How Should the WHO Pandemic Treaty Negotiations Tackle Intellectual Property?
By Viviana Muñoz Tellez
The WHO pandemic instrument should commit the Parties to limit the exclusionary effects that government-granted patents and other IPRs may have during pandemics in support of rapid diffusion of new vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and other tools and facilitate collaboration and freedom to operate. The current draft text of Article 11 would not make any change to the status quo.
The author argues that the term ‘anthropocene’ to denote the period of the modern environmental crisis is hollow and a political digression from the reality, and that the crisis is a product of corporate exploitation of the earth’s system. Putting the blame on the entire human society for the environmental crisis is a Western ideological ploy to shield the corporate culprits who have caused the destruction on the strength of their capital and technology. He therefore proposes the term ‘corporatocene’ to mark the epoch of environmental crisis. If anything it is the Western colonization and the invention of the steam engine that are the markers of the start of the pandemic assault on the earth’s natural systems. Obfuscating the debate on this by introducing politically motivated substitutes will only frustrate the efforts to forge meaningful solutions to the climate crisis.
Digital Health Challenges in the South: Towards Better Integration of Digital Health Practices
By Dr. Azeema Fareed and Ms. Farhana Saleem (COMSATS)
Much like any innovation, diffusion of digital health technologies in different countries depends on their level of development, availability of infrastructure, socio-economic conditions and indigenous strengths and weaknesses, political will and stability, demographics as well as social norms. Naturally for developing countries, social, economic, and technological set-backs make digital health adoption, implementation and mainstreaming more challenging. Using WHO’s e-Health components, this article highlights key challenges impacting digital health adoption in developing countries in the light of COMSATS’ experience.
Harnessing Digital Technologies for Education in Developing Countries: Need for a Judicious Approach
By Kishore Singh
Digital technologies are transforming the landscape of education. New models and ways of learning, digitally supported and virtual, are emerging with rapid pace, multiplying learning pathways and diversifying learning approaches. Digital technologies are impacting education at all levels and in all its forms, and renewal of education by dint of what is termed ‘edu-tech’ has become a buzz word. Harnessing digital technologies for education is enticing for developing countries.
However, the gaze on the dazzles of digitalization must not lose sight of their down side. Considering what has been termed as ‘platform imperialism’, a cautious and critical approach is needed. “Digital divide’ is a crushing blow to the fundamental principle of equality of opportunity in education. Safeguarding education from forces of privatization and ‘edu-business’, fortified by digitalization in education, is also a daunting challenge. We must ward off against deleterious, even dehumanizing effect of digital technologies, as they can be pernicious if they are not properly controlled and regulated.
The Right to Development: Principles, Realization and Challenges
By H.E. Mr. Ali Bahreini
The main theme of the 54th session of the Human Rights Council revolves around economic, social, and cultural rights, with a particular focus on the right to development. This article addresses the importance of the right to development, the Iranian perspective on it, and the impact of various challenges on its full and effective realization.
Value Addition or Trade Misinvoicing: Coal Trading in the Asia-Pacific
By Manuel F. Montes and Peter Lunenborg
Statistics on coal trade between India, Singapore and Indonesia suggest that trade misinvoicing is used as a vehicle for illicit financial flows. At present this practice is not well addressed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s tax standards. Asia-Pacific countries should intensify cooperation on this issue. Other international organizations with a mandate in this area could also play a role, for instance the World Trade Organization. Ultimately, increased cooperation would help to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16.4 which inter alia aims, by 2030, to significantly reduce illicit financial flows.
COVID-19, Future Pandemics and the Africa Care Economy Index
By Salimah Valiani
In Africa, the care economy has long been unrecognised. At least since the last major pandemic in Africa, HIV-AIDS, caring work has been severely undervalued in the continent, and the redistribution of caring work, from females in the home and communities, is next to nonexistent. Undoing this structural inequality is crucial to improve health and wellbeing of girls and women in Africa, to be prepared for future pandemics, and to realise Africa’s demographic dividend for the benefit of the majority. To achieve this, the Africa Care Economy Index is offered as a policy, advocacy, and accountability tool.
