Latest Developments, July 12

In today’s news and analysis…

There was a big step forward in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, as US-based Gilead Sciences became the first pharmaceutical company to agree to place the intellectual property rights for some of its products in the Medicines Patent Pool that will allow generic drug makers to copy them on the cheap. “This is not just a one-off. The whole field is changing … there will be more to follow,” according to Ellen ‘t Hoen, the pool’s executive director.

Unfortunately, the pool only works for drugs that have already been developed, leaving the problem of incentivizing research into illnesses that do not significantly affect wealthy markets. Not to mention the fact that tobacco remains by far the biggest killer worldwide and the possibility that CIA dodginess in Pakistan could fuel the kinds of rumours that hampered polio eradication efforts a few years ago.

US Senator Carl Levin has introduced the “Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act” in the upper house. The proposed law includes a country-by-country reporting provision that would “help anti-corruption and economic development efforts in developing countries by creating more transparency and accountability in the business dealings between multinational companies and governments,” according to Global Financial Integrity director Raymond Baker.

Senator Levin’s proposal follows in the tradition of the Dodd-Frank Act which passed into law last year and is now in the hands of the Securities and Exchange Commission for the formulation of compliance enforcement rules. “In the ongoing rule-making process, the SEC has an opportunity to demonstrate that the United States takes transparency and accountability seriously and intends to act as a global leader in fostering secure, equitable, long-term resource partnerships with developing nations,” according to Oxfam’s Kathryn Martorana.

Speaking at the Open Government Partnership high-level meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared: “I think we can say without fear of contradiction that there is an undeniable connection between how a government operates and whether its people flourish. When a government invites its people to participate, when it is open as to how it makes decisions and allocates resources, when it administers justice equally and transparently, and when it takes a firm stance against corruption of all kinds, that government is, in the modern world, far more likely to succeed in designing and implementing effective policies and services.” Meanwhile, the UN special rapporteur on torture has complained US authorities refuse to grant him unmonitored access to alleged WikiLeaker Bradley Manning.

UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told a London School of Economics audience “this Coalition Government is working to make it easier for companies to do business in Africa – so creating more opportunities for poor people. We are absolutely determined to make this the defining message of the Coalition Government in this area.” With Africa’s share of global manufacturing currently sitting at one percent, there is undoubtedly room for growth.

A Guardian piece celebrates the promotion of a handful of countries from the World Bank’s low-income to lower middle-income designation as evidence it is possible to escape the poverty trap. At the same time, the authors recognize the contribution of cyclical commodity prices to recent income increases in certain African countries, the fact that the African graduates are offtrack on their MDG commitments, and the limitations of a ranking based solely on gross national income (GNI). In fact, one of the promoted countries, Zambia, still sits 153rd out of 172 countries on the UN’s more nuanced Human Development Index, five places behind Haiti.

For those countries that manage to escape the aforementioned poverty trap, a World Bank VP has advice on avoiding “middle-income trap” and “maintaining high growth in developing countries.” Whereas a new World Bank blog post waxes enthusiastic about car-sharing’s potential to take advantage of excess capacity and avoid unnecessary use of non-renewable resources. What the author neglects to consider is that such enterprises are bad for growth and GNI.

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to protect schools and hospitals from becoming military targets. UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake welcomed the news but stressed monitoring, denunciation and sanctions were insufficient to bring about real change. “We also have to find practical new ways to prevent these acts from occurring,” he said.

Transparency International’s Tobias Bock issues a plea for the Arms Trade Treaty currently under negotiation to include anti-corruption provisions, arguing that the massive corruption of the weapons trade can have a major impact on sustainable development. He also points out that while “there are international treaties to control the sale of many goods, from dinosaur bones to postage stamps, there is no such treaty to control the trade in weapons worldwide.”

And for the second straight year, Luanda, Angola and N’Djamena, Chad sit first and third respectively atop the list of the most expensive cities for expatriate workers. Tokyo sits in second spot, sandwiched between the capitals of two of the world’s poorest countries.

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