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Global Poverty Summit Addresses MDGs, Global Trade Policy

At the Global Poverty Summit January 16-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa, “academics, policy-makers, civil society activists and development workers … agreed that the [U.N. Millennium Development Goals] MDGs have made a difference, but have fallen far short of the ambitious targets on poverty, education, health, gender equality and global partnership that 189 countries committed to achieving by 2015,” IRIN reports.

Gains have been achieved in “poverty reduction, life expectancy and education over the past decade, although it is unclear whether those gains can be attributed to the MDGs or to massive economic growth in countries like China and India.” According to the article, “one billion people around the world regularly go to bed hungry and between 1.5 and two billion are thought to be living in poverty. HIV continues to claim thousands of lives every day and there has been little improvement in infant and maternal mortality rates. Meanwhile, inequality within and among countries has widened and foreign aid levels have declined during the past two years of the global financial crisis.”

David Hulme of the University of Manchester’s Brooks World Poverty Institute, the summit’s organizer, believes that three-quarters of the MDGs could be achieved by 2015 with accelerated efforts. “The idea of the MDGs as a failure is definitely wrong, there has been progress,” Hulme said. He added that “a number of promises made by developed and developing countries to reduce poverty have not been kept and the mechanisms for holding leaders accountable are weak. Hulme and several other speakers commented on the over-emphasis on the role of aid as a driver of development,” according to the article. 

Sakiko Fukudo-Parr of the New School University in New York and Sophie Harman of City University in London are also quoted in the article (1/20).

Global trade policies’ effect on poverty was also addressed at the summit, IRIN reports in a separate story that also looks at the World Trade Organization’s ongoing Doha Development Agenda negotiations. “Over the past decade the Doha talks have failed to get developed countries to stop subsidizing their farmers and agricultural exports, something that directly threatens livelihoods and food security in the developing countries,” the article states.

Still, “[t]he Doha talks have made progress in some areas, for instance Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which provides minimum standards for intellectual property protection in sectors such as music and medicine, and led to the introduction of greater flexibility in the manufacture of drugs for public health services,” IRIN reports. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist and chair of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, is quoted in the article (1/20).

Business Day also reported on the trade issues discussed at the summit (Mammburu, 1/19).