Latest Developments, September 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Child mortality
New UN statistics offer a mixed picture on global child mortality trends, with half of all under-five deaths occurring in five countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China.
“In the past two decades the under-five mortality rate dropped by more than a third – from 88 deaths per every 1,000 live births to 57 deaths.
Yet that is well short of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), agreed to by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, for child mortality rates to fall by two thirds by 2015.”

Fighting pandemics
Duke University English professor Priscilla Wald calls for increased efforts to address the social and economic factors that make pandemics more likely and more deadly.
“The eradication of extreme hunger and poverty is the first of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Its report for 2010 maintains that the goal of cutting in half the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015 is reachable. That’s where the story needs to begin. Global poverty is the biggest humanitarian and economic disaster. Nothing will more effectively fuel ‘the coming plague.’
But global poverty is not inevitable. Maybe the best way to prepare for the disaster described in Contagion is to stop asking how we’ll survive the next pandemic and ask, instead, how we want to address the problems that fuel it.”

Intellectual Property and health
Ahead of next week’s UN conference on non-communicable diseases, Intellectual Property Watch writes about the significance of new World Health Organization data suggesting that despite the attention paid to infectious diseases in recent years, cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes actually kill three out of five people worldwide.
“Beyond the health impact, the WHO also emphasizes the economic strain these diseases have, especially in low- and middle-income countries. WHO authorities are urging the international community to sharpen its focus on NCDs. Such attention could intensify concerns about access to treatment of these diseases in developing countries. And this could raise more questions about the role of intellectual property rights in relation to that access.”

Fear of innovation
A View from the Cave’s Tom Murphy draws attention to new research suggesting people have a hard-wired aversion to creative thinking.
“The results of both studies demonstrated a negative bias toward creativity (relative to practicality) when participants experienced uncertainty. Furthermore, the bias against creativity interfered with participants’ ability to recognize a creative idea. These results reveal a concealed barrier that creative actors may face as they attempt to gain acceptance for their novel ideas.”

Trade and agriculture
The UN News Centre reports three top UN officials are calling for trade and agriculture policies that will create inclusive growth and feed the hungry.
“A lot more needs to be done ‘towards designing a more coherent international agricultural trade policy framework,'[World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy] said, adding that domestic policies and their implications on natural resources management, property rights, energy, transportation, and distribution network credit systems are the key elements of a successful international agricultural trade policy.”

European immigration
An Al Jazeera report uses a visit to a Dutch immigration detention centre to illustrate the harsh conditions faced by illegal immigrants in Europe.
“For migrants without papers, life in Europe can become a real survival tour, with basic needs such as medical care and housing being hard to get. In many European countries you can be locked up, without a criminal record.”

Tax justice
ActionAid’s Anna Thomas writes that the international “tax justice” movement’s top priority is to increase tax revenues in poor countries.
“This is both to increase the money available to pay for nurses, teachers and roads, desperately needed when you’re trying to run, say, a health service on a few dollars per person per year – as is the case in many of the poorest countries. It is also to encourage and develop the social contract between state and citizen, improving accountability. And it is to afford poor countries autonomy over their own development.”

International justice
As member states prepare to elect a new International Criminal Court chief prosecutor in December, Human Rights Watch hopes Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s successor will bring a new approach to investigation and prosecution, while also taking on more cases.
“The ICC prosecutor’s tough choices face intense scrutiny, which makes it all the more important that they enhance the court’s independence and credibility,” according to Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program senior counsel Elizabeth Evenson. “By failing to project an effective and coherent strategy through his investigations, the prosecutor has too often come up short.”

Bribes and fines
The Wall Street Journal reports Japanese rubber manufacturer Bridgestone has agreed with US justice officials to plead guilty and pay a fine of $28 million for engaging in bid-rigging and bribery from 1999 to 2007.
“The Justice Department also charged that Bridgestone authorized and approved corrupt payments to foreign government officials employed at state-owned entities in Latin America. The company’s local sales agents agreed to pay the employees of state-owned customers a percentage of the total value of proposed sales.”

Mining profits
International accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has released a report that suggests now is a good time to be a mining CEO in Canada, the country that hosts about three quarter’s of the world’s mining companies.
“The average total cash compensation package (including annual base salary and cash bonus) was $826,000, similar to $840,000 reported in 2010 and well above the $670,000 figure seen in 2009.”

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