What’s New December 2005

This page lists changes to this site for December 2005.

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December 2005 will see Hong Kong host the 4th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meeting. This meeting, one of the most important in the world, will discuss a number of trade-related issues, key for developing and developed nations, alike. This meeting continues from the earlier “Doha round” where it was recognized that the global trading system was unequal and unfair for most of the world and so the meetings should place development at the fore. Thus this meeting is being billed as a “Development Round.” However, the concerns as per previous years will be the lack of transparency and democracy in the decision-making processes, and the power that the rich nations have over the poor distorting trade in their favor. The previous Ministerial meeting two years earlier collapsed as the developing world took a strong stance and stood up to the rich nations. Yet, since then, the same kinds of issues have resurfaced as rich nations appear to have hardly moved on their countless promises, pledges and obligations.

While they do not get as much attention as AIDS, there are many preventable diseases that afflict primarily the world’s poor in their millions. While AIDS is believed to have claimed over 3 million people in 2005 alone, a total of 11 million people have been estimated killed by infectious diseases. TB, malaria, measles, and others are global killers as well. These all kill far more people than wars, but attract less media attention, it seems, even though many of these diseases are easily preventable. Furthermore, it seems they also attract less attention because the people affected are from poor countries. While many of these diseases have long been recognized as resulting from poverty, some are now contributing to poverty as well. Updated some statistics

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Over 9 million people die worldwide each year because of hunger and malnutrition. (5 million are children, a technical equivalent of 45 jumbo jets crashing every single day, though the latter is what will often make headline news.) The direct medical cost of hunger and malnutrition is estimated at $30 billion each year (though it is estimated that every dollar invested in well-targeted interventions to reduce undernourishment and micronutrient deficiencies can yield $5 to $20 in benefits.)

In 1997 at Kyoto, nations of the world agreed to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as a way to combat climate change. CDM would assist rich countries in lightening their excessive greenhouse gas emissions as they would invest in poorer countries to help achieve sustainable development. It would help developing countries towards a less polluting form of growth while receiving much-needed investment. There were many fears at the time that the idea of CDM could be misused and allow rich countries to use the land of the poor countries to tackle their own emission problems. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment reports on the way some CDM projects in India have turned out and suggests that some of these fears may indeed be coming true. The section on various flexible mechanisms to tackle climate change has been updated accordingly

As part of its aid to poor countries, the British government has given millions to British companies. These companies push for privatisation of water in poor countries. Many such projects have come under heavy criticism for failing to provide universal access to a resource determined to be a fundamental right for everyone to access. Furthermore, this raises issues and concerns such as whether private companies (whose primary aim is profit) can indeed make efficient profit while having to provide universal access and how to address the reduced accountability. Often, poor country governments have been left to pick up the pieces when such projects fail.

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