Inter Press Service » South-South http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Poverty Eradication Greatest Global Challenge, Say G77 Ministershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:18:31 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147120 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

The 133-member Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, unanimously endorsed a Ministerial Declaration strongly reiterating its support to the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change agreement.

The Declaration, which was adopted at the 40th annual meeting of G77 Foreign Ministers on September 23, reaffirmed “the overarching objective of eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” describing it as “the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Reiterating that poverty eradication is a central imperative of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Ministers emphasized “the need to address poverty in all its forms and dimensions in order to truly leave no one behind.”

The targeted deadline for the eradication of poverty worldwide is 2030.

General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Ret), Prime Minister of Thailand and G77 chair of the Ministerial Meeting said: “This year, we have together taken the first steps in translating vision into concrete action, in line with developing countries’ needs and interests and to realize the SDGs.”

Since the start of this year, he pointed out, the Group has played an active role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through (1) negotiating a resolution on Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level; (2) reviewing global agenda outcomes under the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; (3) following-up on Financing for Development (FfD); (4) determining a global indicator framework for SDGs; (5) supporting implementation of the Agenda in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through negotiating a political declaration for the High-Level Mid-term Review according to the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs; and (6) strengthening cooperation among developing countries on the High-Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the key role played by the G77 in the adoption of both the SDGs and the Climate Change agreement last year.

The United Nations and the G-77 have an invaluable partnership, he told the Ministers. ”Together, we have made enormous progress for human rights and human dignity.”

The Ministers called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

Singling out the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on September 29, Ban said the G-77 was also a driving force behind the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “our truly transformative plan for the planet and all people.”

“Many G-77 countries also helped push for the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Thank you for this advocacy,” he said.

Ban pointed out that G-77 kept its distinctive name even after the membership expanded to 133 countries, joined by China (from the original 77). ”In the same way, I hope you keep the Group’s founding spirit to stand up for the countries of the South while expanding your engagement to tackle emerging threats. “

With this mix of timeless values and timely action, he declared, “we can build on our proud record and leave a better world for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

40th Annual Declaration

Some of the key elements of the Declaration include the following:

The Ministers highlighted that the year 2016 marked the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards a sustainable future. Thus, it is important to show the international community the Group’s continued unwavering commitments to further translate ambitions set out in the Agenda into real actions.

In this context, the Ministers noted that 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 which adopted in October 1967 the “Charter of Algiers”, the first platform of the G-77 calling for joint efforts by developing countries towards economic and social development, peace and prosperity.

The Ministers welcomed the progress made by Member States in their national  implementation, but stressed that implementing the 2030 Agenda at all levels requires a revitalized global partnership and the full implementation of the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, which is dedicated to this purpose.

In this context, said the Declaration, enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology on favorable terms including on concessional and preferential terms, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

The Ministers urged the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

They appreciated the G20 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, China in September 4-5, being the first G20 Summit which took place in a developing country after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with broad participation of developing countries, including the Chair of G77, which endorsed the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important contribution to the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The Ministers also approved the Report of the 31st Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) and endorsed its recommendations.

The Ministers commended the Chairman of the PGTF for his continued commitment and expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved by the PGTF.

In light of the substantial decrease in the interest earnings of the Fund caused by the current world financial situation, as reported by the Chairman of the PGTF, the Ministers appealed to every Member State to make a significant contribution to the PGTF on the occasion of the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities to be held in New York on 7 November 2016.

Thailand, ahead of the conference, made a contribution of $520,000 to the PGTF.

The Ministers noted the commemoration of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) + 40 to be held in 2018 which represented an opportunity to enhance the current institutional arrangements to better support South-South cooperation and promote the South-South agenda.

In this context, the Ministers strongly recommended the consolidation of existing mechanisms of South-South cooperation and called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

The Ministers underlined that the achievement of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda will depend on enabling international environment for development, facilitating the necessary means of implementation, particularly in the areas of finance, international trade, technology and capacity-building to developing countries.

In this regard, they called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries.

The Declaration also said there was a dire need for development partners to meet their current official development  assistance  (ODA) commitments  and  to  upscale  these  in  support  of  the aspirations that have been set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Ministers reasserted that developing  countries  will  continue  to  advocate  for additional  funding  for  development  to  be  made  available,  with  North-South cooperation central to these efforts

While commending the few countries who reach the ODA target, the Ministers stressed the need to urgently address the unmet ODA commitments since North-South Cooperation is still the main channel of financing for development for developing countries.

They noted with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in the 2016 outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address these important issues.

The Ministers reaffirmed the paramount importance of ODA in supporting the sustainable development needs of developing countries, in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small islands developing States and the middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, developed countries must commit to fully implementing their ODA commitments in keeping with their previously made undertakings and to upscale these efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The Ministers called for the global partnership for development to be revitalized and reinvigorated.

The Ministers reiterated their position that South-South cooperation is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, North-South cooperation, and reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries and that, consequently, South-South cooperation deserves its own separate and independent promotion, as reaffirmed in the Nairobi outcome document.

In this context, the Ministers stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda must be driven by the countries of the South. South-South cooperation, which is critical for developing countries, therefore requires long-term vision and a global institutional arrangement, as envisioned at the Second South Summit.

The Ministers stressed that developing countries attach importance to scaling up international tax cooperation and combating illicit financial flows in order to mobilize domestic resources for the SDGs.

The Ministers welcomed the convening of the G-77 Bangkok Roundtable on Sufficiency Economy: An Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 28-29 February 2016 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in Business: A G-77 Forum on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 June 2016.

They noted that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

And, in this regard, welcomed the initiative by the Kingdom of Thailand to share its development experience and promote partnership among G-77 members on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular through applying the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as an approach for sustainable development that focuses on transforming the economics of exploitation into the economics of moderation, resilience and self-immunity guided by knowledge as well as ethics and moral consideration with a view to harmonizing the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of development.

The Ministers welcomed the fruitful and productive discussion from the interactive thematic dialogue on SEP for Sustainable Development Goals convened on the occasion of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 under the leadership of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand as chair country of the Group of 77.

They noted the various experiences and home-grown approaches to achieve the SDGs and the importance of learning and sharing of best practices including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

They recognized the SEP as a practical approach that can support the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its universality underscored by its successful application in various development projects in a number of G-77 countries, including “SEP for SDGs Partnership”

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of respect for the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or foreign occupation and other forms of alien domination, which adversely affects their social and economic development, respect for the independence of States, national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, including through the use of information and communications technologies, in particular social networks, contrary to the principles of international law, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, and stress that full respect for the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter and international law inspire full commitment to multilateralism.

The Ministers reaffirmed that the right of self-determination is a primordial right that anchors the United Nations. For developing countries, it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for all those who struggle under the weight of occupation.

In this context, in the implementation and the follow-up and review of 2030 Agenda, the international community must not forget the severe difficulties faced by peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation and strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self-determination, which adversely affect their economic and social development and their ability to achieve and implement the sustainable development goals and to ensure that they will not be left behind.

The Ministers stressed the importance of eliminating safe havens that create incentives for transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows. They reiterated their commitment to working to strengthen regulatory frameworks at all levels to further increase transparency and accountability of financial institutions and the corporate sector, as well as public administrations.

The Ministers reaffirmed that they would strengthen international cooperation and national institutions to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Ministers expressed their concern over illicit financial flows and related thereto tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and money laundering, by using certain practices, with negative impacts for the world economy and, in particular, for developing countries.

They maintained that, while there is increasing recognition of the central role of tax systems in development and the importance of international cooperation on tax matters, there is still no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.  There is also not enough focus on the development dimension of these issues.

In this context, the Ministers reiterated the need to fully upgrade the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental body and to provide adequate resources to the Committee to fulfill its mandate as well as increase the participation of experts of developing countries at its meetings.

This will be critical in transforming the current Committee from experts acting in their own capacity to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with experts representing their respective Governments.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Global South Address Sustainable Development Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges/#comments Sun, 25 Sep 2016 03:04:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147080 Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2016 (IPS)

On Friday, a group of 134 developing nations, known as the Group of 77 (G77), came together for a meeting to address challenges and solutions in achieving sustainable development. In attendance were G-77 Foreign Ministers, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and other UN senior officials.

During the 40th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, whose country is currently Chair of the group, highlighted the need to translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete action in line with developing nations’ needs and interests.

“There is no one size fits all approach for development,” he told delegates.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha pointed to several resources to ensure the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including human resources.

“Human beings are full of potential and are the source of innovation and creativity. The challenge is how to tap that potential,” he said. Prime Minister Chan-o-cha looked to education and the improvement of quality of life as ways to build human capacity.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” -- Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long.

Another key challenge that arose during the meeting was ensuring equal participation of developing nations in discussions and solutions.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha expressed his delight in being invited for the first time to the recent G20 Summit in China and called it an “opportunity” for the G77 and developing nations to be heard. However, he still stressed the need to build a global partnership within and beyond developing nations.

“Thailand, as a Chair of the Group, is working as a bridge-builder among all actors that share the same goal in creating a better world, a world without poverty,” he stated. He added that developed nations should assist G77 countries through short-term assistance and capacity building to pave the way for a long-term outcome with the group’s needs in mind.

During the meeting The Kingdom of Thailand made a contribution of 520,000 US dollars to the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF) for South-South Cooperation. The fund supports economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.

President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly (GA) Peter Thomson particularly underlined the importance of cooperation within the Global South.

“South-South cooperation represents the best expression of solidarity and interdependence among developing countries, and will be pivotal in complementing North-South, public and private SDG-implementation initiatives,” he told delegates in his opening address.

Thomson was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, making him the first GA President from the Pacific Islands. Fiji is also a member of the G77.

Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told delegates that there needs to be a “re-founding” of the multilateral system in order to increase solidarity.

“We need a UN with more voices and fewer vetoes,” he stated.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” Long continued.

Ecuador is next in line for chairmanship of the G77 in January 2017, which marks the first time the country will assume the position.

The G77, which began with 77 nations, has since grown to include 134 member states from around the world. It has become the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN, allowing the Global South to express their needs and promote cooperation for development.

Both Thomson and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the G77 is an “indispensable” and “invaluable” partner of the UN.

Thailand will continue as chair of the G77 until the end of December 2016.

