Permanent Mission of India
Speech by Ambassador Ajit Kumar at the South Centre on ‘Global Economic Trends and Linkages to Geneva Multilateral Processes’ on 13 February 2017, Room XXIV, at United Nations Office in Geneva
Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, and friends
At the outset allow me to thank Mr. Vicente Paolo for his welcome remarks and the South Centre for organizing this interactive session on global trends and issues that will continue to occupy our attention in 2017.
I am as curious as you are in reading the vectors and valances of the multilateral compass in order to get a sense of the direction in which we are sailing in terms of global multilateral policies and processes. I speak today in my capacity as a Vice-Convener of the South Centre but several of these ideas and stands that we endorse at the South Centre also reflect my country’s national position. The same, I’m certain, is also true for other friends from the developing world.
What I intend to do today is to present a broad outline of the emerging global economic scenario; how it might affect developing countries; the role of South-South Cooperation; and the on-and going discourse on Sustainable Development Goals, health, innovation, intellectual property.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisions ending the scourge of poverty within our lifetime; it is a charter for development that comes with common but differentiated responsibilities. As far as today’s deliberations are concerned, the overwhelming success of political, economic and social globalisation in the last few decades has had a two-fold impact: the silos in which the international relations seemed to have worked have been left redundant. For instance, the interconnectedness of peace & security, development and human rights needs to be well appreciated if you are to have an understanding of any of these themes. By the same logic, the solutions to our global problem do overlap across our present silos. A focus on development is likely to show an improved human rights record. It is also sure to deliver a more peaceful and secure society.
Given the focus of today’s deliberations and also the fact it is the UN Office at Geneva that does the real heavy lifting when it comes to economic and social issues of global concern, it would be challenging for us to remain focussed. Hence, within the time permitted to me, I would talk about a few issues that are dear to me but even amongst them some would only be dealt fleetingly.
As you know the recent past has been one of hope and optimism for multilateralism. In this regard 2015 was a momentous year when the global community managed to reach agreement on four crucial issues that will guide our course of action in those fields for many years to come. That year we adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction followed by the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in July after the 3rd international Conference on Financing for Development. In September, we agreed on the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, and finally in December came the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Last year saw the finalisation of the UNCTAD Nairobi Mandate. These decisions and commitments together constitute a roadmap for global partnership with the objective of advancing peace & security; development including humanitarian interventions; and promoting and protecting human rights. Strong political will, diplomatic dexterity, the spirit of multilateralism and consensus building at all levels would be required to translate these commitments into tangible outcomes.
Sustainable Development Goals are universal, integral and indivisible. The mainstreaming of the SDGs in the work of the UN and other International Organisations based in Geneva would be critical to achieving our objective of turning our decisions into concrete action and favourable outcomes.
The world we entered in 2017 is marked by unevenness, possibilities, uncertainties, known and unknown unknowns. Suddenly the gallant march of globalisation looks not only vulnerable. The return of economic nationalism with resulting prospects of rising protectionism may satisfy some disgruntled political constituencies but is sure to have an adverse impact on the global economy especially those of the developing world. Developing countries would now need to set a new normal for their development strategies, relying more and more on generating domestic and regional demand and investments, including through expanding and strengthening South-South cooperation. However, as we have often reiterated at this forum, South-South Cooperation cannot be a substitute for North-South Cooperation and it cannot be looked through the glass of a measuring flask.
Linked to this is an important concept that remains both underappreciated as well as misunderstood: the right to development. Those who portray this right as a charity of the global North towards the global South do a great disservice to this idea. While it is accepted that the primary responsibility for the realization of right to development lies on States, owing to well-documented historical reasons, States also have a duty to cooperate with each other in eliminating obstacles to development and creating a more conducive international economic order based on sovereign equality, interdependence, mutual interest and genuine cooperation. In other words, as a complement to the efforts of developing countries, effective international cooperation is essential in providing these countries with appropriate means and facilitating their comprehensive development.
Unilateral measures especially those emanating from populist perceptions of what ails global economy can have devastating consequences. The memories of financial shock are still fresh in many developing countries and history can indeed repeat itself if there is a sudden flight of hot money in this prolonged downturn phase of the boom-bust cycle of capital flows. Currency depreciation will increase the cost to domestic firms for servicing loans contracted in foreign currencies and may lead to a rapid rise in prices of imported goods. The recovery from the global financial crises of 2008 is still at a nascent stage and can easily reversed.
Let me change track and focus on the area of global public health. Here the struggle for affordable access to medicines will continue, as public frustration spills beyond the manageable regarding the growing prices of patented medicines including those used for the treatment of HIV-AIDS, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and various kinds of cancer. We cannot overstate the need to rein in the excesses of some global pharma companies, within the policy space available to each country, in order to streamline the affordability of public healthcare. This is a fundamental issue of global concern and does not leave much space for appeasement of global pharma giants.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is another important issue of public health that calls for concerted and coordinated efforts both here in Geneva and elsewhere. AMR was recognised by political leaders in New York last year to be arguably the gravest threat to global health. WHO needs to take a leadership role and strengthen itself as the multilateral forum within the UN system to address these global health challenges.
On the issue of Intellectual Property, it has been our considered view that developing countries need to design their IP laws and policies in a manner that facilitates the assimilation and dissemination of knowledge to support the growth of domestic industries. Making full use of the TRIPS flexibilities in national IP laws will continue to be critical for developing countries. Full and effective implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda and reform of WIPO’s technical assistance, whereby WIPO is supportive of the overarching objectives of the developing world, are crucial in this regard. In the context of normative work on Intellectual Property, there has been progress in the discussions on the Protection of Genetic Resources & Traditional Knowledge. Renewal of the mandate of the IGC with a focus on concluding the text-based negotiations and to convene a Diplomatic Conference will be critical in the WIPO General Assembly this year.
Given the role that Geneva plays in economic and social multilateral affairs it would be impossible to even fleetingly cover everything of importance in this short time. Let me just say, that given the present state of the world and the turn it seems to be taking, it is important that the developing world gets its act together in the Geneva multilateral process to succeed. There is too much as stake for us to pursue our separate agenda. We all need to work together in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation for convergence. The choice is ours. With these thoughts, I thank you for the opportunity and wish all success in the deliberations of the eminent panels.