May 19, 2021
Opportunity for Change
contributor: Appropriate Technology, Colin Ley
Editor’s note: This article is a reprint of a page that appears in print in Appropriate Technology, Vol 48, No. 1. It is published here with permission as a part of our partnership with the magazine. For more, please see the magazine’s site: www.appropriate-technology.com.
One of the inescapable lessons to be drawn from dealing with Covid-19 is that no country can stand apart from the rest of the world and its troubles.
The notion that the problems of the developing world can be neatly contained within the countries concerned, without damaging lives or livelihoods globally, has been well and truly exploded by the pandemic. The struggle to control a virus which has already killed more than 2.5 million people has been devastating, and stark proof that the usual protective barriers of wealth, status, and nationality are completely ineffective.
We can only trust that one of the positive legacies of Covid-19 will be the creation of a fairer and more balanced approach to health issues for all the world’s population, rather than just the privileged few.
Sadly, the early signs are not encouraging. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 70 percent of the first 120 million Covid-19 vaccinations were administered in the world’s 50 richest countries. Affluent nations hoarded the lifesaving vaccines, to the detriment of the world’s 50 poorest countries who had to settle for a scandalous .1 percent.
We also carry a report (pages 10 & 11) relating how some governments have set aside certain social and environmental safeguards in their quest to bolster economies battered by the pandemic. Published by the Forest Peoples’ Program, the report claims that this action is already harming indigenous communities and the forests which are vital to their livelihoods.
Although both these examples highlight the persistent power of self-interest, we can still hope that governments will wake up to a new reality, once the immediate panic of Covid-19 is over. Self-interest is proving to be an outmoded attitude and a deadly pandemic emphasizes the need to think globally.
I am honored and delighted to share this page with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is the first woman and the first African to be appointed as Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She begins her term of office on March 1.
A global finance expert, economist, and international development professional, she is fresh from chairing the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, making her input in the WTO role even more crucial. Since its creation in 2000, Gavi has immunized 760 million children globally and saved 13 million lives. Dr Okonjo-Iweala was also recently appointed as African Union Special Envoy to mobilize international financial support for the fight against Covid-19, and WHO Special Envoy for Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator. Altogether a fitting and most welcome appointment.
Also welcome is the news of the return to ‘live action’ of AidEx, the flagship development aid event which had to be postponed last year but is now set to reappear in Brussels on 17-18 November. Always an important meeting place for our industry, it will be good to get back to the Brussels Expo for a much needed in-person event.
Building back better
Finally, an item of late news and an encouraging rider to my earlier Covid-19 comments.
Japan has contributed over CHF160,000 (£125,00) to the WTO’s DDA Global Trust Fund to help build the trading capacities of developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs).
“Given the severe economic downturn caused by Covid-19, it is essential that all WTO members cooperate with each other in building back better together,” said Japan’s WTO Ambassador, Kazuyuki Yamazaki. “We are pleased to be making this contribution to help developing countries and LDCs improve their trade capacity and further contribute to strengthening the multilateral trading system, which is key to enhancing global prosperity.”