During the meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha also presented an award to G77Executive Secretary Mourad Ahmia to express appreciation for his leadership andsupport provided by the G77 Secretariat team to the Kingdom of Thailand as Chair country and to all the Member States.

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Entrepreneurship, Job Creation Take Centre Stage at NEPAD Meethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:27:11 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146861 NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Sep 10 2016 (IPS)

The two-day Second Africa Rural Development Forum concluded Friday with renewed calls to economically empower young people, many of whom are leaving the resource-rich continent and migrating to places like Europe under very risky circumstances.

Opening the conference, the director of programmes implementation and communication at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Estherine Fotabong, reminded delegates that Africa’s high economic growth rates have not translated into high levels of employment and reductions in poverty for youth and those living in rural areas.Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas.

Fotabong observed that Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas, adding that is what frames the rural transformation strategy and agenda for the entire continent.

“This is the experience of all newly wealthy nations, as the most effective means of expanding the domestic market of their own population whose incomes and purchasing power is growing. Without a growing domestic market, in terms of ever-growing numbers of rural and urban people whose income is growing, then it is difficult to escape structural poverty through an outward looking economy,” Fotabong told a jam-packed conference at the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

She added that Africa has deviated from standard processes of structural transformation in that it is experiencing urbanisation without manufacturing jobs.

Urbanisation should typically be a consequence of economic growth, not a lack of it. Unemployment and poverty are structural not temporary — and this is not mostly self-correcting. There is need for “big push policy interventions,” she stressed.

NEPAD’s Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Assane Mayaki agreed. “Attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals to a large extent depends on the transformation of rural areas,” Mayaki told the audience drawn from across the continent.

Immediately after the opening ceremony, a high-level panel discussion moderated by Mayaki zoomed in on challenges regarding demographic growth, pressure on natural resources, employment creation and economic diversification in designing and implementing new development strategies for job creation in rural areas.

Cameroonian Secretary General of Livestock in the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries Jaji Manu Taiga said the government has pumped close to 100 million dollars into his ministry to revitalise the rural sector. Capacity is also being developed among youth in the fisheries sector.

“I am urging Cameroonians that are in the diaspora who wire transfers and invest their money in hotels and apartments to come back and re-think about investing in agriculture and rural development,” Taiga added.

Taiga’s words were corroborated by Ananga Messina Clémentine, Cameroonian minister in charge of rural development. Clémentine forecasted wealth creation generated from agri-business in an ambitious plan where over 5,000 youth are currently being trained in enterprise development. She said there is a ready market in the case of agro-commodities as Cameroon is surrounded by petroleum-producing countries.

“It is time we make agriculture attractive, train and sensitize all demographic groups despite gender so that they know it is profitable. They need to know issues related to market analysis, choices of where to sell their products and building entrepreneurship spirit,” she said.

Clémentine added that in order to make agro products and commodities competitive on the market, there was a need for improved value addition and use of information technology in search of diverse market accessibility. She also stressed that post-harvest losses, currently up to 40 percent, must be brought down to manageable levels, especially in crops such as cassava and cereals. She urged African women to be actively engaged in all those activities, as a part of employment of different jobs within the value chain.

Responding to a comment from the plenary on the effects of climate change on agriculture, Clémentine said that studies have shown that at least 300 hectares of forest are destroyed annually in the Congo basin as a result of bush furrowing, a cultivate and abandon form of farming. She suggested adoption of modern agriculture methods that are less damaging to the environment and to mainstream climate change in African interventions.

Philomena Chege, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, suggested that the time is up to also consider shifting from subsistence farming to mechanization to ensure high productivity and time management on the part of youth.

“There is preference for males over women when it comes to ownership of land which results in young women being marginalized. But also there are issues of startup capital for the youth as well which makes embarking on such initiatives a challenge in most cases,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Koffi Amegbeto, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Senior Policy Officer from the Regional Office for Africa, told IPS that the kind of interventions his office is implementing include support for the formulation and implementation of policies, strategies and programmes that generate decent rural employment, especially for rural youth and women.

“Effective support has been provided to more than twenty countries in the biennium 2014-2015. In particular, FAO is assisting governments in the development of effective public private partnerships fostering youth inclusion in agriculture and in the design of youth-friendly and climate smart methodologies for technical and vocational education and training (e.g. Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology),” Amegbeto told IPS.

Thanks to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, he added, FAO launched multi-country programmes on youth employment in East and West Africa, while a third programme is geared towards supporting the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency’s Rural Futures Programme. The programme aims to promote decent rural youth employment and entrepreneurship in agriculture and agri-business in four countries: Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger.

Secondly, FAO provides policy advice, capacity development and technical support to extend the application of international labour standards in rural areas.

“The main areas of focus have been child labour prevention in agriculture, and occupational safety and health. Four countries (Cambodia, Niger, Malawi, and Tanzania) were supported with programmes to prevent child labour in agriculture with important results in terms of increased awareness and strengthened institutional capacities to prevent child labour,” he said.

Third, FAO provides support to improve information systems and knowledge on decent rural employment at national, regional and global levels.

FAO’s work in the period 2014-2015 included putting in motion the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) in Nigeria, accompanying the Ministry of Youth, Employment and the Promotion of Civic Values in Senegal in developing a national Rural Youth Employment Policy, conducting a youth-focused value chain assessment of the small ruminant value chain in Ethiopia, and entrepreneurship skills training for vulnerable youth in Mali and Zambia.

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Will the World’s Largest Single Market Transform Africa Fortunes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146852 Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 9 2016 (IPS)

Getting just a sliver of the global trade in goods and services worth more than 70 trillion dollars, Africans have every excuse to decide to trade among themselves.

Many argue that it is the only way to leverage trade to secure a better life for the continent’s more than a billion people who need food and jobs.The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

The Africa rising narrative might be getting the much needed validation to tackle widening inequality, joblessness, generalized poverty, food and nutritional insecurity that eclipse successes in meeting some of the development targets included in the newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A rich but poor Africa

The narrative of a poor Africa is about to change. That is, if Africa stands together as much as it did in fighting for its political independence. This time the fight is for a place on the global trade stage. After years of negotiations and the establishment of several free trade blocs, the signing of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement targeted for December 2017 could set Africa on a new development path.

Africa has more to gain than lose in creating the CFTA, which will rival trade agreements like the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Africa already has the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in June 2015 combining three largest trading blocs: The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The three regional economic communities have a combined GDP in excess of 1.3 trillion dollars and a population of 565 million. However, the TFTA, which has been signed by 16 of the 26 member countries, is yet to be ratified to come into force, a blow for the journey to the CFTA.

In their paper on the adoption of the TFTA, Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at  Harvard University, and Francis Mangeni, COMESA Director of Trade, Customs and Monetary Affairs, view regional trade as part of a broader strategy for long-term economic transformation.

They argue that African trade integration measures combine the facilitation of free movement of goods and services, investment in infrastructure, and promotion of industrial development as part of the long-term political vision to unleash the continent’s entrepreneurial potential through regional trade culminating in the African Economic Community by 2028.

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa's economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa’s economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Global trade is an undisputed source of economic development and a decider between the rich and the poor as it facilitates wealth creation and spurs innovation in every sector.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global trade is on the rise but developing countries, many in Africa, account for a small share of this global commerce. Foreign direct investment has gone up in Africa from 9 billion dollars in 2000 to 55 billion in 2014, but rich countries have benefitted more, a situation the first target of the expired Millennium Development Goal 8 sought to address through the development of an open, rule based, predictable and nondiscriminatory trading and financial system.

While an equitable trade system is a global ideal, Africa has the potential to turn the trade tide in its favour by transforming political will into action. Africa has a wide range of natural and mineral resources making beneficiation industries a viable investment option that will help cut unemployment and eliminate poverty which dog many countries in Africa.

Prospects and problems

The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

“The proposed Continental Free Trade Area will expand the continent’s regional investment to West Africa which is currently not covered by the tripartite consolidation of COMESA, EAC and SADC,” Juma told IPS. “This will enlarge investment opportunities for Africans to invest across the continent. A larger continental market will also make African more attractive to foreign investors.”

Juma, who is writing a book on the CFTA to be published to coincide with signing of the agreement in 2017, believes that a larger single market will enable African factories to operate at full capacity, which will in turn stimulate greater technological innovation.

“The impact on innovation will include greater movement of skills to the continent from outside and across the continent between countries. Africans will be able to learn new skills from their foreign counterparts which will help to strengthen the continent’s technological base,” he said.

Africa has as many trade opportunities as it has obstacles to realizing the free movement of goods, services and people. One of the major obstacles to the CFTA identified by Juma is adjusting national laws and practices to enable countries to implement the agreement. Resistance will come from firms that have been previously protected from external competition. A solution, Juma is convinced, lies in balancing corrective measures with incentives.

“The agreement needs to include remedies and incentives that help countries to adjust to the new regime,” he said. “In this regard, the agreement should not be about free trade but it should also have provisions for infrastructure and industrialisation. It should be an economic development agreement, not just a free trade arrangement.”

Africans not trading with Africans

Statistics from COMESA indicate that inter-Africa trade is a paltry 12 percent compared to trade with Europe and Asia, at nearly 60 percent. At the heart of the poor intra-African trade are prohibitive national trade measures. It is easier to buy products from Europe than for African countries to sell to each other.

Trade policy harmonisation and reducing export/import duties are critical to freeing the movement of goods and people. Last month, the African Union launched the electronic Pan African passport, paving the way for free movement across borders and an important step towards a free trade zone. The passport, initially for African heads of state, foreign ministers and diplomats, will be available to African citizens by 2018.

African governments under the African Union have established the Continental Free Trade Agreement Negotiating Forum which has met several times to hammer out modalities of the continent wide free trade zone mooted in 2012. African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram Acyl, told the first meeting of the negotiating forum in February 2016 that the Continental Free Trade Area will integrate Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles of the Abuja Treaty.

It remains for Africa to up investments in road, rail and air infrastructure, communications and seamless service delivery and agriculture which are disproportionate among the 54 member states creating unease as to what a single market will mean for both poor and rich economies.

Economic disparities present a hurdle Africa must overcome as many of Africa’s 54 countries are small, with populations of less than 20 million and economies under 10 billion dollars. National markets would be insufficient to justify investments as adequate supply of inputs and sufficient demand would be too expensive or out of reach that a bigger market will achieve.

