SouthViews

SouthViews No. 259, 15 March 2024

Where is the Binding International Treaty Negotiated at the WHO Against Future Pandemics Going?

by Germán Velásquez

The idea of an international pandemic treaty is to avoid repeating the failures that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis. Many things did not work, but the most glaring failure was the unequal distribution of, and access to, vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. An international treaty based on the principles of equity, inclusiveness and transparency is needed to ensure universal and equitable access.

The current draft text of the “pandemic treaty” is far from adequately responding to the problems faced during the COVID-19 crisis. Developed countries have weakened the initial version of the draft, and the text is now full of unnecessary nuances. The expression “where appropriate” and other such wordings, typical of voluntary provisions, now appear repeatedly. It is a question of either protecting and ensuring the public interest and the health of citizens as a right, or of defending the interests of an industry that seeks to enrich itself without limits. The treaty against future pandemics will be one of the central topics at the next World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2024. If the countries of the South, accounting for the majority of the WHO membership, unite with a clear and strong public health vision and the countries of the North act lucidly, follow scientific evidence while pursuing safety for all, the treaty will contribute to the well-being of future generations. If in the end a small group of countries oppose a treaty with meaningful provisions, we must not forget that the WHO is a democratic institution where there is the possibility to vote.

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SouthViews No. 258, 11 March 2024

New US Policy on Exercise of March-In Rights to Curb High Drug Prices: Lessons for the Global South

By Nirmalya Syam

In response to soaring prescription drug costs, the United States government recently announced proposed changes to the exercise of march-in rights under the Bayh-Dole Act, allowing federal agencies to license taxpayer-funded inventions to other parties based on factors such as accessibility and affordability. This article explores the implications of the US policy shift on global pharmaceutical pricing and access, particularly for developing countries. Drawing parallels between the US approach and flexibilities under intellectual property laws such as compulsory licensing and government use authorizations that are allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, the article suggests that similar strategies could be employed by developing nations to address public health needs and economic considerations.

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SouthViews No. 257, 28 February 2024

Self-withering: The Biodiversity Convention and its new Global Biodiversity Framework

By Dr S Faizi

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), adopted at the end of 2022 marked another step in the process of weakening of the enforcement of the treaty that is finely balanced on the North-South axis. The CBD articles that protect the interests of the South continue to remain silenced, the West winning a virtual amendment of the treaty by default. The adoption of the GBF itself was procedurally flawed and while some of its 23 targets to be achieved by 2030 are meaningful, some are problematic. The target of increasing the global coverage of protected areas to 30 per cent each of the terrestrial and marine areas is likely to exclude the traditional caretakers of biodiversity and lead to further alienation of the historical custodians of biodiversity. The nature-based solutions (NbS) promoted by the GBF are likely to cause even more damage to the natural systems. The CBD provisions that are particularly favourable to the South are excluded from the GBF.

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SouthViews No. 256, 22 February 2024

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.

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SouthViews No. 255, 6 December 2023

Climate crisis: anthropocene or corporatocene?

By Dr S Faizi

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.

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SouthViews No. 254, 10 November 2023

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.

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SouthViews No. 253, 27 October 2023

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.

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SouthViews No. 252, 21 September 2023

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.

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SouthViews No. 251, 12 September 2023

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.

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SouthViews No. 250, 10 August 2023

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.

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SouthViews No. 249, 30 June 2023

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%.

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SouthViews No. 248, 31 May 2023

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.

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