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

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

Ban Proposed on Export Restrictions that Undermine Food Security

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

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

Nascent Independent Unions Play Key Role in Arab Uprisings

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

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

TRADE: Istanbul Conference “a Setback” for Poor Countries

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

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

HEALTH: Water, Sanitation Could Erase Cholera and Guinea Worm

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

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

Pension Fund Investors May be to Blame for Escalating Food Prices

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

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

AFRICA: Investment Growth Benefiting Only Some Poor States

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

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

Human Rights Council Issues First-Ever UN Condemnation of Syria

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

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

Pollutants Banned, But With Exceptions

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

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

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

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

LIBYA: U.N. Experts Probe Human Rights Abuses

The international commission of inquiry established by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights in Libya will start its mission next week, and report on all crimes, committed by anyone, including foreign powers.

El Hadji Diouf: South Africa will try to trump its IBSA partners when it comes to market access in Africa. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

IBSA States Do Not Always Have Common Positions on Trade Issues

"IBSA what?" is the question you most often get in Geneva when enquiring about the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) dialogue forum, established in 2003 between these three multicultural democracies and emerging markets "to contribute to the construction of a new international architecture".

Global Compact Rejects Independent Panel’s Criticism

An independent U.N. body has criticised the Global Compact, the largest initiative for corporate social responsibility, for not sufficiently monitoring the human rights and environmental commitments of participating companies.

West African activists demonstrating at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, earlier this year. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

TRADE: African NGOs Oppose Human Rights Clause in EPAs

Part of the delay in the finalisation of the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) is due to the so-called non-execution clause that gives the EU the power to take steps against its African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) trading partners if they violate human rights, democracy and good governance principles.

Manufacturing in Africa Can be Profitable – And Developmental

Investing in adding value to raw materials is crucial for the development of the African continent.

Nozipho January-Bardill, group executive for corporate affairs at Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN), a South African company. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

Investment in African Economies Shifting Away from Raw Materials

Local and foreign investment on the African continent is slowly moving away from agriculture and raw materials to manufacturing, services, communication and tourism, despite poor infrastructure and low skills levels.

"Africa is not poor, but empoverished by Europe and its good pupils", according to demonstrators at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

TRADE: Civil Society Ensuring Development Stays on EPA Agenda

In an unusual move, West and Central African civil society organisations have participated in the negotiations between their countries and the European Union on the economic partnership agreements (EPAs). The organisations stress developmental concerns while assisting under-resourced African governments with trade expertise.

A fish market in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: Fisheries Need Transparent Regulation

Senegalese fishers participating in the 2011 World Social Forum (WSF) warned governments to "wake up to the ethical and transparent regulation of access to fisheries" to halt the overexploitation of this increasingly scarce resource.

Various organisations from across the world were represented at the WSF march in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: “We Don’t Want Everybody to Think the Same”

It is only the second time that the World Social Forum (WSF) takes place in Africa, the first one having been held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007. Since the start of the WSF in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 10 years ago, the organisers have been building African participation.

Mohammad Abdul Hannan: LDCs need more clarity from other WTO members on tariff cuts.  Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

TRADE: Doha Round Tariff Cuts “Will Still Hit” Poor Countries

To allow least developed countries (LDCs) to protect nascent industries, they are not required to cut tariffs for industrial goods and fisheries in the Doha Development Round. However, tariffs cuts will affect them if they are members of customs unions where some of their neighbours are larger developing countries without LDC status.

Zeljka Kozul-Wright and Supachai Panitchpakdi: Food import dependence in LDCs worsened during economic boom, according to UNCTAD. Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

DEVELOPMENT: Economic Boom Worsened De-industrialisation of LDCs

Least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa did not use the commodity export boom of the mid-2000s to diversify their economies from commodity dependence to manufacturing value-added products. Significantly, the agricultural sector has also not benefited, with the result that LDC reliance on imported food has become even worse.

Sophia Murphy: "‘Trade-distorting

AGRICULTURE: U.S. and EU Subsidies Still Out of Bounds

The United States’ policy to double agricultural exports shows that its government "has learnt nothing" from the last food crisis, a problem reflected in the dramatic increase in that country’s trade-distorting farm subsidies between 2007 and 2008.

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