The consulting firm McKinsey predicts consumer spending in Africa will rise from 860 billion dollars to 1.4 trillion by 2020, potentially lifting millions out of poverty should a single market be inaugurated.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has calculated that the CFTA could increase intra-African trade by as much as 35 billion dollars per year over the next six years.

Concluding CFTA negotiations this year in good time for the 2017 deadline could open a new chapter in African trade and chart a new path towards economic independence and growth. The only question that remains is, will it happen?

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, observed on September 12.

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India and China, a New Era of Strategic Partners?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:49:02 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146839 Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. This offers both nations opportunities to work together. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. This offers both nations opportunities to work together. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Sep 8 2016 (IPS)

Despite bilateral dissonances and an unresolved boundary issue, India and China — two of the world’s most ancient civilisations — are engaged in vigorous cooperation at various levels. The Asian neighbours’ relationship has also focussed global attention in recent years on Asia’s demographically dominant, major developing economies engaged in common concerns of poverty alleviation and national development.

As the world’s two most populous nations, making up nearly 37 percent of humanity, India and China are committed to improve the lot of their people. These complementarities offer the scope to work in synergy and strengthen ties. Over the next decade, China will be home to the world’s largest elderly population while India — because of its demographic dividend — will require jobs for the world’s largest workforce. This area offers both nations opportunities to work together.With Western economies remaining skittish, India - with its 1.25 billion people and bubbling entrepreneurial energy - offers Chinese investors enormous scope for growth.

As neighbours, China and India have also shared a long history of cultural, scientific, and economic linkages. Following a brief border war in 1962, bilateral trade and investment suffered. However, the last decade the economic relationship of the two giant nations has gained traction. And from just about 3 billion dollars in trade at the turn of the century, the countries are now eyeing 100 billion dollars worth of merchandise trade. This will mean tremendous opportunities for traders and investors in both countries.

Apart from sharing a new extroversion and enthusiasm in their economic policies, Delhi and Beijing have also tightened their economic embrace with the rest of the world. China and India are also members of the World Trade Organization, India as a founding member and China since 2001.

Analysts say that robust economic ties between China and India will also play a stellar role in one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world by 2020. Even conservative estimates suggest that, by 2020, China-India trade could surpass US-China trade.

There is a plethora of business opportunities for India and China, in sectors such as agriculture and food processing, asset management, construction and infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, electronics and information technology, and transport and logistics. The pharmaceutical sector also offers gargantuan business potential for both countries.

China also has a vast underused manufacturing capacity, plus capital surpluses in need of new markets. With Western economies remaining skittish, India – with its 1.25 billion people and bubbling entrepreneurial energy – offers Chinese investors enormous scope for growth.

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, shares common concerns of poverty alleviation and nation-building with China. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, shares common concerns of poverty alleviation and nation-building with China. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

China is also seeking greater economic cooperation with India on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor and the New Silk Route programme. Beijing could help accelerate India’s economic take-off by focusing on the key areas of manufacturing, roads, railways and industrial parks, which can form the bedrock for bilateral ties.

Beijing and New Delhi’s attempts to build a strategic and cooperative partnership while expanding trade and economic cooperation has resulted in China emerging as India’s biggest trading partner. However, a few wrinkles need to be ironed out on this front. India’s trade deficit with China has ratcheted up from 1 billion dollars in 2001-02 to 48.43 billion in 2014-15. This asymmetry has raised issues of sustainability.

However, bilateral engagements in this sphere have raised hopes of a more sustainable trade trajectory. Towards this end, the Commerce Ministries of both the countries have also signed a Five-year Development Programme for Economic and Trade Cooperation in September 2014 to lay down a medium-term roadmap for promoting balanced and sustainable development of economic and trade relations.

signs of cooperation are also visible in recent bilateral agreements inked for railway cooperation, smart cities, and skill development. Although the two countries are considered political rivals, in October 2013, China and India inked the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement. The Agreement acknowledges “the need to continue to maintain peace, stability and tranquillity along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas and to continue implementing confidence building measures in the military field along the line of actual control.”

China and India are also among 21 Asian countries to sign on to a new infrastructure investment bank — the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — which will offer the region a counterpoint to West-dominated financial institutions like the World Bank. China and India’s combined resources and talents can power regional and global economic growth.

Despite being critical of China’s expansionist policies, and increasing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea, India is keen on robust ties with China. As well as pursuing bilateral cooperation in areas like infrastructure, industry, communications and energy, both India and China are also forging Sino-Indian cooperation at multilateral forums like the G20, the East Asia Summit and BRICS.

The two sides have strengthened strategic dialogue on such major international issues as climate change and global action, and safeguarded the common interests of emerging markets and developing countries. Delhi and Beijing are also keen to augment cooperation in such fields as railway and industrial park construction, security, anti-terror and anti-extremism, and to expand communication and exchanges in education and tourism, and facilitate more exchanges among regional governments of both countries, and jointly safeguard their common interests as well as those of all developing countries.
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Given that India and China have many shared goals and areas of convergences, a bilateral relationship premised on a balanced economic engagement, along with some inventive and bold thinking on the political front, can benefit both nations while jumpstarting an Asian revolution.

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, observed on September 12.

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U.S. and China Formally Join Paris Agreement in Show of Unityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/u-s-and-china-formally-join-paris-agreement-in-show-of-unity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-and-china-formally-join-paris-agreement-in-show-of-unity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/u-s-and-china-formally-join-paris-agreement-in-show-of-unity/#comments Sat, 03 Sep 2016 20:05:11 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146770 The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force. Credit: Bigstock

The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force. Credit: Bigstock

By Guy Dinmore
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 3 2016 (IPS)

The world’s super-polluters – the United States and China – have formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate change in a symbolic show of unity.

At a ceremony in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, where China is hosting a summit of G20 industrialised nations, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping handed their documents of ratification to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.In contrast to the excitement in Honolulu among the world’s leading environmental activists and scientists, the announcement that Obama had used his executive authority to accede to the Paris Agreement was widely ignored by the major U.S. networks.

The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force, most likely by the end of the year. For the agreement to enter into effect and start to be implemented, at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions need to formally join.

The UN Secretary General praised Obama for his “inspiring” leadership. He said Obama and Xi had both been “far-sighted, bold and ambitious”.

The joint accession by the world’s biggest polluters was enthusiastically welcomed in Honolulu where the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which groups governments and NGOs, is holding a key congress that aims to chart the future path for stopping the planet’s slide into environmental ruin.

“This is a momentous event,” Xavier Sticker, France’s ambassador for the environment, said of the ratification by the U.S. and China. He told IPS it was expected to pave the way for many other countries to follow. But he cautioned that the European Union needs to accede as a bloc and that the internal complexities of national political systems could lead to delays. Belgium requires the assent of seven legislative assemblies, for example. France has already ratified but the UK has not.

Delegates at the IUCN World Conservation Congress warned that there was a risk for the European Union that the Paris Agreement implementation taskforce would be formed next month without EU involvement.

Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged IUCN delegates representing the global conservation community to lobby governments on what must be done to achieve the Paris Agreement targets on emissions and limiting the rise of global temperatures.

“We are very excited about this good news, for the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. No one had imagined it would be this year,” she said shortly before official confirmation arrived from Hangzhou.

In contrast to the excitement in Honolulu among the world’s leading environmental activists and scientists, the announcement that Obama had used his executive authority to accede to the Paris Agreement was widely ignored by the major US networks in their news bulletins. Ironically, however, there was considerable coverage of Tropical Storm Hermine moving up the east coast of the U.S. on Labour Day weekend, possibly turning back into hurricane force, and also of Hurricane Lester brushing past Hawaii.

“We are here together because we believe that for all the challenges that we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge,” Obama said in a speech in Hangzhou.

“And someday we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet,” he added. “There are no shortage of cynics who thought the agreement would not happen. But they missed two big things: The investments that we made to allow for incredible innovation in clean energy, and the strong, principled diplomacy over the course of years that we were able to see pay off in the Paris Agreement. The United States and China were central to that effort. Over the past few years, our joint leadership on climate has been one of the most significant drivers of global action,” Obama said.

Xi was reported as calling the Paris Agreement a milestone that marks the “emergence of a global government system” for climate change. “Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of mankind,” China’s president said.

The accession of China and the U.S. bring to 25 the number of countries to have ratified so far. Diplomatic pressure is expected to be ramped up on other major polluters, such as India and Russia.

But scientists and activists are warning that the Paris Agreement target of keeping temperature rises “well below” 2 degrees centigrade, with a soft target of 1.5 degrees, is already on its way to being breached as the world records a succession of the hottest months on record.

“What’s needed is comprehensive and urgent action now to slash emissions and build a low-carbon future,” Friends of the Earth commented.

The Paris Agreement also provides for 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

The U.S. and China have set widely differing targets on carbon emissions, because of their different stages of economic development. The U.S. plans over the next 10 years to reduce emissions by over a quarter below the level of 2005, while China says it intends to stop increasing its emissions by 2030.

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UN Negotiations Focus on What Lies Beneath the High Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/un-negotiations-focus-on-what-lies-beneath-the-high-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-negotiations-focus-on-what-lies-beneath-the-high-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/un-negotiations-focus-on-what-lies-beneath-the-high-seas/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 01:12:15 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146719 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/un-negotiations-focus-on-what-lies-beneath-the-high-seas/feed/ 1 The Economic Partnership Agreement has never made much sense for Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:02:17 +0000 Benjamin W. Mkapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146567

Benjamin William Mkapa is a former President of Tanzania and the Chair of the South Centre Board

By Benjamin W. Mkapa
GENEVA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

The EPA issue has once again re-emerged when, in early July, Tanzania informed East African Community( EAC) members and the European Union (EU) that it would not be able to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between European Union (EU)  and the six EAC member states.

The European Commission reportedly proposed signature of the EAC EPA in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the 14th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV).

Benjamin William Mkapa

Benjamin William Mkapa

This is a major quadrennial event where all United Nations member states negotiate guidance for UNCTAD. For the European Commission, it would have been a propitious place for a signature ceremony as it would have projected the EPA as a “trade and development” agreement to the benefit of EAC.

Nevertheless, the agreement is antithetical to Tanzania’s as well as the region’s trade and development prospects.

The EPA for Tanzania and the EAC never made sense. The maths just never added up. The costs for the country and the EAC region would have been higher than the benefits.

