Latest Developments, November 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Scary TPP
The International Business Times offers up five “scary provisions”, including one relating to affordable medicines, found in a purported chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership published by Wikileaks:

“ ‘The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed measures harmful to access to affordable medicines that have not been seen before in U.S. trade agreements,’ Public Citizen stated Wednesday. ‘These proposals aim to transform countries’ laws on patents and medical test data, and include attacks on government medicine formularies. USTR’s demands would strengthen, lengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS drugs, among others, in the Asia-Pacific region.’
The TPP would limit access to medicines by expanding medical patents’ scope to include minor changes to existing medications; instituting patent linkage, a regime that would make it more difficult for many generic drugs to enter markets; and lengthening the terms of patents by forcing countries to extend patents’ terms during lengthy review processes.”

Dirty rubber
Global witness is calling on the World Bank, among others, to stop investing in a company the NGO has accused of land grabbing in southeast Asia:

“Vietnamese rubber giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) has failed to keep to commitments to address environmental and human rights abuses in its plantations in Cambodia and Laos, Global Witness said today. The campaign group says the company now poses a financial and reputational risk to its investors, including Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation, and recommends they divest.”

Western onus
Xinhua reports that China is calling on rich countries to keep their past climate promises, including the financial ones, at this month’s climate change negotiations:

“The UN determines that developed countries should be held accountable for the accumulated high levels of greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial era.

For the period from 2013 to 2020, developed countries are obliged to further cut their carbon emissions as well as providing funding and technologies to help developing nations handle challenges caused by climate change, [Chinese COP 19 delegate Su Wei] said.
‘Finance holds the key to the success of the Warsaw conference,’ Su said, urging developed countries to keep their promises made in previous climate talks.
Developed countries have agreed to jointly provide 100 billion US
dollars per year by 2020 for developing countries to better cope with climate change, which is far from implementation.
‘I hope we can make concrete progress in facilitating the operation of financial and technical transfer from developed countries at the Warsaw talks,’ he said.”

Thinking bigger
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on the argument that, “with climate-changing emissions still growing despite 20 years of negotiations and agreements to limit them”, consensus should not be the top objective at the current COP 19 climate summit:

“ ‘It’s ambition that’s needed, from my point of view,’ says Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow on climate change at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.
Right now, ‘everybody is willing to do something’ – a big change from the 2009 Copenhagen talks, when many countries were still refusing to budge – ‘but the cumulative amount that comes to is insufficient,’ he says. ‘So raising the ambition collectively of everyone is the key. The issue of inclusion has already been solved. Ambition has not.’

The problem is that negotiators tend to have fixed positions. No major developed countries have increased the ambition of their emissions reduction commitments so far in Warsaw, for instance.”

Muscular soft power
The Independent reports that both Western and non-Western powers are deploying troops across Africa for “not entirely altruistic” reasons:

“The last British campaign in Africa was 13 years ago in Sierra Leone, but the UK is currently training forces in three states that are anything but calm. General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, said: ‘We have got three relatively new things which don’t involve significant numbers of people but nevertheless are pointers to the future: Somalia, Mali and also the training of Libyan militias for integration into the military.’

‘If the world’s one remaining superpower is taking soft power seriously and the emerging one, China, is also starting on that path, soft power of a muscular variety can only get more traction,’ said Robert Emerson, a security specialist. ‘Conflicts will not go away from Africa any time soon, but we are seeing major adjustments in dealing with them. It will be fascinating scene of competition for influence in the future.’ ”

A baby step too far
The Guardian reports that even conservative reforms to some “potentially disastrous” kinds of US food aid may not happen:

“The Senate bill includes changes to the food aid programme that would at least partly satisfy reformists. These include a small expansion of a pilot programme that allows food aid to be bought locally, as well as restrictions on the use of monetisation. The House version largely maintains the status quo, while eliminating local sourcing and actually encouraging organisations to monetise food aid.
‘We’re seeing a lot of intransigence on the part of the House in terms of getting anything done,’ said Eric Munoz, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam America. He admitted he was ‘not at all confident … that the [final] bill will include the reforms to food aid that the Senate has proposed’.
The Senate provisions marked a step in the right direction, said Munoz, but even if its reforms were adopted, they would amount to ‘only an incremental step toward where we ultimately need to go’.”

