Health equity in economic and trade policies

WIPO: US seeks to limit work on patent flexibilities
Bhattacharya A: Third World Network October 2013; 1

This report from the consultations at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)suggests that the United States does not support a focus by the WIPO on patent flexibilities, an issue that developing countries consider to be central to their development concerns. WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities, including on exceptions and limitations to patent rights, has long been encouraged by developing countries participating in WIPO’s Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP). In recent years proposals have been submitted by the Development Agenda Group of several developing countries, the Africa Group and Brazil to deepen analysis on patent flexibilities, which they consider to be central to development concerns. A work program had been agreed on at the last session of the SCP in February 2013 after intense consultations on the following topics: (i) Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights; (ii) Quality of Patents, including Opposition Systems; (iii) Patents and Health; (iv) Confidentiality of Communications between Clients and their Patent Advisors; and (v) Transfer of Technology. However, not all WIPO delegations were agreeable to enhancing of WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities. In a lengthy intervention at the Assemblies on 26 September on the agenda item on the SCP, the US expressed its intention to limit WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities. Its sentiment was not shared by developing countries that intervened on the agenda item. Instead they called for more work to be undertaken on the topics of exceptions and limitations to patent rights, the relationship between patents and health, and the improvement of patent quality.

Working for the few. Political capture and economic inequality
Oxfam: Oxford, 20 January 2014

This Oxfam report timed for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos raised that unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise. In the report Oxfam called for those in the WEF to not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens; not use their economic wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens; to make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners; to support progressive taxation on wealth and income; to challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens; and to apply a living wage in all the companies they own or control.

World Bank accused of deception over malaria funding
The Guardian Unlimited (UK): Boseley S

The World Bank, a leader in the global effort to control malaria, has been accused of deception and medical malpractice by a group of public health doctors for failing to carry out its funding promises and wrongly claiming its programmes have been successful at cutting the death toll from the disease. The serious charges are levelled by Amir Attaran, a professor at the Institute of Population Health and faculty of law of Ottawa University, and colleagues from around the world. Writing in an online publication for the Lancet medical journal, they say the World Bank is unfit to lead global efforts to control the disease, which kills around 1 million people a year - most of them small children.

World Bank criticised for HIV/AIDS response

The World Bank failed to protect social spending during its structural adjustment operations in the 1980s and 1990s, and this led to the deterioration of basic services - including those needed for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. And instead of focusing on HIV/AIDS, the World Bank sought improvements in the way goods and services were provided and financed through health sector reforms, such as user fees, privatisation, decentralisation and integration of services. These reforms frequently had the unintended effect of reducing access to effective health care, including services aimed at the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. This is according to a paper Produced by ActionAid that evaluates the response to the HIV crisis by the World Bank.

World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and inequality in Cape Town
McDonald DA: Routledge, New York, 2008

The literature on world cities has had an enormous influence on urban theory and practice, with academics and policy makers attempting to understand, and often strive for, world city status. In this groundbreaking new work, David A McDonald explores Cape Town’s position in this network of global cities and critically investigates the conceptual value of the world city hypothesis. Drawing on more than a dozen years of fieldwork, McDonald provides a comprehensive overview of the city’s institutional and structural reforms, examining fiscal imbalances, political marginalization, (de)racialization, privatization and other neoliberal changes. The book concludes with thoughts on alternative development trajectories.

Further details: /newsletter/id/32611
World Development Report 2006

The average level of real income in the richest countries is 50 times that of the poorest. The richest tenth of the South African population enjoy levels of consumption per person almost 70 times those of the poorest tenth. Citizens of the world also experience profound differences in influence, access to legal systems, power and social status, whether at the level of individuals, between men and women, or between groups. Acute inequality in incomes, in health status, in educational outcomes and in other dimensions of welfare is a stark fact of life. The 2006 World Development Report will explore the relationship between equity and development strategy.

World Development Report 2006: Equity and Development

The World Bank's annual World Development Report this year focuses on equity, arguing that inequality of opportunity is holding back prosperity and economic growth. This article from the Institute for Development Studies argues that the report fails to get to grips with what inequality really means: "The World Development Report for 2006 on Equity and Development (WDR 2006) has been described by Sanjay Reddy from Columbia University as reflecting the most progressive face of the World Bank. This is because it argues strongly on ethical and efficiency grounds for the need to tackle the gross disparities in opportunity for children born in different parts of the world. Reddy also finds that the theoretical construction of the report is 'rather clunky and appears to be the product of political compromise…but is workable'."

World Development Report 2013: Jobs
World Bank: 2012

In developing countries, jobs are a cornerstone of development, with a pay off far beyond income alone. They are critical for reducing poverty, making cities work, and providing youth with alternatives to violence, according to the World Development Report 2013. The report focuses on employment, stressing the role of strong private sector-led growth in creating jobs, and outlines how jobs that do the most for development can spur a virtuous cycle. These jobs include those that raise incomes, make cities function better, connect the economy to global markets, protect the environment, and give people a stake in their societies. The report finds that poverty falls as people work their way out of hardship and as jobs empower women to invest more in their children. Efficiency increases as workers get better at what they do, as more productive jobs appear, and as less productive ones disappear. And ultimately, the report concludes, societies flourish as jobs foster diversity and provide alternatives to conflict.

World Economic and Social Survey 2010
United Nations: June 2010

The global financial crisis has also exposed serious weaknesses in global economic governance, according to this report. The report proposes fundamental revisions of the existing institutions for global economic governance. But for an effective more sustainable rebalancing of the global economy much closer coordination is needed across the trading system, the new regime for international financial regulation, the global reserve system and the mechanisms for mobilising and channelling development finance and climate funding. At present, the Group of 20 (G20) is taking on some areas of coordination, but as an informal platform responding to the crisis it has mostly focused on financial reforms. The report notes that sustainable rebalancing of the world economy will take years, if not decades, and can only be successful if there is greater policy coherence. To this end, it proposes that the international community consider institutionalising a global economic coordination mechanism within the more representative multilateral system.

World Economic Forum on Africa Closes with Call for Action
Cann O: World Economic Forum, 10 May 2013

With the support of the Government of South Africa, the World Economic Forum on Africa was held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 8 to 10 May. Over 1,000 participants from more than 80 countries took part. Under the theme ‘Delivering on Africa’s Promise’, the meeting’s agenda integrated three pillars: accelerating economic diversification; boosting strategic infrastructure; and unlocking Africa’s talent. The main message to emerge from the event was the need for investment to consolidate and make more inclusive recent African growth. Participants called for greater regional integration, as well as investments in social entrepreneurship and industry to promote inclusive growth and fight poverty, while others argued that Africa needs to offer better enabling environments for industrialisation to capitalise on opportunities, like the fact that China’s workforce will shed 85 million jobs in the near term. Another participant said that leaders needed to realise that Africa’s true wealth lay in its people, not in its mineral deposits.