Sie sind hier


Newsfeed D+C abonnieren
Aktualisiert: vor 20 Stunden 37 Minuten

Financial sector: important allies for net-zero strategies

16. Juni 2021 - 14:28
For good reason, central banks are increasingly paying attention to climate risks

In 2008, the default of the investment bank Lehman Brothers destroyed trust within the financial sector and triggered the global “great recession”. If humankind fails to stop global heating, a climate default will cause harm that is several orders of magnitude greater. Expansionary monetary and fiscal policies can repair financial damage, but severe climate change would be irreversible. We are already witnessing droughts, floods, storms and heatwaves, and the macro-economic consequences can become devastating.

#or example, natural disasters might cause the default of systemically relevant corporations, causing chain reactions as happened with Lehman Brothers. Moreover, rising food prices after failed harvests could trigger inflation. Another worry is that formerly valuable assets may become obsolete. For example, investments in coal mines or oil fields might prove worthless if demand for fossil fuels drops dramatically.

Because of these and other risks, the climate crisis is set to hurt balance sheets, reduce economic output, shatter confidence and undermine financial stability. The good news is that central banks are increasingly aware of the risks. Their leaders know, moreover, that the risks will keep getting worse unless there is a global transformation to zero emissions. That must be achieved by 2050 at the latest if global heating is not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Obviously, central banks have a role to play in making the promises of the Paris Climate Agreement come true. In December 2017, a group of eight central banks and financial-regulation authorities therefore established the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). It has grown fast. In April 2021, it included 90 central banks and financial supervisors plus 13 observing institution.

Central Banks have mandates: usually, preventing inflation and keeping full employment. Now they understand that climate issues belong within their mandates. The challenge is to ensure that the financial system channels capital to environmentally sustainable businesses. In this setting, central banks and financial regulators should:

  1. insist on the disclosure of climate-relevant data,
  2. develop data standards and metrics and
  3. start running climate stress tests.

Moreover, they should adjust their credit operations, collateral utilisation and asset purchases.

Private-sector firms too are increasingly becoming aware of climate issues. Larry Fink, the chief executive of the asset-managing company Black Rock, prominently stated in early 2020 that higher market valuations will be the reward for companies that are “seen to embrace the climate transition and the opportunities it brings”. Indeed, sustainability-oriented funds outperformed market benchmarks last year.

In April this year, a new global platform was launched that unites over 160 leading financial-sector companies which together are responsible for assets worth more than $ 70 trillion. Insurance and reinsurance companies are expected to join soon. The platform is called the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). Its mission is to commit the entire financial system to the net-zero goal. That will require:

Moreover, GFANZ is supposed to campaign for climate-friendly public policies. Indeed, governments must create the right policy environment. In order to bear much of the burden of the transition to sustainability, the private sector needs predictability. Governments must set the right incentives, for example by making polluters pay an appropriate price for carbon emissions.

In the Paris Agreement, all UN members have committed to related action at the national level. For the goals to be achieved, however, they will have to ramp up their pledges at the Glasgow climate summit in November (see D+C/E+Z Focus section on climate action). If that happens, financial-sector institutions should prove allies for net-zero strategies.

José Siaba Serrate is an economist at the University of Buenos Aires and the University of the Centre for Macroeconomic Study (UCEMA), a private university in Buenos Aires. He is also a member of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI).

Kategorien: english

G7 takes tiny steps in the right directions

14. Juni 2021 - 14:28
To claim world leadership, the G7 must do more than what its members agreed in Carbis Bay

The most pressing issue is the Covid-19 pandemic. Global action is urgently needed. In late May, the international monetary fund made a proposal G7 could – and should – have adopted. According to IMF, it would cost $ 50 billion to launch a program that would vaccinate 40 % of the population of every country by the end of this year and another 20 % until July 2022. The efforts would have included more than only vaccinating people. The proposal took into account issues like testing, treatment of patients and the general strengthening of healthcare.

Instead of raising ambitions that way, the G7 only pledged to make available 1 billion vaccine doses by the end of this year. That is a step in the right direction - but only a tiny one. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, reckons that 11 billion doses would be needed to vaccinate 70 % of the world population by the time the G7 meet again in Germany next year.

No, the G7 on its own cannot launch the kind of programme the IMF proposed. Quite obviously, various multilateral institutions and especially UN organisations must be involved. It is equally obvious that none of these agencies nor any major governments would have stood in the way. According to the IMF, the G7 would have had to bear 70 % of the costs, contributing $ 35 billion, of which, however, 22 billion have already been pledged. In view of trillions worth of domestic-level programs to keep national economies growing, these sums are very small.