Haunted by loss
Madiha Tahir responds to criticism of her newly released documentary “about drone survivors and the families of the dead” in Pakistan:

“The springboard for the narrative is a speech by President Obama delivered this year in which he claims to be haunted by the loss of civilian life resulting from his policies. We make the frame clear by beginning with this speech followed by a guiding question: ‘What does it mean to be haunted by loss?’ It should be clear that to answer that question by saying ‘Because, Taliban’ is utterly nonsensical.

While [Malala Yousafzai] has commanded the attention of President Obama – to whom she was not shy about voicing her opposition to drone attacks – nine-year-old Nabila, who travelled to the US this month to deliver testimony to Congress about the bombing that killed her grandmother and injured the little girl, was received by a paltry five members out of the 435 US House of Representatives. There has been a studious disinterestedness in the stories of drone survivors. They don’t sell. That’s the broader context for ‘Wounds’.”

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Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Immigration disaster
The Associated Press reports that another boat carrying African migrants, this time an estimated 200, has capsized on its way to Europe:

“The capsizing occurred some 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Lampedusa but in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities.

Last week, a ship carrying some 500 people capsized off Lampedusa, killing more than 300 people. Only 155 survived. The deaths prompted calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent such tragedies.”

And the winner is…
RT reports that the global watchdog tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons has won this year’s Nobel peace prize:

“The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was founded in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that bans the production, storage and use of chemical weapons.
Its main job since then has been the ongoing monitoring of the process of chemical disarmament by the treaty’s signatories, particularly the US and Russia, the countries that held the largest stockpiles at the time it was signed.

Awarding the prominent prize to the OCPW came as a surprise to many. Nobel Prize watchers didn’t mention the organization as a likely laureate. Predictions favored several individuals, including Malala Yousafzai, a teenage Pakistani women’s rights campaigner who survived a Taliban attack, Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and rape victims’ defender from Congo, Claudia Paz y Paz, the resilient mafia-fighting Guatemalan attorney general, and Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot, a nun at the forefront of post-war reconciliation in Uganda.”

Above the law
In a New York Times op-ed, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu argues countries (like the US) that reject membership in the International Criminal Court are “looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress” with impunity:

“Most of all, they believe that neither the golden rule, nor the rule of law, applies to them.

Perpetrators of violence must not be allowed to wriggle free.
Moreover, where justice and order are not restored, there can be no healing, leaving violence and hatred ticking like a bomb in the corner.”

Mercury treaty
The BBC reports that countries have started signing a legally binding agreement regulating the trade and use of mercury:

“The Minamata Convention was named after the Japanese city that, in the 1950s, saw one of the world’s worst cases of mercury poisoning.

The [UN Environment Programme] assessment said the concentration of mercury in the top 100m of the world’s oceans had doubled over the past century, and estimated that 260 tonnes of the toxic metal had made their way from soil into rivers and lakes.”

Falling short
Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans argues that the World Bank “lags behind” when it comes to mitigating human rights risks:

“The bank’s safeguard policies partially address protecting indigenous peoples’ rights and ensuring that people are resettled appropriately, but fall short of international human rights law on those areas and more generally. Moreover, the policies don’t even require the World Bank to analyze human rights risks in designing and carrying out its activities.

The World Bank is undertaking its first wholesale review of its safeguard policies. If it goes right, bank staff will be required to identify potential human rights risks and work to prevent or mitigate them, to avoid contributing to abuses.”

