Least Developed Countries and Their Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals
By Peter Lunenborg
This Research Paper reviews Least Developed Countries’ (LDCs) collective progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on the available data on the indicators for the 169 SDG targets. It makes recommendations for LDCs and other States to consider advancing in relevant UN processes as well as the WTO’s.
LDCs made progress on 28% of the SDGs. This collective progress shows that these countries are far from achieving what were deemed achievable goals in 2015. With respect to trade-related SDGs, LDCs have not made progress on any of the five trade-related SDGs that mention LDCs specifically.
This paper does not delve into the causes of this gap, but it suggests that international cooperation and, particularly, the developed countries’ assistance, has been insufficient to address the needs of a large part of the world population that still lives in poverty and without hope of a better future. However, the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA), a development framework with targets specifically for LDCs -which overlap with SDG targets- appears to dilute several original SDG targets, in particular those in SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
Graduating from the LDC Group: Challenges Facing Bangladesh
by Mustafizur Rahman
A significant number of LDCs will be graduating in the near term future. On graduation these countries will face formidable challenges as they will lose the benefits accruing from LDC-specific international support measures. Bangladesh is the first major LDC which is slated for graduation, to take place in November 2026. This article examines the various graduation challenges facing Bangladesh, and articulates some of the strategies that the country needs to pursue in order to graduate with momentum and make graduation sustainable.
Technology Transfer and Climate Change: A developing country perspective
By Nicolás M. Perrone
The role of technology transfer in climate change negotiations is vital. If technology is to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, the international community needs to ensure sufficient innovation and technology transfer. One of the main challenges of the technology transfer regime for environmentally sound technologies is that a private and market-led model may not meet global technology transfer needs. This policy brief suggests that governments should explore market, hybrid and non-market approaches to accelerate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. Developing countries’ governments should also explore cooperative approaches to improve their bargaining power, reduce costs and ensure adaptation and innovation capacity in the developing world.
WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions: How much tariff revenue have developing countries lost?
By Rashmi Banga
This research paper highlights the adverse impacts of the continuing WTO moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions on the developing and least developed countries. The rapidly progressing digitalization along with the ongoing pandemic and the food crisis are creating multiple demands on the government revenues. However, because of the moratorium almost all developing, and least developed countries are losing tariff revenues especially at the time when they are most needed. Not only are they losing the fiscal space but are also losing their regulatory space as they are unable to regulate the growing imports of digitizable products, especially of luxury items like the movies, music and video games. It is estimated that in the period 2017-2020, developing countries and LDCs lost $56 billion of tariff revenue, of which $48 billion were lost by the developing countries and $8 billion by the least developed countries. It is interesting to note that this loss of tariff revenue is from the imports of just 49 products (at HS six-digit). With no clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions (ET) and thereby on the scope of the moratorium, the continuation of the WTO moratorium on customs duties on ET can lead to substantive tariff revenue losses for developing and least developed countries in the future.
Draft Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: some key issues to address for a sustainable catch
By Peter Lunenborg
This Policy Brief reviews the draft Chair’s text for a Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (WT/MIN(21)/W/5). Pursuant to Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, any agreement must effectively discipline fisheries subsidies especially of larger scale fisheries and distant water fishing fleets and must cater to the needs of developing countries including in the form of effective Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT).
This Brief highlights several provisions of the text which would need to be improved to reach its mandated objectives. These provisions include the fisheries management flexibilities in Article 4.3 and Article 5.1.1 which would result in the continuation of fisheries subsidies; provisions on subsidies to fishing in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), subsidies to vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing Member and non-specific fuel subsidies; due process requirements for determinations of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by coastal Members; treatment of subsidies to finance companies; the proposal purported to address forced labour; treatment of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/Arrangements (RFMO/As) in the text; the relationship between the future Agreement and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) including their Committees; and the Agreement’s S&DT provisions.
The Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health on its Twentieth Anniversary
By Nirmalya Syam, Viviana Munoz, Carlos M. Correa and Vitor Ido
This Policy Brief reviews the role of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in the twenty years since its adoption. It finds that the Doha Declaration has contributed to advance the use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health and should be considered an important subsequent agreement to the TRIPS Agreement, despite the continuing challenges for WTO members to implement the TRIPS flexibilities in full. This brief also analyses the extent to which the Paragraph 6 System that became an amendment of the TRIPS Agreement as a new article 31 bis, pursuant to the Doha Declaration, has facilitated access to medicines and vaccines for countries with none or insufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. It finds that the system to date has not lived up to its promise. The Policy Brief recommends that WTO members assess and identify the challenges for the full use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health, and advances that supplementary tools will need to be designed to never again allow such inequity in access to life saving vaccines and treatments as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.
