Chinese index of ‘economic freedom’, as measured by the Heritage Foundation, has been about the same as Russia’s in recent years, the economic performance of the two countries have differed markedly.

Deep recessions
The depth of the recession was mainly due to three sets of factors. First, greater distortions in industrial structure and external trade on the eve of transition. Second, the collapse of state and non-state institutions in the late 1980s and early 1990s which resulted in chaotic transformation. Third, poor policies worsening macroeconomic instability.

The post-Soviet economic recessions were due to the high costs of the distortions – including excessive militarization and over-industrialization, ‘perverted’ trade flows among the former Soviet republics and with Eastern European countries, excessively large industrial enterprises and agricultural farm sizes – as well as efforts to correct them. In most cases, Soviet distortions were more pronounced than in Eastern Europe. Apparently, the larger the distortions, the greater the output reduction.

The greater collapse of state institutions also explains the severity of post-Soviet recessions. Differences in the depth of transformational recessions between Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics appear to be due to their greater institutional collapses. Poorer government ability to collect taxes, check the shadow economy, and uphold ‘law and order’, e.g., by enforcing contracts, undermined creation of a business climate conducive to investment and growth.

Post-Soviet transitions (except in Uzbekistan, Belarus and Estonia) involved unfavourable initial conditions, institutional degradation, and poor economic policies, which were less problematic in Eastern Europe. Thus, the Gorbachev reforms of 1985-1991 failed, not because they were gradual, but due to weakened state institutional capacity. However, the Yeltsin reforms had catastrophic consequences due to inappropriate policy reforms for the Russian transition after Gorbachev.

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