For-profit spying
The Guardian reports on the Canadian government’s “increasingly aggressive promotion of resource corporations at home and abroad,” which appears to extend to espionage and intelligence sharing with companies:

“ ‘There is very substantial evidence that the spying Canada was doing for economic reasons aimed at Brazil is far from an aberration,’ Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald told Canadian media on Tuesday. Greenwald hinted that he will be publishing further documents on [Communications Security Establishment Canada].
‘We’ve already seen how Canadian embassies around the world essentially act as agents for Canadian companies – even when they’re implicated in serious human rights abuses,’ said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada, an NGO watchdog. ‘We just had no idea how far they were willing to go.’ ”

More equal than others
In the wake of the recent US military raids in Somalia and Libya, Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf writes that America must reject “exceptionalism” in order to be a great nation:

“Exceptionalism is contrary to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas that led to the founding of the country. If there is one lesson of human civilization, it is that equality under the law needs to apply to nations as well as people or else chaos and injustice ensue. This past weekend’s raids were more damaging not because the outcome of one was unsuccessful but because the outcome of the other was. If countries feel they can swoop in and snatch up bad guys anywhere, whenever, and however it suited them, the world would quickly fall into a state of permanent war.”

Water justice
The Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan argues that the private sector cannot provide “silver bullet solutions” for ensuring the human right to water:

“The real crisis is a political one: corporations are attempting to control water policy to guarantee secure access to scarce water resources. When governments relegate basic services, such as water and sanitation, to profit-driven multinationals that hike up the service fees and exploit scarce resources, we are dealing with a crisis generated by an unsustainable economic model.
Yet that model continues to be promoted around the world at events like the Budapest Water Summit, where governments discuss the future of the world’s water with polluters and water profiteers rather than with the communities most impacted by the global water crisis.”

Latest Developments, October 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Tit for tat
Al Jazeera reports that a militia claims to have “arrested” Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in response to the recent US military raid in Tripoli:

“A former Libyan rebel group said on Thursday it had seized Zeidan after the government allowed the United States to capture top al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby in Tripoli last weekend.
‘His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,’ a spokesman for the group, known as the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, said refering to the US Secretary of State.”

Cholera lawsuit
CNN reports that a class action suit has been filed against the UN over its apparent triggering of a cholera epidemic in Haiti:

“ ‘The claims are that the U.N. engaged in reckless and gross negligence and misconduct bringing cholera to Haiti,’ said Ira Kurzban, a lawyer and board member with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Development in Haiti. The group is demanding financial compensation for the 8,300 Haitians who died as a result of the cholera epidemic as well as some 650,000 more survivors of the illness.

In a briefing to journalists on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said as a result of the Haitian epidemic, the organization was in the process of adopting steps to prevent the further spread of the disease.
‘Part of our lessons learned from this has been to screen peacekeepers for cholera,’ Haq said.”

Calling the shots
Reuters reports that France continues to take the lead on shaping foreign interventions in its former African colonies:

“The [UN Security Council resolution] was drafted by France, [the Central African Republic’s] former colonial master. Security Council diplomats said they hoped for a vote on Thursday.
France, which intervened earlier this year to oust Islamist rebels from another of its former colonies, Mali, has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis. It has urged African nations and the African Union to do their utmost to resolve the crisis among themselves.

France has a small force in Bangui securing the airport and its local interests. French diplomatic sources have said Paris would be ready to provide logistical support and increase its troop numbers to between 700 and 750 if needed.”

Fate worse than debt
Reuters reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is saying the world must achieve “zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources” by mid-century:

“ ‘This is worse than a debt because there is no bailout and if you have two or three good budget years a debt can be reduced, but emissions hang around for 100 years,’ [OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria] said.
He said there needed to be a ‘big, fat price on carbon’ – either through carbon taxes or emissions-trading schemes which send out consistent and clear price signals.

In 2012, the world’s top 200 listed oil, gas and mining companies spent $674-billion on finding and developing new sources of oil and gas, the OECD said.
Achieving zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources is achievable but current policies need to be changed, Gurria said.”

Big changes afoot
Inter Press Service reports that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is planning the development industry giant’s “first strategic overhaul in two decades”:

“ ‘We’ll be looking for what this reorganisation does to staffing and budgeting for social and environmental sustainability,’ Mark Rentschler, director of campaigns at the Bank Information Center (BIC), a watchdog group, told IPS.
‘There are conflicting signals in what you read in strategy. On the one hand, it says that [social and environmental] safeguards are valuable, including for clients, but at the same time it says the bank needs to get projects out more quickly and not be too bureaucratic.’
Those two aims don’t necessarily go together, Rentschler warns.”

