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Opinions: U.S. International Affairs Budget; Health Impacts Of Climate Change; Role Of U.N.; Drug Development, Free Trade

The U.S. ‘Must Continue To Have A Strong, And Effective International Affairs Budget’

Despite challenging economic times, “[t]wo areas we cannot afford to shortchange right now … are our national security and our economic prosperity, which is why we must continue to have a strong and effective International Affairs Budget,” U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Communications Director Richard Parker writes in a FoxNews.com opinion piece. “Our entire International Affairs Budget, which funds all of our development and diplomatic programs, is just a little over one percent of federal spending, but it provides a significant return for the American people in terms of our national security,” Parker adds.

Highlighting the “strong bipartisan support for a smart power approach to our foreign policy using development and diplomacy, alongside a strong defense, in keeping [the U.S.] safe,” Parker writes of the cost-effectiveness of the U.S.’s international affairs programs “to bring stability and security to dangerous corners of the world at a fraction of the cost of military action. And now with a focus on results and transparency following the State Department’s new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, efforts are being made to ensure programs are more effective and efficient uses of our dollars. … So before we conclude the federal budget can be balanced on this small fraction of funding, we should carefully consider how cutting the International Affairs Budget would do more harm to America’s national and economic security than good. Just a little investment goes a long way” (1/3).

Uncertainty Over Potential Health Impacts Of Climate Change Is No Excuse For Complacency

In a piece in The Scientist magazine, Samuel Myers, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Aaron Bernstein, a faculty member at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, “argue that it is the indirect impacts of climate change – large-scale alterations to Earth’s natural systems – that pose the greatest risk to human health.” Such “changes are curtailing access to water and to food and are undermining the very concept of stable homes, yet have received scant attention in the literature, including the report of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” Myers and Bernstein write before outlining the current challenges associated with water and food scarcity and predictions about how such issues could become exacerbated with climate change.

“There is no doubt that climate change will have important impacts on human health, but we are uncertain about what those impacts will be and where and when they will be most severe. … But uncertainty about the exact timing, location, or magnitude of climate change impacts is no excuse for complacency,” Myers and Bernstein write. “Rather than be used as a rationale for inaction, the uncertainty inherent in climate science should serve as an organizing principle for adaptation to its ill effects. … How the wealthy world responds to the moral imperative to help the developing world adapt to climate-change vulnerability will be a defining characteristic of this century” (1/1).

U.N. Continues To Play Key Role 

“The United Nations today leads what seems at times like a double life. Pundits criticise it for not solving all the world’s ills, yet people around the world are asking it to do more, in more places, than ever before – a trend that will continue in 2011,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon writes in a Project Syndicate/Sydney Morning Herald News opinion piece, where he examines the role of the agency. “Collective action has never been easy, but it has never been more necessary than in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals – the world’s blueprint for ending extreme poverty,” Ban continues. “The conventional wisdom will tell you that the MDG targets – reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health of mothers and children, combating HIV/AIDS, increasing access to education, protecting the environment, and forging a global partnership for development – are simply unattainable. In fact, we are controlling disease – polio, malaria and AIDS – better than ever, and making big, new investments in women’s and children’s health – the key to progress in many other areas.”

After reflecting on the need for the U.N. and member states to “work to build on smaller advances, whenever we can make them” and the need for the U.N. to “constantly recreate itself,” Ban concludes, “[O]ur future depends on a U.N. that brings together the countries of the world not only to talk and debate, but also to agree and to act; that mobilises civil society, business, philanthropists and ordinary citizens to help the world’s governments solve current problems; and that delivers peace, development, human rights, and global public goods – in a word, hope – to people around the world every day” (12/31).

Attacking EU-India Free Trade Negotiations ‘Seems A Strange Way To Pursue Global Health’

In a Wall Street Journal editorial that explores health advocates’ argument that a free trade agreement between the EU and India will jeopardize the access of patients to life-saving medications in developing countries, the newspaper writes, “[t]oday India is the world’s leading producer of cheap generic drugs, supplying 80% of the medicines that groups like Doctors Without Borders administer in poor countries. … These drugs may be cheap to copy, but they cost billions to develop, and Indian law currently gives regulators broad scope to block drug-patent applications and allow knock-off production,” the newspaper continues, before describing how EU law protects pharmaceutical patents and outlining the ongoing negotiations between the EU and India.

“The EU doesn’t expect India to impose European-style intellectual property rights overnight, but it has asked India to meet it part of the way” – a concept that has been met with much opposition from many global health advocates, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Attacking drug makers’ means of funding future breakthroughs seems a strange way to pursue global health. And while Indian officials might think they’re doing the home team a favor by keeping it easy to rip off expensive medicines, they’re doing nothing to incentivize domestic creators,” the editorial states. “The next blockbuster drug could well come from an Indian lab. Delhi could make that prospect all the more likely by defending the fruits of everyone’s labors on the subcontinent” (12/31).