Statement by the South Centre on the extension of the transition period for LDCs under the TRIPS Agreement
The TRIPS Council decision to extend the TRIPS transition period for LDCs until 1 June 2034 confirms their right to an extension but it regrettably does not meet the scope and duration that the LDCs requested. Read our statement …
Interpreting the Flexibilities Under the TRIPS Agreement
By Carlos M. Correa
While the TRIPS Agreement provides for minimum standards of protection of intellectual property, it leaves a certain degree of policy space for WTO members, whether developed or developing countries, to implement the Agreement’s provisions in different manners, to legislate in areas not subject to the minimum standards under the Agreement, and to develop legal interpretations of such provisions to determine the scope and content of the applicable obligations. This paper focuses on some aspects of how panels and the Appellate Body of the WTO have interpreted said provisions. The paper also draws general conclusions for the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, which are of crucial importance for the design of a pro-competitive intellectual property system and, in particular, for achieving public health objectives, as specifically recognized by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.
Investment Policy Options for Facing COVID-19 Related ISDS Claims
By Daniel Uribe and Danish
Developing and least developed countries have undertaken a number of measures to fight against the multidimensional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such measures and those that may be adopted in the context of the recovery efforts are, however, susceptible to challenges by foreign investors using investor-State dispute settlement mechanisms.
This policy brief first considers the kinds of measures States have adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19, protect their strategic sectors and promote economic recovery, including through foreign investment aftercare and retention. It then addresses how the investor-State dispute settlement system (ISDS) has been used by investors in times of crises, based on the analysis of the awards in several cases brought against both developed and developing countries.
Against this backdrop, the brief elaborates on the different options and initiatives States can take for preventing ISDS claims at the national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. It concludes with some policy advice for developing and least developed countries to face possible COVID-19 related ISDS claims in the future.
An Introduction to the UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries
By Spring Gombe
Adoption, adaptation and diffusion of technology offer Least Developed Countries (LDCs) substantial potential to increase economic productivity and development and to narrow the technological gap with developed countries. It is in recognition of the need for sustained and sustainable mechanisms to enable the transfer of technologies between countries that the United Nations (UN) Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries was born.
Policy Paper on National Strategies for South-South and Triangular Cooperation
For developing countries to realize the full potential of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC) for achieving their national sustainable development objectives, it is important to formulate national SSTrC strategies as part of their national SSTrC ecosystems. Such national strategies would serve as guidance for a country’s SSTrC activities, initiatives and institutional framework, both as provider and beneficiary of SSTrC. This policy brief highlights the importance of developing national SSTrC strategies for achieving national development objectives and lays out the main elements that can be taken into consideration by developing countries for designing their national SSTrC strategies. While many developing countries do not have an explicit SSTrC strategy in place yet, the state of play shows that its elements can be found in various policies, institutional guidance and national development strategies. The absence of a holistic approach and a nationally acknowledged strategy carries the risk of fragmentation and incoherence in undertaking SSTrC activities. The potential of national SSTrC strategies for enabling effective responses to crises (such as COVID-19) is also explored.
This paper was developed jointly by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the South Centre based on the concept of the Islamic Development Bank on National Ecosystems for South-South and Triangular Cooperation.
Need for Extension of the LDC Transition Period Under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement Until Graduation and Beyond
By Nirmalya Syam
Least developed country (LDC) Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have submitted a duly motivated request for the extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which exempts LDCs from implementing the obligations for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights under the Agreement, in view of their vulnerabilities, special needs, economic, administrative and financial constraints, and the need for a sound and viable technological base. This request, submitted prior to the expiry of the current transition period on 1 July 2021, seeks a further extension for as long as those Members remain LDCs, and also for an additional period of 12 years after their graduation. This request is legitimate in view of the varied challenges that LDCs face, which have been aggravated through the reversal of development gains due to the public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These vulnerabilities will also continue to afflict the LDCs even after graduation, as recognized in several reports by different United Nations (UN) agencies as well as resolutions of the UN General Assembly. Therefore, WTO Members must display political will and translate global solidarity pledges into action and unconditionally support the request for extension of the transition period for LDCs under the TRIPS Agreement.