Drones for migrants
Brussels-based journalist David Cronin rejects the EU’s promotion of its new border surveillance system, Eurosur, as the key to avoiding migrant deaths on the Mediterranean:

“Contrary to what [EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström] has indicated, Eurosur is not a humanitarian initiative. Rather, its primary focus is addressing what the European Commission calls ‘illegal immigration’ – a repulsive term as travelling from one country to another in search of a better life is not a crime.
Eurosur is partly the fruit of a €15 million scientific research project launched in 2010. Though mainly funded by the EU, the project had a heavy participation from top weapons-makers like Britain’s BAE, the Franco-German firm EADS and Spain’s Indra.
This is one of several EU-financed schemes relating to maritime surveillance. Another one, OPARUS, examined how drones can help to detect Africans or Asians trying to enter Europe. BAE, EADS and the French companies Thales and Dassault are all taking part in it.”

Racist vans
The BBC reports that the UK’s advertising watchdog has banned government ads “telling illegal immigrants to go home” for using misleading statistics, rather than for being offensive or irresponsible:

“[The Advertising Standards Authority] received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey. Some critics said the slogan was reminiscent of language used by the National Front in the 1970s.
During the campaign, the advertising vans drove around the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow, some of the most diverse areas of the capital where it is thought a lot of illegal immigrants live and work.
The poster displayed a picture of handcuffs and read: ‘In the UK illegally?… GO HOME OR FACE ARREST.’ ”

No tanks
The Los Angeles Times reports that the White House “appears to have settled on a middle ground” regarding its massive military aid to Egypt:

“Administration officials told reporters this week that they planned to withhold a substantial amount of U.S. military aid in response to the continuing violence in Egypt. News reports said that delivery of U.S. tanks, helicopters and fighter jets – part of $1.3 billion in annual military assistance – would be suspended but that funding for counter-terrorism and security operations in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip would not be affected.

Analysts said that if Obama announces a partial aid suspension, it will represent a slap on the wrist of the Egyptian military while allowing the administration to show that it disapproves of the moves the generals are making.”

Latest Developments, September 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Syrian hope
The New York Times editorial board welcomes the new agreement between the US and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons, while questioning how realistic it is:

“Under the deal’s terms, Syria is required to provide a ‘comprehensive listing’ of its chemical arsenal within a week. That includes the types and quantities of poison gas, and storage, production and research sites. The agreement also requires ‘immediate and unfettered’ access to these sites by international inspectors, with the inspections to be completed by November. Also by November, equipment for mixing and filling munitions with chemical agents must be destroyed. All chemical weapons and related equipment are to be eliminated by the middle of 2014.
The deadlines are necessary to keep the pressure on, but meeting them will not be easy in the middle of a civil war, even if Mr. Assad cooperates. The United States and Russia have worked for 15 years to eliminate their own chemical arms stocks and still have years to go.”

Moving picture
IRIN reports that the International Organization for Migration’s newly released World Migration Report offers a “global snapshot of migrant well-being”:

“Overall, the study found that migrants who moved north gained the most, with North to North migrants faring the best, and South to North migrants also rating their lives as better than their counterparts back home. Migrants in the South fared similarly or worse than if they had not migrated, with long-time South to South migrants considering themselves worse off than both the native-born and their counterparts back home. More than a quarter of South to South migrants struggled to afford food and shelter, even after being in a host country for more than five years.”

French coup
Jeune Afrique reports that a former president of Madagascar has accused France of being behind the 2009 ouster of his successor:

“It is a revelation that, if true, is likely to embarrass Paris. In an interview on the private chanel TV Plus Madagascar, ex-Malagasy president Didier Ratsiraka, 76, said on Sept. 11 that ‘France asked me to help Andry Rajoelina remove Marc Ravalomanana,’ referring to events in early 2009 that led to the overthrow of the ex-Madagascar president.
‘I answered that I am not in favour of coups,’ he added before explaining that he finally accepted after it was explained to him that this was not a coup. ‘We agreed that Marc Ravalomanana would leave power without a blood bath. And after his overthrow, we should undertake an inclusive transition… Andry Rajoelina was on board,’ he said.” [Translated from the French.]