Implementing wealth tax and wealth redistribution in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Khanyisa Mbalati
Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most unequal places in the world, with significant levels of social, gender, and income inequality. Several countries in the region have a tax structure that is heavily weighted towards consumption taxes, which can be regressive and inflict a significant burden on those with low and middle incomes. Implementing progressive tax systems, whereby those with higher earnings pay a larger share in taxes, is one way through which governments might optimize the impact of tax revenue on reducing inequality. The adoption of a wealth tax may facilitate wealth redistribution in Sub-Saharan African nations and could help bridge the inequality gap in the region. High statutory wealth tax rates of between 5-8% are needed in order to have an effective tax rate of 3-5%.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Process – An Opportunity for a Paradigm Shift
By Kuldeep Sharma and Raunicka Sharma
Efforts are underway to strengthen the inclusiveness and effectiveness of international tax cooperation so that the current tax structures consider the equitable interests of developing countries. This is necessitated as a section of developing countries has lost confidence in the OECD and there is a lingering doubt whether OECD has developing countries’ best and equitable interests in mind. As a result, the United Nations General Assembly has launched intergovernmental talks to enhance international tax cooperation and draft a UN Tax Convention that aims to establish inclusive norms for transparency and tax cooperation, that leads to development of an acceptable and frictionless worldwide tax policy.
UN Model Tax Convention Article 26: Inequitable Exchange of Information Regime – Questionable Efficacy in Asymmetrical Bilateral Settings
By Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed
The United Nations Model Tax Convention between Developed and Developing Countries (UN MTC) Article 26 charts out an exchange of information (EOI) regime “between developed and developing countries,” feigning that it is more favorable to the latter set of nations. Contrarily, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) MTC Article 26 is professedly geared to protect and promote interests of OECD members – “the club of the rich.” Even a cursory comparative look at the two MTCs intriguingly reveals lack of dissimilarities, and irresistibly leads to the conclusion that materially both provisions are identical. The situation gives rise to a paradox whereby developing countries that are completely at different levels of development have broken governance structures, convoluted fiscal and criminal justice systems and struggling tax administrations, have been yoked into a multilayered EOI regime, which stemmed from an intra-OECD statecraft imperative and is pre-dominantly beneficial to developed countries. The new normal contributes towards enhancement and deepening of the embedded inequities in the neocolonial economic order. The paper seminally dissects the strains generated by absence of dissimilarities between the two MTCs vis-à-vis Article 26, and posits that, in fact, this fundamentally being a developed country project, developing countries have been exploited as ‘beasts of burden’ merely to promote economic interests of dominant partners in the relationship, and by doing so, sheds light on and galvanizes the unjustness latent in the international taxes system – an inherently unequal and lopsided affair. It also delves deeper into an axiological normative evaluation of the extant EOI regime, and finding it untenable, urges a larger paradigm shift. In fact, the UN’s meek convergence with the OECD on EOI regime, ditching developing countries and leaving them to fend for themselves in this critical area of international taxation, is the scarlet thread of the paper.
Preserving Regulatory Space for Sustainable Development in Africa
By Roslyn Ng’eno
Investment has an important role for achieving sustainable development in developing countries. Although international investment agreements (IIAs) can serve as instruments to promote such objective, protection oriented IIAs have undermined the ability of States to regulate in the benefit of the community. Likewise large financial reparations imposed by arbitral tribunals have increased the threat of regulatory chill in the face of major global challenges. Strengthening the right to regulate of States and addressing regulatory chill are key matters to consider in the reform of IIAs and the international investment regime.
The WTO faces an existential crisis, despite a reasonable outcome at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference. The one way by which the WTO can resuscitate itself is to make sure that the negotiating agenda is anchored in the SDGs rather than in the narrow interests of its most powerful members. The changing role of the State must also be factored in by the WTO.