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.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
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'."
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.
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.
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.
The World Health Assembly adopted a resolution that urges member states to improve coordination at the national level between international trade and public health, requesting the World Health Organization (WHO) to help its member states to do this. The resolution calls for governments to promote a better dialogue on trade and health, and gives health ministries a place at the table with other government agencies involved in trade issues, establishing mechanisms to enable this.
After much discussion and hard-won willingness to shift positions on what a chair referred to as a “difficult resolution,” member states concluded the 2007 World Health Assembly on 23 May with the adoption of an agreement on innovation of medicines and intellectual property. But it was done without support from the United States, the biggest medicines innovator. The resolution requests the World Health Organization (WHO) to get more involved in supporting member states using trade law to improve access to treatments, and to encourage discussion of new incentive mechanisms for research and development (R&D), such as addressing the link between the cost of R&D and the price of medicines.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan at the 61st World Health Assembly, raised intellectual property issues optimistically, as an opportunity for the organisation to make a difference. Chan highlighted a report due out later this year from the Commission on Social Determinants of Health, which she 'should help us address the root causes of inequities with greater precision'. She then commended members for the 'tremendous progress' made in meetings of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property (IGWG).
This report presents the latest trends in patents, trademarks and copyrights. Patents, which are of direct relevance to drug prices and procurement, showed a slowdown in growth rate, with fewer patent filings and grants. In 2007, patent filings increased 3.7%, compared to a 5.2% increase in the previous year. Despite this slowdown, around 1.85 million applications were filed across the world in 2007. The figures show the early effects of the global economic downturn on patent filings and the available data for 2008 point toward a further slowdown in patent filings. Patent filings and grants have also become more concentrated. In other words, the majority of patent filings are from residents of industrialised countries and there is a strong relationship between the volume of patent filings and the level of GDP and investment in research and development. Residents of Japan and the United States own approximately 47% of the 6.3 million patents in force across the world. Since the late 1990s, patent filings have grown at a faster rate than patent grants (or rejections) in most offices, most notably at the patent office of the US. As a result, the number of unexamined (pending) patent applications has increased.
Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, calls the failure of the G8 to live up to their promises a "scandalous betrayal". The triumphalism of Gleneagles has given way to shattered dreams and broken promises. At Gleneagles, the G8 promised to cancel the debt of some poor countries and to double development assistance to Africa by 2010. Both initiatives would provide resources for treating people with AIDS. Tragically, too little was promised at Gleneagles; even less has been delivered. By the time G8 leaders reconvened at St Petersburg this month, another 3 million people had perished from AIDS-related diseases.