Latest Developments, September 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Equitable IP
Intellectual Property Watch reports on the opening of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s annual meeting with participants discussing matters ranging from the UN agency’s so-called Development Agenda to the protection of traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources.
“Opening day statements from a number of governments praised the current positive environment at WIPO and cited work that is progressing. But they also ranged in focus. India called for continued attention to an “equitable” IP system that balances rights of innovators with costs to society of granting them monopolies.”

Health Impact Fund
New School University’s Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Oxford’s Proochista Ariana “find much merit” in the idea of a Health Impact Fund that would provide incentives to develop treatments for illnesses that primarily affect the world’s poor, but they also raise a number of concerns on matters of distribution, intellectual property rights, and alliances.
“While healthcare is undoubtedly important, it is naive to assume that it provides the solution to the kinds of health problems the poor face today. It certainly is not the most cost-effective approach and as such less likely to be a sustainable solution to the growing burden of ill health. Efforts that address root causes (ranging from water and sanitation to housing conditions and livelihoods) will serve to alleviate more than just one disease and thereby have further reaching impact on the lives of the poor. The donor governments and their taxpayers, therefore, are more likely to improve health and sustain such improvements if they enhance their efforts at alleviating poverty more generally.”

Security Council fairness
The UN News Centre reports representatives of several West African nations have called for an end to the “intolerable injustice” of Africa’s exclusion from permanent Security Council representation.
“Mauritania’s Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady called for Security Council reform that would include permanent representation for Africa and the Arab Group. ‘The Security Council must fairly reflect the will of the entire international community,’ he said.”

Arab Spring redux
The UN News Centre also reports on a warning that world leaders ignore inequality and political disenfranchisement at their peril.
“‘In a world linked by social media, the risk of a peoples’ uprising that transcends continents and borders is real. It is a kind of social chaos which we must prevent,’ said Surujrattan Rambachan, Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister, in his address to the annual general debate of the General Assembly yesterday.
‘The world must now more than ever allocate its resources equitably, ethically, sustainably and transparently.’”

Canadian bribery
TrustLaw’s Luke Balleny suggests that after taking nearly a decade just to establish a unit tasked with enforcing its foreign bribery laws, Canada is showing signs it may at last be getting tough.
“Since the Niko Resources prosecution, two more Canadian companies have been raided by the RCMP’s International Anti-Corruption Unit. The mining company Blackfire Exploration had its Calgary office searched on July 20 over allegations that the company bribed a Mexican mayor. Just over a month later, engineering giant SNC-Lavalin had its Ontario offices searched over possible corruption involving a $1.2 billion World Bank bridge project in Bangladesh.”

Hit ‘em where it hurts
The CBC reports on the operations of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala where much of the “violence revolves around the drug cartels and the mines” and their opponents are turning to Canadian courts for help.
“The latest is a multi million dollar claim against Hud Bay Minerals filed by 11 Mayan women allegedly raped when they were cleared off the land 4 years ago. The law suits are a new tactic in an old war – a war over land: – the government and the mining companies on one side, the Mayans and human rights workers on the other.”

Default and devalue
Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and top advisor in the Reagan administration, says the only way for Greece to save itself is to default on its debt even if the consequences for the eurozone could be dire.
“If Greece leaves the euro after it defaults, it can devalue its new currency, thereby stimulating demand and shifting eventually to a trade surplus. Such a strategy of “default and devalue” has been standard fare for countries in other parts of the world when they were faced with unmanageably large government debt and a chronic current-account deficit. It hasn’t happened in Greece only because Greece is trapped in the single currency.”

Krugman’s crisis
Princeton economist Paul Krugman undergoes a crisis of faith in his chosen field as he perceives among his colleagues a lack of historical understanding and of desire to learn the truth.
“In 1971 it was clear that economists knew a lot that they hadn’t known in 1931. Is that clear when we compare 2011 with 1971? I think you can actually make the case that in important ways the profession knew more in 1971 than it does now.”

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