As a least developed country (LDC), Tanzania already enjoys the Everything but Arms (EBA) preference scheme provided by the European Union.

In other words, we can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports.

The EPA is a free trade agreement. Under it, Tanzania would have to reduce to zero the tariffs on 90 per cent of all its industrial goods trade with the EU, according duty-free access for almost all the EU’s non-agricultural products into the country.

Such a high level of liberalisation vis-à-vis a very competitive partner is likely to put our existing local industries in jeopardy and discourage the development of new industries.

Research using trade data shows that Tanzania currently produces and exports on 983 tariff lines (at the HS 6 digit level.) The EU produces and exports on over 5,000 tariff lines. If the EPA were implemented, 335 of the 983 products we currently produce would be protected in the EPA’s “sensitive list,” but 648 tariff lines would be made duty-free.

So the existing industries on these 648 tariff lines would have to compete with EU’s imports without the protection of tariffs. Will these sectors survive the competition?

These 648 tariff lines include agricultural products (maize products, cotton seed oil cake); chemical products (urea, fertilisers); vehicle industry parts (tyres); medicaments; intermediate industrial products ( plastic packing material, steel, iron and aluminium articles, wires and cables); parts of machines and final industrial products (weighing machines, metal rolling mills, drilling machines, transformers, generating sets, prefabricated buildings etc); parts of machines (parts of gas turbines, parts of cranes, work-trucks, shovels, and other construction machinery, parts of machines for industrial preparation/ manufacturing of food, aircraft parts etc).

We can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports
The list does not stop here. Liberalisation (zero tariffs) also applies to the many industrial sectors that Tanzania and the EAC do not yet have existing production/exports ­ about 3,102 tariff lines for Tanzania.

Statistics show that in fact, for the EAC region, the African market is the primary market for its manufactured exports. In contrast, 91% of its current trade with the EU is made up of primary commodity exports (agricultural products such as coffee, tea, spices, fruit and vegetables, fish, tobacco, hides and skins etc).

Only a minuscule 6% or about $200,000 of EAC exports to the EU is composed of manufactured goods.In contrast, of the total EAC exports to Africa, almost 50% is made up of manufactured exports – about $2.5 billion – according to 2013 ­ 2015 data. Of this, $1.5 billion are EAC country exports to other EAC countries.

These figures tell two stories: One; the importance of the African market for EAC’s aspirations to industrialise. In contrast, the EU market plays almost no role in this. Two the EAC internal market makes up 60% of EAC’s manufactured exports to Africa, i.e., the EAC regional market is extremely valuable in supporting EAC’s industrialisation efforts.

The EPA would threaten this regional industrialisation opportunity that is currently blossoming since most EU manufactured products would enter the EAC market dutyfree. Just as our manufactured products are not competitive in the EU market, even though they can be exported dutyfree, might it not be the case that when EU manufactured products can come duty-free into the EAC market, EAC manufactured products may also not sell? The EPA could in fact destroy our economic regional integration efforts.

The pains EAC has taken to build a regional market may instead help serve EU’s commercial interests by offering the EU one EAC market, rather than ensuring that that market can be accessed by our own producers.

The other area where EPA hits the heart of our industrialisation aspirations are its disciplines on export taxes. At the World Trade Organization, export taxes are completely legal.The logic of export taxes is to encourage producers to enter into value-added processing, hence encouraging diversification and the upgradation of production capacities. Developed countries themselves had used these policy tools when they were developing.

The EU has a raw materials initiative aimed at accessing non-agricultural raw materials found in other countries. According to the European Commission, ‘securing reliable and unhindered access to raw materials is important for the EU. In the EU, there are at least 30 million jobs depending on the availability of raw materials.’ In implementing this initiative, the EU has used trade agreements to discipline export taxes.

The EPA prohibits signatories from introducing new export taxes or increase existing ones. For Tanzania and the EAC region with its rich deposits of raw material, including tungsten, cobalt, tantalum etc; such disciplines in the long-run would be incongruent with our objective to industrialise and add value to our resources.

The other area of loss resulting from the EPA is tariff revenue, and the numbers are not small. Conservative estimates (assuming import growth of 0.9% year on year) show that for the EAC as a whole tariff revenue losses would amount to $251 million a year by the end of the EPA’s implementation period Cumulative tariff revenue losses would amount to USD 2.9 billion in the first 25 years of the EPA’s life.

For Tanzania, the losses based on 2013/­2014 import figures are about $71 million a year by year 25. Cumulatively, just for Tanzania, they come up to $700 million over the first 25 years.

Where is the Promised Development Aid?

EU has made many promises that the EPA would be accompanied by development assistance. Hence the EAC EPA incorporates a ‘Development Matrix’ containing a list of economic development projects for the EAC. The price tag of implementing this Development Matrix is $70 billion.

The Matrix and assistance is to be reviewed every 5 years. For the time-being, the EU has pledged to contribute a paltry $3.49 million, which translates into 0.005% of the total required funds!This is also a far cry from the tariff revenue losses the region faces ­the $251 million a year mentioned above.

The only area where the EPA is supposed to serve the interest of the EAC is by providing duty-free access to Kenya. As a non-LDC, Kenya does not have duty-free access via the EU’s EBA. Kenya’s main export item to the EU is flowers ­ just over $500,000 a year.

Without the EPA, Kenyan’s flowers would be charged a 10% customs duty. There are other Kenyan exports also ­vegetables, fruit, fish – that will face tariffs. However, the flower industry has thus far been the most vocal. Nevertheless, all in all, Kenyan exports to the EU market (including the UK) amounts to about $1.5 billion.

If no EPA is signed, the extra duties charged to Kenyan exports amounts to about $100 million a year. Is this worth signing an EPA for? — The avoidance of duties of $100 million? The tariff revenue losses as the EPA is implemented (and more tariff lines are liberalised) would be comparable.

This does not even include the tariff revenue losses of the other EAC LDCs, nor the challenges posed to domestic/ regional industries. In addition, the Brexit development is further reason for the region to pause and reconsider.

The UK is a major export market for Kenya, absorbing 28% of Kenya’s exports to the EU. This reduces the EPA’s supposed ‘benefits’ by a quarter for Kenya. There is a possible solution for Kenya ­ to apply for the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus scheme (GSP+). Under this, almost all of Kenya’s current exports could enter EU duty-free including flowers and fish.

This option could be explored. Alternatively all EAC countries would do well to attempt to diversify production and exports away from primary commodities towards value-added products, and also to diversify our export destinations. Africa is a critical market for EAC’s manufactured goods. Regional integration and trade is the most promising avenue for EAC’s industrial development. The EPA would derail us from that promise.

This article was published firstly in Daily News of Tanzania

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Developing Nations Seek Tax Body to Curb Illicit Financial Flowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/developing-nations-seek-tax-body-to-curb-illicit-financial-flows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-nations-seek-tax-body-to-curb-illicit-financial-flows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/developing-nations-seek-tax-body-to-curb-illicit-financial-flows/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:04:04 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146440 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/developing-nations-seek-tax-body-to-curb-illicit-financial-flows/feed/ 0 UNCTAD’s Roles Reaffirmed, but Only after Significant Wranglinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/unctads-roles-reaffirmed-but-only-after-significant-wrangling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unctads-roles-reaffirmed-but-only-after-significant-wrangling http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/unctads-roles-reaffirmed-but-only-after-significant-wrangling/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 14:24:56 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146374 By Martin Khor
PENANG, Aug 3 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations’ leading development organisation UNCTAD recently obtained a renewed mandate for its work, but not without difficulty.

This is because the developed countries are now much more reluctant to give concessions to the developing countries, thus showing up the present shaky state of North-South relations and of development cooperation.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The 14th session of the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (dubbed UNCTAD 14) concluded in Nairobi on 22 July with an agreed declaration on global economic issues.

It also gave UNCTAD another four-year mandate for its activities of research, intergovernmental meetings, and technical assistance.

Reaching this consensus was hailed as a success in multilateral cooperation on trade, development, and related issues. However, an agreement was reached, on what should have been non-controversial issues, only after a lot of difficult wrangling between the developed and developing countries.

Formed in 1964, UNCTAD is the UN’s premier economic development organisation. In its hey- day from the 1960s to the 1980s, it was the world’s most important negotiating forum on trade issues, specialising in global commodity agreements.

It helped lead the developing countries’ initiative for a “new international economic order”. It was also designated the UN’s focal point for the integrated treatment of trade and development and with areas of finance, technology, and investment.

For over half a century, UNCTAD has championed the cause of developing countries. But in recent decades, under the influence of developed countries, its role was downgraded. Many of its important issues were passed on to other organisations over which the developed countries have more control, such as the OECD, World Trade Organisation, IMF and World Bank.

The developing countries have had to fight continuously to slow down or stop the decline of the UNCTAD and the UN in general.

At UNCTAD 14, the delegations spent hectic days and sleepless nights to thrash out hundreds of disputed paragraphs which could not be agreed on even after many months of negotiations in Geneva.

Principles or even phrases that have long been agreed to as part of global cooperation are now challenged or even made taboo by the developed countries.

They had previously been amenable to place on record the need to transfer technology and provide financial resources and special treatment to developing countries.

Now it is considered almost too sensitive to propose language on “additional financial resources”and “technology transfer”, while big battles have to be waged to reaffirm the long-accepted principles of “common but differentiated responsibility” and “special and differential treatment for developing countries.”

The developed countries have become less secure in their domination over the global economy and thus they are no longer willing to recognise many of the rights of and concessions to the developing countries that are embedded in the global development system.

It was thus a big challenge for the developing countries, led by their umbrella group, The G77, and China, to get their developed-country partners to reach a consensus at UNCTAD 14, as illustrated by the following examples.

First, the developing countries fought to re-affirm the need for countries to have “policy space”. This concept agreed to at an earlier UNCTAD conference, implies that developing countries should be given the right to make use of policies and instruments required for their development.

Many trade and investment agreements have been identified as containing provisions that restrict or even eliminate the ability of developing countries to pursue pro-development policies.

The developing countries proposed language on policy space in many parts of the document, but they faced resistance. Eventually only a mild and conditioned reference was accepted, as follows: “….and respecting each country’s policy space while remaining consistent with relevant international rules and its commitments.”(Para 3 of the Declaration).