No money, no answers
The Center for Economic Policy Research transcribes an Al Jazeera reporter’s questions to a UN spokesman about the organization’s position on compensating victims of the UN-triggered cholera epidemic in Haiti that has so far killed 8,260 and made 675,000 ill:

“[Al Jazeera’s Sebastian] Walker: But why is the claim not receivable?
[Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General Eduardo] Del Buey: Well, it’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of our responses to claims against the organization.
Walker: So you don’t have to explain yourselves?
Del Buey: No.
Walker: You are saying that not only do they not get compensation but you don’t even have to explain why?
Del Buey: Well, that’s exactly what I said, that’s the United Nations’ policy.”

No deal
Reuters reports that thousands of Nigerian plaintiffs have rejected a “totally derisory and insulting” compensation offer by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell over pollution caused by spills in the Niger Delta:

“Their lawyers said they will now go back to a British court to request a trial timetable.
The legal action is being closely watched by the oil industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against majors.

A source close to Shell and another source involved in the negotiations told Reuters the company offered total compensation of 7.5 billion naira ($46.3 million).
Leigh Day, the British law firm representing the villagers, said the compensation offer amounted to approximately 1,100 pounds ($1,700) per individual impacted, without giving the number of people it says were affected.”

Outside assistance
The Australian reports that Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said the US was “very, very helpful” in the bloody final war against the Tamil Tigers:

“American satellite technology located the ships and enabled the Sri Lankans to hit them. Before that, the Americans had been somewhat ambivalent about the Sri Lankan struggle. They never remotely justified or approved of the Tigers, but nor would they supply weapons to the Sri Lankan forces. Yet throughout the conflict, Sri Lanka got most of its military hardware from Israel and Pakistan, two military allies of the US that would probably have been susceptible to American entreaties not to supply arms.”

GMO creep
The Guardian reports that agribusiness giant Monsanto is under investigation in the US over suspected crop contamination:

“The investigation was ordered after a farmer in Washington state reported that his alfalfa shipments had been rejected for export after testing positive for genetic modification. Results were expected as early as Friday.
If confirmed, it would be the second known case of GM contamination in a major American crop since May, when university scientists confirmed the presence of a banned GM wheat growing in a farmer’s field in Oregon.”

Above the law
Human Rights Watch argues that the World Bank “does not recognize its obligation to respect international human rights law”:

“The absence of a clear commitment not to support activities that will contribute to or exacerbate human rights violations leaves World Bank staff without guidance on how they should approach human rights concerns or what their responsibilities are.

 Introducing a human rights commitment would include carrying out systematic human rights due diligence for every program, first to identify how its lending or other support may contribute to human rights violations and then to figure out constructive ways to avoid or mitigate the human rights risks.”

Latest Developments, June 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleak outlook
The World Bank has published a new climate change report exploring what “temperature increases will look like, degree-by-degree” for some of the world’s poorest people over the next century:

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers found food security will be the overarching challenge, with dangers from droughts, flooding, and shifts in rainfall.
Between 1.5°C-2°C warming, drought and aridity, will contribute to farmers losing 40-80 percent of cropland conducive to growing maize, millet, and sorghum by the 2030s-2040s, the researchers found.

Loss of snow melt from the Himalayas will reduce the flow of water into the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra basins. Together, they threaten to leave hundreds of millions of people without enough water, food, or access to reliable energy.”

US troops in Mali
Sahara Media reports that American soldiers have arrived at the Amchach military base near Tessalit in northern Mali:

“According to sources contacted by Sahara Media, the soldiers’ arrival at this strategic base, which took place over the past two days, has the support of the French military.
These same sources say the US troops will be deployed to various points in northern Mali by month’s end.
According to Sahel watchers, this base had been a point of contention between Paris and Washington, both of whom wanted to set up a military base, though Algeria and Libya objected to foreign troops being stationed near their borders.” [Translated from the French.]

