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Editor’s Comment – March 2021

| 5th March 2021

Opportunity for change

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Credit: WTO

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% 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 0.1%.

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’ Programme, 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 emphasises the need to think globally.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala
I am honoured 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 immunised 760 million children globally and saved 13 million lives. Dr Okonjo-Iweala was also recently appointed as African Union Special Envoy to mobilise 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.

AidEx
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 Brusselson 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.

Comment by Colin Ley – Editor Appropriate Technology

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.”

 

Front Cover: A Kichwa woman tending her crops in Mishkiyakillu, Peru (page 10). Credit: Vicki Brown FPP

Published in Appropriate Technology – March 2021, Vol 48, No. 1

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