Second, the developing countries wanted an expanded mandate for UNCTAD’s important work on external debt issues. UNCTAD has been the UN system’s main organisation on debt; it has championed debt relief for poor countries, and the need for an international debt restructuring mechanism to resolve debt crises.

Developing countries wanted to stress that UNCTAD has a role in the prevention and resolution of debt crises and not just debt management, but this faced objections. Further, language was introduced to narrow the scope of UNCTAD’s debt work to one of complementing the work of the IMF and World Bank, which would have curbed its independence.

At the last minute, developing countries managed to add “as appropriate”, implying that the “complementing” function would be used only at UNCTAD’s own discretion.

Third,the developing countries wanted to mention the need to rapidly conclude the Doha Round at the World Trade Organisation. This is hardly a radical idea since the need to conclude the Doha trade negotiations has been a longstanding mantra for many years in international discussions and many declarations on development.

However, the developed countries have recently decided to give up on the Doha Round altogether, to the frustration of developing countries. Thus, at their insistence, work on the Round was not even mentioned in the UNCTAD14 outcome.

Fourth, in many other fora, including the UN climate change convention, “technology transfer” has become a taboo phrase, and even its mention has been opposed, especially by the US.

It is to the credit of developing countries that this term appears several times in the UNCTAD 14 declaration, including that UNCTAD should assist developing countries to identify ways to operationalize technology transfer (Para 40f).

Fifth, the need for international cooperation on tax issues (including how to deal with tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax havens) has become a hot topic recently. Most developing countries have been excluded from the international discussions on these issues as they are mainly held at the OECD (the club of developed countries) of which they are not members.

They asked during the UNCTAD negotiations for the setting up a UN committee on tax issues at which all countries could discuss and make decisions, but this was not acceptable to the developed countries.

However the final document but does mention taxation a number of times, thus providing UNCTAD a mandate, though limited, in pursuing the issue.

There were other positive elements too at UNCTAD 14. The role of UNCTAD as the focal point in the UN system dealing in an integrated manner with trade and development and inter-related areas of finance, technology, and investment, was reaffirmed.

Also reaffirmed is the importance of UNCTAD’s “independent development oriented analytical work”. And the conference gave a fresh mandate for UNCTAD’swork in the next four years.

These reaffirmations of UNCTAD’s roles and mandates were hailed as a victory, for it was uncertain until the last hours whether an overall agreement could be reached on the Declaration.

This situation depicts the underlying conflicting positions, with the South desiring that UNCTAD expand its mission to champion the cause of development and the North attempting to restrict the role of UNCTAD to a bare minimum.

As UNCTAD 14 neared conclusion, UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi remarked: “I’m delighted that our 194 member states have been able to reach this consensus, giving a central role to UNCTAD in delivering the sustainable development goals.”

It is to the credit of the developing countries and the G77 and China, that they succeeded in having many of their main points, although in diluted form, included in the UNCTAD 14 outcome.

Although it may not have the same clout as during its high years some decades ago, UNCTAD lives on to fight another day.

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New Alliance to Shore Up Food Security Launched in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:59:47 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146365 PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

By Desmond Latham
CAPE TOWN, Aug 2 2016 (IPS)

As over 20 million sub-Saharan Africans face a shortage of food because of drought and development issues, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) met in Johannesburg to forge a new parliamentary alliance focusing on food and nutritional security.

Monday’s meeting here came after years of planning that began on the sidelines of the Second International Conference on Nutrition organised by the FAO in late 2014.“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger." -- Dr. Bernadette Lahai

Speaking at the end of the day-long workshop held at the offices of the PAP, its fourth vice president was upbeat about the programme and what she called the “positive energy” shown by attendees.

“We have about 53 countries here in the PAP and the alliance is going to be big,” said Dr. Bernadette Lahai. “At a continental level, once we have launched the alliance formally, we’ll encourage regional parliaments so the whole of Africa will really come together.”

“This will be a very big voice,” she said on the sidelines of the workshop.

FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, said her role was to ensure that parliamentarians take up food security as a central theme.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because based on the evidence that we have in the FAO, is that once you have the laws and policies on food and nutrition security in place there is a positive correlation with the improvement of the indicators of both food and security of nutrition,” she told IPS.

“Last year we facilitated the attendance of seven African parliamentarians to a Latin American and Caribbean meeting in Lima, and these seven requested us to have an interaction with parliamentarians of Africa,” she said.

A small team of officials representing Latin America and the Caribbean had traveled to Johannesburg to provide some details of their own experience working alongside the FAO in an alliance which had focused on providing food security to the hungry in South America and the island nations of the Caribbean.

These included Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador, who told the 20-odd PAP representatives that in her experience working alongside officials from the FAO had helped eradicate hunger in much of the region.

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

Caribbean representative Caesar Saboto of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was also forthright about the opportunities that existed in the developing world to deal with hunger alleviation.

“It’s the first time that I’m traveling to Africa,” he said, “and it’s not for a vacation. It’s for a very important reason. I do not want to go back to the Caribbean and I’m certain that Maria Augusta Calle does not want to go back only to say that we came to give a speech.”

Saboto delivered a short presentation where he outlined how a similar programme to the foundation envisaged by those attending the workshop had drastically reduced hunger in his country.

“In 1995, 20 percent of my country of 110,000 people were undernourished,” he said. “Over 22,000 were food vulnerable. But do you know what? Working with communities and within governments we managed to drive down that number to 5,000 in 2012 or 4.9 percent of the population. And I’m pleased to announce here for the first time, that in 2016 we are looking at a number of 3,500 or 3.2 percent,” he said to applause from the delegates.

PAP members present included representatives of sectors such as agriculture, gender, transport and justice as well as health. Questions from the floor included how well a small island nation’s processes could be used in addressing the needs of vastly larger regions in Africa.

“Any number can be divided,” said Saboto. “First you have to start off with the political will, both government and opposition must buy into the idea. If you have 20 million people you could divide them into workable groups and assign structures for management accountability and transparency,” he said.

African delegates queried the processes which the Latin American nations have used to set up structures in particular.  Dr. Lahai wanted the Latin American delegates to assist the African parliament in planning the foundation.

“Food security is not only a political issue but a developmental issue,” she told IPS in an interview.

“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger,” she said.

But major challenges remain. After a meeting in October last year, the FAO had contracted the PAP with a view to targeting hunger in a new alliance. The PAP is a loose grouping of African nations and members pointed out that they were unable to get nation states to support an initiative without a high-level buy in of their political leadership.

Dr. Lahai was adamant that the workshop should begin addressing issues of structure. She stressed that co-ordination between the PAP, various countries and other groupings such as Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) should be considered.

“We need a proper framework,” she said. “It’s important to engage our leaderships in this process. With that in mind, I would suggest that we learn a great deal from our visitors who’ve had a positive experience in tackling nutrition issues in Latin America.”

In an earlier presentation, FAO representative for South Africa Lewis Hove had warned that a lack of access to food and nutrition had created a situation where children whose growth had been stunted by this reality actually were in the most danger of becoming obese later in life. The seeming contradiction was borne out by statistics presented to the group showing low and middle income countries could see their benefit cost ratio climb to 16-1.

Africa’s Nutritional Scorecard published by NEPAD in late 2015 shows that around 58 million children in sub-Saharan regions under the age of five are too short for their age. A further 163 million women and children are anaemic because of a lack of nutrition.

The day ended with an appeal for further training and facilitation to be enabled by the FAO and PAP leadership. With that in mind, the upcoming meeting of Latin American and Caribbean states in Mexico was set as an initial deadline to begin the process of creating a new secretariat. It was hoped that this would prompt those involved in the PAP to push the process forward and it was agreed that a new Secretariat would be instituted to be headquartered at the PAP in South Africa.

Dr Lahai said delegates would now prepare a technical report which would then be signed off at the next round of the PAP set for Egypt later this year.

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Q&A: Representing Developing Countries at the United Nations in New Yorkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/qa-representing-developing-countries-at-the-united-nations-in-new-york/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-representing-developing-countries-at-the-united-nations-in-new-york http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/qa-representing-developing-countries-at-the-united-nations-in-new-york/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 07:11:58 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146328 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77.  Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 2016 (IPS)

IPS spoke with the Virachai Plasai, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77 about what it’s like to represent 134 developing countries, including China, at UN meetings in New York. Plasai spoke about some of the group’s priorities for 2016, including the selection of the ninth UN Secretary-General, the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

IPS: The UN is currently selecting a Secretary-General for 2017 and G77 members have had the opportunity to question most of the candidates. Has this process been beneficial to G77 members? Do you think that this new, more open selection process will help ensure that the next Secretary-General will be somebody who understands the interests of developing countries?

Ambassador Plasai: The selection and appointment of the Secretary-General this year benefits from efforts to bring greater transparency and openness to the process, which G77 wholeheartedly support.

Of particular importance is the informal dialogues with candidates organised by the President of the General Assembly as mandated by the General Assembly. The Chair of G77 and several G77 members took part actively in these informal dialogues by posing questions on issues of interest to developing countries to the candidates. In addition, the Group have positively responded to the request from the candidates who wished to present their vision as Secretary-General to the Group and interact with the Group members.

These exercises have brought issues of concern for G77 members to the attention of the candidates. We can thus reasonably expect that the successful candidate will be well aware of the issues of concern for developing countries.

IPS: How would you describe the role of the G77 at the UN in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Plasai: The G77 have been committed to and have contributed constructively in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Group has called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries. We believe that the United Nations has a critical role to play in urging national leaders and actors to follow up on their commitments, especially in the Financing for Development Forum and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

In this regard, the Group called for an intergovernmental process to discuss the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda in the form of a General Assembly resolution. The Group advocates for the following points in such a process:

All 17 goals are integrated and indivisible, ambitious and evolving. The review should be systematic, and promotes a holistic understanding of the significant interlinkages across the goals and targets.

All inputs and reports, including from functional commissions, should be fed into the HLPF.

It is up to each Member State to decide how to present the voluntary national review at the HLPF. It is important not to overburden countries, especially those with limited capacities and resources.

The follow-up and review at the regional level and sub-regional levels can, as appropriate, provide opportunities for peer learning, sharing of best practices and discussions on shared targets. It is important to build on existing mechanisms.