Partial transparency
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham and Owen Barder have mixed feelings about this week’s G8 statement on “tackling financial secrecy”:

“It is disappointing that the G-8 did not agree to compile registries of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, let alone to make them public. If individuals can own companies anonymously, it is too easy for them to set up shell companies and shelter their income from tax within them. We are confident it will eventually dawn on everyone that the only workable solution is registries of beneficial ownership, and that there is no reason that these should not be public.”

Going beyond aid
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s Fraser Reilly-King argues that while “aid alone” will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals or their post-2015 successors, strategies based on leveraging private capital should be viewed with caution :

“With the obsession around growth and the private sector, has come a strong focus on creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The World Bank’s (much criticized) flagship Doing Business Report ranks countries according to the ease of doing business. In practice, while it may encourage countries to streamline heavy bureaucratic processes that choke innovation, this has also led to excessive deregulation, flexibilization of work forces, and attacks on labour rights. For me, it is not about creating an enabling environment to develop the private sector (and stimulate investment), but rather creating an environment that enables the private sector (and investment and civil society and citizens) to contribute to development and poverty eradication. It’s a subtle, but extremely important, difference.”

Truth to power
Humanosphere reports that former Costa Rican president and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias told a US audience “your government is the most dangerous government on Earth”:

“Arias — in town to do a commencement speech for [the University of Washington Bothell], among other speaking events — had plenty of praise for the United States, for the generous and enterprising spirit of Americans.
But he also couldn’t help noting our country’s history of ‘supporting military dictatorships,’ of only doing foreign aid when we can see how it helps us and, as the world’s leading arms dealer and military power, of exporting violence.”

Green façade
The Dominion raises questions about Canadian-based Goldcorp’s attempts to “re-brand” its San Martin mine, which ceased production in 2008, as a Honduran ecotourism site:

“But the reality on the ground is a long way from the stories told in company documents and press releases.
A visit to the site in early 2013 revealed no evidence of a thriving hotel or ecotourism project. Instead, tall fences with barbed wire surrounded a space of land on the hill down from the mine. It cost $20 to enter the area and there were security forces guarding the site.

Residents claim that Goldcorp’s San Martin Foundation should not fall under the definition of ecotourism. Members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee fear that the site is acting as a placeholder for the mine to re-open in the future once new mining regulations come into place.

Health equality
Durham University’s Clare Bambra makes the case for taking on economic inequality as a way to improve public health:

“Ultimately, more equal societies have better health outcomes. While even the most egalitarian developed countries have health inequalities, all of their citizens are better off and live longer. The poorest and most vulnerable groups in social-democratic countries like Sweden and Norway are far healthier and live longer than their counterparts in neo-liberal countries such as the UK or the US.”

Dodgy accounting
Freedom from Want author Ian Smillie argues that current statistics on extreme poverty do not reflect improving global conditions since the 1980s so much as a big change in the World Bank’s math:

“The problem is that the figures used a decade or so afterwards for 1980, 1985 and 1990 are not the same figures the Bank was using at the time. In its 1980 World Development Report (WDR)—still available on line—the World Bank said that ‘The number of people living in absolute poverty in developing countries (excluding China and other centrally planned economies) is estimated at around 780 million.’ At the time, China had an estimated 360 million destitute people, so the global total was probably about 1.1 billion—the same as today.

Over the past decade, however, the Bank began to tinker with the 1980-1 base. For example, ‘The Bank’s annual statistical report, World Development Indicators 2004 (WDI)… shows a drop in the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day in all developing countries from 1.5 billion in 1981, to 1.1 billion in 2001.’
Are you following the numbers? The 1981 base had increased to 1.5 billion. And it kept rising thereafter to its current level of 1.9 billion. What remains constant is the 1.1 or 1.2 billion people living in poverty ‘today’ (whether that ‘today’ is 2013, 2004, 2000, 1985 or 1980).”