It is important to reinforce the existing modalities of Groups of countries in special situations, including the most vulnerable ones, in particular LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS and African countries. Particular challenges facing the middle-income countries in achieving SDGs should also be recognized and supported by the international community. Moreover, we must not leave peoples and countries under foreign occupation behind.

The UN system must support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by ensuring coherent and integrated support of the system-wide strategic planning implementation and reporting.

The Secretariat must support member states in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and must not work in silos.

IPS: The high-level signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement took place in New York on 22 April 2016 – what were some of the highlights of the day for the G77?

Plasai: The Group highlighted the following key points:

First, the Agreement is a result of the collective and tireless efforts of all parties working constructively in a spirit of compromise. It represents a step forward in our efforts on climate change.

Second, we must not forget the urgent need to enhance pre-2020 ambition, including the ratification of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which will provide a strong basis for post-2020 efforts under the Paris Agreement. We also need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with the target to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. We should also make efforts to limit this temperature increase to 1.5º C.

Third, the focus now should both be on the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and on delivering the major tasks to enhance pre-2020 implementation. This includes action on adaptation which is an urgent priority for developing countries. Financing for adaptation is critical; and securing the continued role of the Adaptation Fund pre 2020 and beyond 2020 is welcomed and should be enhanced.

Fourth, on mitigation, developed countries should continue taking the lead by undertaking and increasing economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets for their pledges and nationally determined contributions (NDCs). For developing countries, capacity-building support for climate action is critical. This support should be based on and responsive to national needs and country ownership. The process of capacity-building must be participatory, country-driven, and cross-cutting. Enhanced financial and technological support from developed countries will allow effective implementation and enhance ambition of developing countries.

Fifth, transformation of our economies to low carbon development pathways requires adequate, predictable and sustainable climate financing. Means of implementation is a key pillar for the implementation of the Agreement. We welcome the approval of the first projects by the Green Climate Fund. We envision that a substantive decision on increasing climate finance will be an important outcome of COP 22 in Morocco.

IPS: What are the challenges and opportunities for the Group of 77 with regard to the global indicator framework for the 2030 Agenda?

Plasai: The challenge is that the development of the global indicators is a technical process which should continue to be led by the national Statistical Offices. At the same time, it has political implications. We believe that the political balance and ambition of the 2030 Agenda should be preserved without reinterpreting the scope or intent of the targets. The tricky part is that our national Statistical Offices need to understand the inherent political sensitivity of the SDG negotiations.

In this regard, we need to avoid undue haste to prematurely conclude the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). The adoption of the Report of the IAEG-SDGs by the Statistical Commission in March is just a starting point of the work on the global indicators. Further methodological work will be required with a view to continuously improving the indicators and the availability of data to address their shortcomings.

The opportunity lies in our insistence for a coordinated effort in the United Nations System to enhance statistical capacity in developing countries. Capacity-building is needed to strengthen statistical capacities at national and sub-national levels.

IPS: Achieving the SDGs will require a rethinking of how public and private funds are spent. In 2015, G77 countries called for global tax cooperation as one way to help governments in developing countries to increase their budgets. Is establishing a global tax cooperation body still a priority for the G77 countries? How will tax cooperation help developing countries to fund the SDGs?

G77 have continuously urged an upgrade of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to an inter-governmental subsidiary body.

We believe that such a global tax body can contribute to a coherent global tax system, less double taxation and double-non-taxation, stronger implementation, fair and consistent global action against tax havens, and more financing for development in the poorest countries.

Besides, such a global tax cooperation body will also allow all Member States to take part in and make decisions on tax matters, on a truly equal footing, and in a more accountable and transparent manner. This is all the more important in light of the recent high-profile international tax evasion cases.

It can be expected that such a global tax cooperation body can result in more effective tax policy and a more efficient domestic tax collection. At the same time, unfair international tax distortion and tax evasion can be reduced. More effective mobilization of domestic resources undoubtedly benefits the implementation of SDGs, and thus should be part of national sustainable development strategies.

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UN Trade and Development Conference a “Big Win” for Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146319 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2016 (IPS/G77)

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concluded its five-day meeting in Nairobi on a positive note—the launch of a new e-trade initiative and a multi-donor trust fund on trade and productive capacity.

The meeting, attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 149 countries, also launched the first UN statistical report on specific indicators on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a commitment for a roadmap on fisheries subsidies.

The negotiations ended in the early hours of July 22 after two marathon all-night sessions. The resulting Nairobi consensus, “the Maafikiano”, also sets UNCTAD’s work programme for the next four years.

Billed as UNCTAD 14, the conference was formally opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the presence of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and the vice-President of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.

The meeting also launched the 2016 report on ‘Economic Development in Africa’, and highlighted issues around non-tariff measures, debt, and illicit financial flows, along with a fashion show focusing on the creative and commercial potential of Kenya’s fashion industry.

In his opening address, the Secretary-General warned about the “worrying signs that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state of the global economy.”

He said high inequality, stagnant incomes, lack of enough jobs – especially for youth — and too little cause for optimism stoke legitimate fears for the future for many in all regions.

“The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization, and those who continue to feel left behind. “

And rather than working to change the economic model for the better, Ban said, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism and even xenophobia.

"International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable." -- Apichart Chinwanno.

“The vision set out in the SDGs – for people, planet, prosperity and peace – will not succeed if shocks and stresses in our global economic and financial system are not properly addressed,” he noted.

Trade must provide prosperity in ways that work for people and planet and respond to the challenges of climate change, said Ban.

A Ministerial Declaration adopted by the 134 members of the Group of 77 and China on the occasion of UNCTAD addressed the “key issues that are of major concern to developing countries,” said Apichart Chinwanno, Permanent Secretary And Special Envoy Of The Minister Of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom Of Thailand, speaking on Behalf of ‘The Group Of 77 and China In New York’.

“These (key issues) include the need to tackle subsidies and various forms of market access restrictions, tax evasion and tax avoidance, illicit capital flows, sovereign debt crisis as well as the need to uphold principles of equity, inclusiveness, common but differentiated responsibilities, special and differential treatment, and the right to development, just to name a few,” said Chinwanno at a Ministerial Meeting Of The Group Of 77 held on the occasion Of UNCTAD in Nairobi on July 17.

“International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable,” added Chinwanno.

Chinwanno also noted that Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains at an average of just “0.29% of the aggregate donor Gross National Income in 2014, well below the commitment of 0.7%.”

According to an UNCTAD press release, this year’s conference, with the tagline “From decision to action”, had added significance because it was the first UNCTAD conference since the global community established the Sustainable Development Goals and mandated – via the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – with UNCTAD as one of five international organizations to mobilize financing for development.”

The other four organizations are the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Martin Khor, Executive Director of the Geneva-based South Centre said an important aspect of today’s global economy is that the economic weight of the South has undeniably increased, with China and India accounting for a large share of this increase.

He said developing countries as a whole are more integrated into the world economy.  However, these changes have not yet constituted a full scale shift in the global landscape.

The development gap between the North and the South still exists, even exacerbated for some countries.  The task of bridging this gap is becoming more complex and difficult in today’s global economic environment, he cautioned.

Throughout the various major international negotiations that took place last year that resulted in the recently concluded international outcomes like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement, the South continuously highlighted the need to close the development gap faster and in a more sustainable and equitable manner, he noted.

“None of these outcomes of the international community could have been achieved without the support and leadership of the Group of 77 and China,” said Khor.

“I’m delighted that our 194 member states have been able to reach this consensus, giving a central role to UNCTAD in delivering the sustainable development goals,” UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, said, just after the conclusion of the meeting.

“With this document, we can get on with the business of cutting edge analysis, building political consensus, and providing the necessary technical assistance that will make globalization and trade work for billions of people in the global south,” he said.

UNCTAD14 President, Amina Mohamed, said: “As the President of this conference, I cannot begin to tell you how I feel right now.”

“It’s a good day for Kenya, a good day for UNCTAD, and a big win for multilateralism,” she said.

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President of UN General Assembly Continues Push for Openness, Transparencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:01:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146312 The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2016 (IPS)

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, has helped spearhead a push for a more open and transparent selection process for the next UN Secretary-General.

IPS spoke with Lykketoft one week after the 15 members of the UN Security Council cast their first votes in a straw poll to indicate which of the 12 candidates for the UN’s top job they support.

The results of the informal initial vote, which took place on Thursday 21 July, were not publicly released, but were leaked almost immediately.

Since the results were leaked, the straw polls only have a “formality of secrecy”, Lykketoft told IPS.

On behalf of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, Lykketoft publicly called for the Security Council to convey the results to the other UN member states soon after the vote took place.

However Lykketoft also noted that the straw polls are an initial vote and that the positioning of candidates may well change, noting that new candidates may also emerge.

“It’s much too early to draw conclusions from the straw polls,” said Lykketoft. “Positioning and tendencies … can change over time.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” -- Mogens Lykketoft.

A second straw poll is planned for next Friday August 5, he added. However one potential further candidate, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on July 29 that he would not be running, as he did not receive an endorsement from the Australian government.

“We’ll try to arrange as quickly as possible, if a new candidate comes forward, the same kind of hearings that we have had with the 12 candidates,” he said.

However while the informal dialogues have opened up the selection process for the next Secretary-General to the 193 member General Assembly, it is still likely that the UN Security Council will ultimately decide a single candidate to put forward to the assembly for endorsement.

There have been calls for the Security Council to break with this custom and put forward more than one candidate to the General Assembly, however Lykketoft noted that any change to the current system was up to the Security Council, and that it wasn’t even clear whether the “majority of the General Assembly would ask for more candidates.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” said Lykketoft.

“Because we’ve had these informal dialogues, these hearings, we much better know the personalities and the priorities of candidates than one did at any previous occasion, simply because all the other times there wasn’t an established list of candidates, we didn’t even know outside the Security Council which names were brought to the table.”

“That has changed and that means also that all the friends, allies and colleagues of the members of the Security Council can express to them their priorities and that gives a real possibility for influence.”

“I have also said continuously if among the many candidates (there are) clear favourites, I don’t think the Security Council would come up with some quite different names. But we’ll see.”

Group of 77 with candidates for the position of next UN Secretary-General  Ant—nio Guterres (Portugal). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

António Guterres (centre), former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and candidate for the position of next United Nations Secretary-General, addresses the Group of 77 in a closed meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Also seated on the panel, from left, are: Álvaro José Costa de Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN; Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN, and Chairperson of the Group of 77 (G-77); and Mourad Ahmia, Executive Secretary of the Group of 77 Secretariat. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

In addition to consultations with the General Assembly as a whole, candidates for Secretary-General had separate consultations with the 134 members of the Group of 77, as well as with the regional groups, which Lykketoft described as a “very useful” addition to the selection process.

He noted that members of the Group of 77, which represents 134 developing countries at the United Nations including China, see development issues and climate change as priorities.

This was reflected in questions posed to the 12 candidates for the role of Secretary-General on behalf of the Group during the informal hearings in the General Assembly. Each of the 12 candidates also held closed hearings with the 134 members of the Group of 77 at the UN on 13 and 14 July 2016.

The Presidency of the General Assembly

Reflecting on his own role, Lykketoft touched on changes to the office of the President of the General Assembly.

Fiji has been elected to hold the 71st Presidency of the UN General Assembly, when Denmark’s term finishes in September 2016.

Lykketoft noted that as a Small Island Developing State, Fiji does not have the same resources to draw on to support the office of the President as other richer and bigger countries.

The office of the President of the General Assembly relies on contributions from member states. Lykketoft particularly highlighted the importance of member states seconding staff to the office.

“There’s been 35 people from 26 different countries working in the office of the President of the General Assembly, which is a very interesting and very well functioning operation,” said Lykketoft.

“Most of those people are actually a gift from member states to us.”

Lykketoft said he hoped that more countries would come forward to help support Fiji’s Presidency.

“Hopefully there will be more contributions, in particular from countries of the South, because it’s obvious that Fiji is not a rich and big country themselves.”

He also said that there is “a strong wish” in the General Assembly for the UN to provide more resources to the office, in particular to make sure that information is passed on and recorded between presidencies, he added.

The Candidates

There are currently 12 candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General. They include former heads of state and high-level UN officials.

According to leaked reports, Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and former head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, topped the first straw poll, with Danilo Turk, former President of Slovenia, placing second and Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria who is currently Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed third. Other candidates which received “encourages” from 8 or more members of the SC include Srgjan Kerim, of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vuk Jeremić of the Republic of Serbia and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of  New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Programme.

In addition to the push for the selection of the next Secretary-General to be more open and transparent, there have also been calls for the ninth Secretary-General to be the first to come from Eastern Europe or the first to be a woman.

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African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Officialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146270 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146182 Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Global Coalition Seeks Ban on Mercury Usehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 14:27:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146008 Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right:  Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Photo: UNDP

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

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

A coalition of over 25 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has launched a global campaign to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry.

Spearheading the campaign is the Washington-based World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, which is seeking to phase out dental amalgam, described as a “primitive pollutant”, by the year 2020.

The environmental health benefits from mercury-free dentistry would be “huge to the world”, says the World Alliance, “”The European Union’s science committee calls amalgam a ‘secondary poisoning’ because its mercury gets into fish and vegetables which children eat.”

A proposal before the European Commission calls for the use of dental amalgam in an encapsulated form, and more importantly, the implementation of amalgam separators, which should be mandatory to protect dental practitioners and patients from mercury exposure and to ensure that resulting mercury waste are not released into the environment but are collected and subjected to sound waste management.

Describing dental amalgam as “vastly inferior to today’s alternative materials,” the President of the World Alliance Charles G. Brown, told IPS: “Western corporate interests fund the counter-campaign to protect amalgam sales, especially in developing nations.”

“The game changer in our favour is the 2013 Minimata Convention on Mercury,” (which has been signed by 128 nations), said Brown, a former Attorney General of the US State of Ohio.

But the Convention, which aims to reduce or eliminate all man-made uses of mercury, needs 50 ratifications to become legally binding. But so far, only 28 countries have ratified the Convention, including the US.

The most recent ratifications have included Switzerland and Mali (in May) and Botswana (in June).

“We need a push to get over the finish line,” declared Brown, whose campaign reaches out Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Island States. .

Besides the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, the coalition includes the European Environmental Bureau, Health and Environment Alliance, Women in Europe for a Common Future, International Academy for Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Asian Centre for Environmental Health, Danish Association for Non-Toxic Dentistry and Zero Waste Europe.

In a letter to members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, the coalition points out that, after long delays, the European Commission proposed a new mercury package last February, positioning the EU to finally ratify the Minamata Convention.

The package updates existing EU law to conform to the Convention, but falls short in several key areas, including a new proposal that would eventually perpetuate mercury use in EU dentistry.

“This proposal is clearly out of step with both the spirit and intent of the treaty,” the letter warns. The Minamata Convention requires each State party to “phase down the use of dental amalgam”.

The Environment Committee is calling for a phase-out of amalgam in Europe by the year 2021.

But the EC mercury package, on the other hand, proposes merely to require amalgam separators and encapsulated amalgam – two measures that fail to phase down European amalgam use for several reasons.

Asked if this problem is largely confined to the EU, described as the largest user of dental mercury in the world, Brown told IPS: “No, this problem is not confined to Europe although the EU is the largest user partly because dental care is more available in general”.

A report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a mercury monitoring network, shows that North America (including the US) is consuming its share.

“Although use is far less in developing countries right now, it is expected to increase as dental care becomes more available – unless we prevent it by ensuring that mercury-free alternatives are used from the start.”

Achim Steiner, former Executive Director of UNEP, wrote a letter to the World Alliance last year endorsing the activist phasing down of amalgam in general, and singling out the work of the World Alliance of Mercury-Free Dentistry, in particular.

UNEP and the World Alliance have co-hosted two 10-nation conferences to work for mercury-free dentistry: for francophone Africa, April 2014 in Abidjan; and for Asia (South, Southeast, & East Asian nations), March 2016 in Bangkok.

The overall goal of the Global Mercury Partnership, according to UNEP, is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

UNEP recently developed a brochure to assist nations in phasing down amalgam use. In it, UNEP particularly promoted the following steps:

(a) Raising public awareness of amalgam’s mercury content; (b) Updating dental school curricula to promote mercury-free dentistry; (c) Modifying government programs and insurance to favor mercury-free fillings; and (d) Restricting amalgam use in children and pregnant women.

In its attempts to protect human health and the environment from mercury—and in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury—the UN Development Programme (UNDP), says sound management of chemicals and wastes is an important component of its efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and resilient human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNDP advocates integrating chemicals management priorities into national environmental and poverty reduction planning frameworks, while helping countries access financial and technical resources, and providing assistance and implementation support to improve the holistic management of chemicals and waste at national, regional and global levels.

UNDP currently supports 42 countries with a Global Environment Facility (GEF) mercury portfolio of $22 million in grants and $32 million in co-financing.

Asked if the medical lobby is powerful enough to keep stalling an eventual ban on dental mercury, Brown said: “It’s actually the dental lobby specifically that opposes the ban (many physicians tend to either not take a stand or they agree with us). “

Are they effective or powerful? It depends on whom you talk with, he said.

Dentistry is divided into two hotly contesting factions: the mercury-free numbers are growing, the pro-mercury faction shrinking – but the latter is represented by the World Dental Federation (FDI, its initials in French) and its constituent Western members, such as the American, British, and Canadian Dental Associations.

The American Dental Association spent $2,850,000 on lobbying expenses in 2013, the year the treaty negotiations ended, but in its arrogance the money was largely wasted, he added.

“At the Minamata Convention, FDI and the American Dental Association (ADA) were represented by white Western males, whereas dentists on our side came from every continent and race, as did our NGO team of talented women and men.”

“We outworked, outpointed, and outsmarted the well-heeled pro-mercury faction of dentistry, and amalgam is crucially placed in Annex A-II of the Minamata Convention.”

Their rearguard action to protect the status quo is not ineffective, but they cannot stall the amalgam ban indefinitely – else their own members will pull out the rug on them, said Brown.

In the United States, the number of mercury-free dentists has grown rapidly. In 2005, a peer reviewed study found that 31.6% of dentists practiced amalgam-free dentistry.

Just two years later in 2007, an ADA survey found that 36.6% of dentists did not use any amalgam – and that number was even higher (37.2%) among pediatric dentists and prosthodontists (the two specialties that perform restorations the most).

A survey by dental marketing firm ‘The Wealthy Dentist’ in 2009 found that 53% were not using amalgam. Seven years later, said Brown, it is safe to say that these numbers are on the conservative side today because of two trends.

Younger dentists use less amalgam than older dentists. According to the 2007 ADA survey, “More dentists 40 years or older (65.0%) currently used amalgam restorations than did dentists younger than 40 years (55.2%).”

So 44.8% of dentists under age 40 were already amalgam-free almost a decade ago in 2007. With many of the older dentists surveyed now retired and more young dentists graduated from dental school, the number of amalgam-free dentists has obviously increased while the number of dentists using amalgam has steadily decreased.

A number of surveyed dentists still using amalgam were dissatisfied with it as a restorative material.

Of the dentists who still used amalgam in the ADA’s 2007 survey, 5.2% were somewhat dissatisfied with amalgam as a restorative material and .8% were very dissatisfied.

Supposedly, said Brown, dentists would have stopped using a material they were already dissatisfied with a decade ago, especially with all the new mercury-free options now on the market.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Is a Referendum a Valid Tool for Democracy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 04:58:54 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145954 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

William Shakespeare would have loved to witness the Brexit. Many of his themes are evidently present: friendship and treason; truth and lies; deception and betrayal.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

David Cameron invents a referendum as a trick to get more power from the EU, and unify the Tory party under his leadership. He ends up instead out of Europe, with a possible Scottish cessation, and problems with North Ireland. His friend Boris Johnson, who turns anti EU to get Cameron’s job, has betrayed him. But Johnson does not wish to run for Prime Minister because his friend Michael Gove has betrayed him. And the Brexit has as a collateral damage – the leader of the other party, the Labour, with the majority of its parliamentarians asking Jeremy Corbin to go. He rejects, claiming that the majority of the party members are with him. But then, do not the parliamentarians represent the electorate?

The Brexit provides a strange show of the British political system, considered always the best example of parliamentarian democracy. A referendum is not the basis of a parliamentarian system, where elections are based on parties, with a strong identity and history. Labour electors vote Labour. But a referendum becomes a transversal issue, and in Brexit one third of them voted against the position of the Trade Unions and of the party, which stood for the Remain.

The same has happened with the Tories. At least 35% voted against the Cameron campaign for the Remain. In fact, people voted according to what they felt was their identity. So London along with other cosmopolitan citizens, voted for Remain. Those from the rural world, those who felt left out, voted massively for the Brexit.

Enough has been written about this. And how this kind of neoliberal globalization has failed, creating a growing angry and destitute population . What should we now debate: is referendum a tool for democracy? Let us examine what were the arguments for the Brexit that brought 17 million people to vote to leave the EU. Well, they were false, as the main campaigners for the Brexit themselves, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson have admitted.

The argument that the UK was giving Brussels 350 million pounds per week, and this money could instead go to the National Health System, was a fraud. The net contribution to the EU of 150 million pounds a year is net of what the UK receives from the EU. Brussels’s silence on this issue mainly to avoid meddling in internal politics, was a grave mistake .

Also the argument that by leaving EU, the UK would recover “its independence”, as Johnson said in his closing speech, and the control of its borders was also clearly false. Any future relations with the EU, that would keep UK exports to Europe without customs duty (that is 44% of total British exports), will entail free circulation of European citizens (180.000 in 2015, out of a total of 330.000). Britain already has control over the extra Europeans.

To make tall his credible, the tabloids, which are the real winners of Brexit, launched a campaign indicating that 70 million Turks could invade Britain. This was yet another fraud. Turkey is not a member of the EU, and just one vote from any member country could block an admission request. This was the usual Germany line, until Merkel asked the Turkish leader, Recep Erdogan to help block migrants, by giving the EU the responsibility to pay 3 billion euro.

At the time of the vote, 45% thought it was imminent. Tabloids also announced that after the Brexit, criminals and terrorists would be immediately deported to their country of origin, and of course nobody talks about this any longer. And it was also a fraud to assure that all the subsidies coming from the EU would be substituted by government funds. So for instance, voters from the small town of 18.000 people, Ebbw Vale in Wales, had the highest vote for Brexit: 63%. With an unemployment rate of 40%, the only real income was from the EU development fund. Ebbw Vale received 420 million euro for its industrial development; 40.5 millions for a professional institute, with 29.000 students; 36 million for a new train line; 96 million for upgrading roads: and 14.7 million that citizens did receive at different times. There were very few immigrants. EU did commit to Wales 2.200 million euro within 2020. Will now the government replace these ?

In fact, the referendum has created a dramatic inter-generational problem. The people over 55 years did vote at nearly 70% for the Brexit. Those under 25, voted 75 % for Remain. But only 50% of them went to vote, vis a vis 68% of the older citizens. Therefore, the older people have decided the future of the younger ones. In a progressively ageing world, with fewer young people, this should have us all thinking.

So the question is: with poorly informed people, manipulated by a campaign of fear and lies, is a yes or no referendum a tool of democracy?

But things are more complicated. We live in an era of post ideologies and post parties. To be on the left or on the right is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Without ideologies, discarded with the collapse of Berlin’s wall, politics is becoming just an act of administrative action, where differences disappear. Parties without ideologies carry little motivation and identity. Gone are the times when they were based on strong membership, with a vibrant youth wing. Parties are becoming just movements of opinions, which mobilizes citizens only to vote in a temporary campaign, where hired experts of marketing tools and other instruments of mass communication, have replaced debates on visions and values.

This costs more money than volunteers and corrupts politics. More important yet, Internet and new technologies have changed how people relate to politics. The relation between the parties and voters is not any longer direct, and vertical, as it was at the time of the radio and TV. Let us take the last important elections in Europe: those for electing mayors in Italy. A tide of young and untested mayors took over from an older generation.

A research in Rome conducted by Pragma Sociometrica has found that 36% of voters still use the TV as their primary instrument of information, but 26% use the net. Friends and relatives account for just 5%. And for deciding the vote, 46% made their own judgment via Internet on Virginia Raggi, the new young lady mayor of Rome, and only 18% used Internet and voted the oldest candidate, Giachetti. Dialogue with the candidates on Internet is preferred by 58% of the voters; followed by 48% for videos and 33 % by Facebook. And finally, 30 % by photos. Clearly, the great popular meetings filling public squares are something of the past…

The American website “Vox technology” has published an article: “How Internet is destroying politics”. Web Amazon has decimated libraries ITunes and Pandora with on line music and have uprooted the power of recording houses. On the transportation side, Uber is challenging the taxi’s monopoly. Now is the time of the political system, is the article’s thesis.

The net is progressively reducing the power of the traditional system of information, and cites the progressive candidate Bertie Sanders as an example. No media or any Democrat guru, like Paul Krugman, supported Sanders policies and denounced these as unrealistic. Yet Sanders has been immune to this campaign. Why? Because Sanders supporters did not read papers, but went on the net and created their own circle, immune to the traditional information’s system, where Clinton was overwhelming.

According to the pollster from El Pais, the Brexit in the recent Spanish elections, pushed people to take less risks, reinforcing the governing Popular Party (regardless of a string of corruption cases) and reducing the appeal of Podemos, the party of alternative. Yet Marine Le Pen, the French rightist leader, called a press conference to welcome Brexit, as did Donald Trump, Gehert Wilders and all the leaders of the xenophobic, nationalist and populist parties which are growing everywhere. They are already in power in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia…and if Brexit has a domino effect (as many fear), the future is not going to be helpful for democracy. Already several of them has been calling for their national referendum, convinced that they would all be like Brexit…Campaign of fear will run through all Europe….

We now have an unexpected observatory coming up soon. Austrian elections, where the extreme right wing lost by only 30.000 votes, have been annulled for irregularities, and new ones are due. This time victory should be clearer. If the extreme right wing wins, this will have a strong impact on the coming elections in France and Germany. And then, the destiny of Europe as a political project will be sealed.

Will the traditional political elite be able to take lessons from the reality, and change austerity for growth, banks as a priority of youth, come back to a debate of ideas and visions, values and ideals? Begin to discuss at least social remedies in the face of the disasters of an unregulated globalization? Or will it repeat the Byzantines discussing about the angel’s sex, while the Turks were entering Costantipolis?

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Brexit – Perceptions and Repercussions in the Americashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:12:17 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145831 Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

The hopes of many of those who confidently expected the British electorate to vote, by a slender margin, for the country to remain in the EU have been dashed. All that is left to do now is to ponder the causes and background of this regrettable event, and consider its likely consequences, especially for relations with the United States.

In the first place one must point out and – and this is a general criticism of the present British political system – that Prime Minister David Cameron was hugely irresponsible to steer his country into this risky adventure. It has resulted in the worst calamity to befall Britain in the last half century and has inflicted severe damage not only on the EU but also on all the countries of the North Atlantic rim.

Cameron went out on a limb, thinking to secure total control over the country for his Conservative Party for the next several years. Next he pursued a surrealist referendum campaign agenda, seeking to persuade the public to vote to remain in the EU, against the Brexit proposal that he himself had engineered. He relied on the advantages and special privileges promised to the UK by the EU if the British people voted to remain.

Brussels had already warned that the EU would not grant Britain any further concessions or benefits over and above the conditions that apply in common to all EU members. It pointed out that Britain was in fact already a privileged partner, having opted out of the common currency (the euro) under a special agreement that did not even fix a timescale for its putative future membership of the euro area.

London also retains full control of Britain’s borders, having declined to sign the innovative Schengen Agreement which abolished many internal borders and introduced passport-free movement across the 26 Schengen countries.

The EU has indeed done everything in its power to keep the UK government and people happy and flaunting their prized British exceptionalism.

And now the fateful moment is at hand. The effect on Europe has been devastating. The one possible advantage for the EU – which has discreetly remained unvoiced – is that of ridding itself of an awkward partner, a dinner guest with an unfortunate habit of drawing attention to itself in negative ways. Britain slammed the brakes on progress towards fuller European integration and was a temptation to other recalcitrant EU countries to follow its bad example.

Recently concerns were raised in Washington over the Brexit referendum.

President Barack Obama himself did his best to urge Britons to stick with the EU when he visited London in April.

Cameron, and the people who voted for the UK to leave the EU, have done Obama a disservice. Britain’s image in the United States will deteriorate to unprecedented depths. The vaunted special relationship between the U.S. and Britain will no longer be an effective force underpinning one of the strongest alliances in recent history.

The first victim of the debacle may be the approval process for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, which is already looking shaky, at least for the immediate future.

The TTIP was meant to replicate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious deal to cut trade barriers, set labour and environmental standards and protect corporate intellectual property. The TPP was signed in principle by twelve Pacific Rim countries including the United States, and now awaits approval by legislators in each of the countries.

The rise of populism and anti-free trade sentiment is reflected in speeches by both U.S. presidential candidates, and is likely to slow down what is now viewed as “excessive globalisation”. There is a return to a style of nationalism that exerts control over economic as well as political initiatives.

The next U.S. president will find it difficult to advance their country’s alliance with London on defence issues. The UK will have freed itself from what was already problematic military cooperation with Europe, and only its link with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will endure. Some European NATO partners will be cautious about developing joint operations with a fellow member they view as uncommitted to agreements within the EU.

In the matter of trade per se, Washington will not take kindly to the new position of the City of London once it has lost its enviable status as a financial hub embedded in the EU. Siren songs from other European capitals solidly anchored in the soon-to-be expanded European community will be hard to resist, especially if European leaders adopt policies to strengthen the euro zone.

In Latin America, Brexit will be read as a confirmation that supranational practices and thoroughgoing integration are no longer a priority for the UK. The referendum result sends the message that national sovereignty is now paramount. All the time and effort the EU has spent over the years to promote the advantages of the European model of integration, based on the strength of its treaties and the effectiveness of its institutions, will be regretted as a sheer waste of time and energy.

An alternative “model of integration” based on the U.S. agenda, favouring one-off arrangements or treaties limited in scope exclusively to trade issues, will prevail over the already weakened European model.

The Caribbean region has strong historical and cultural ties to Britain. It will suffer from a less secure bond with the UK and will incline more closely to Washington.

The continent of the Americas, which is closest to Britain from the point of view of history and culture as well as in political and economic terms, will thus find itself further apart from Europe than before.

Joaquin Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Centre at  the University of Miami.  jroy@Miami.edu

Translated by Valerie Dee

 

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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