The G7 needs to do more than convince itself that its members can cooperate. If it wants to lead the international community it must show how global problems can be solved and do its part to make that happen. The domestic TV audience is not all that matters. In fact, people around the world are watching prosperous nations opening up fast thanks to progressing vaccination campaigns, while Covid-19 remains a huge threat in other parts of the world.

The message the G7 sent to Africa, Asia and Latin America was basically: you folks will get our surplus vaccines once we are all safe. In the meantime, feel free to watch Europe’s national football teams compete for the European championship in stadiums attended once more by fans, though still not entirely packed due to some social distancing rules still being observed. The football fans concerned are probably vaccinated – but paramedics, nurses and doctors in sub-Saharan Africa are not, and typically they cannot even test whether their patients are Covid-19 positive or not.

In other fields of policymaking, the G7 announcements similarly fell short. Tiny steps in the right directions are not enough. Developing countries want to know how and when the G7 will live up to its decade-old pledge to mobilize an annual $ 100 billion in climate finance, including private-sector investments. That sum was supposed to flow last year, but experts estimate that only $ 70 billion to $ 80 billion were actually made available. How much will be disbursed this year? And will last year’s shortfall be compensated? Who is monitoring the matter?

G7 members will hear those questions at the next climate summit in Scotland in November. Spelling out answers now would have created goodwill. By comparison, the additional climate spending pledged in Cornwall is good – but definitely not good enough.

If the G7 wants to lead, it must not only keep its long-standing promises, but must also set an example in regard to scaling up ambitions. The announcement of a date by when the G7 will  stop using coal-fuelled power plants would have been welcome. Instead, the G7 only stated that support for coal-based projects in developing countries will end in the next two years. However, exceptions are to be made if projects include carbon capture and storage (CCS), a controversial technology that in the eyes of environmentalists’ should only be made minimum use of when carbon emissions are inevitable. CCS should not serve as a pretext for extending coal usage. On the other hand, $ 2 billion were pledged to help partner countries shift away from coal-fuelled electricity generation. That is better than nothing, but it clearly is not good enough.

In regard to international infrastructure development, the G7 intends to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. That is not a bad idea, especially if the G7 pays more attention to issues like environmental sustainability, social impact and good governance in general. In tangible terms, however, the G7 only agreed to establish a working group on the matter.

According to G7 rhetoric, one summit goal was to show the world that democracy matters. Criticising atrocious human rights abuses in China serves that purpose. But if the world’s most prosperous democratic nations really want to lead the international community, they must consider global challenges and offer convincing solutions.

Hans Dembowski is editor in chief of D+C/E+Z.

Kategorien: english

“The promise of well-paid, secure jobs did not come true”

14. Juni 2021 - 12:58
Oxfam strategist Duncan Green explains why the economic paradigm seems to be shifting internationally

For decades, market-orthodox ideology dominated international financial institutions. Has prosperity trickled down?
There has not been much trickle down, but plenty of trickle up, and it went along with growing inequality and devastating environmental impacts. The free-market ideology basically led to financialisation in rich nations. The financial sector used to be at the service of the rest of the economy, but today the real economy is at the service of the financial sector, and that applies to the export sectors of developing countries and emerging markets too. A small oligarchy has become richer; the poor are worse off, and their number has grown.

But things are different in developing countries and emerging markets, aren’t they? The purchasing power of poor people has grown, for example in Bangladesh. When I was in Dhaka four years ago, my hosts made me aware of nobody going barefoot anymore. By contrast, I remember seeing the occasional naked adult there 30 years ago – someone too poor to wear clothes even in public.
Yes, some crumbs have been falling off the table – but only very few. If a country has the growth rates of Bangladesh, there will always be more economic activity, and the poor will benefit to some extent. That is the case in India and various other countries too. A pair of flip-flops, however, does not add up to any kind of lasting prosperity. In far too many places, people still depend on the informal sector – not only, but especially in South Asia and Africa. The promise that economic growth would lead to formal jobs with regular wages, labour rights and social protection has not come true for masses of people.

So there was no real progress in the fight against poverty?
Well, things are actually better in some East Asian countries which followed another economic orthodoxy. It is market-driven too, by the way, but they did not simply minimise the role of the state by deregulating markets. They adopted industrial policies to make specific sectors competitive internationally, gradually industrialising their economies. South Korea and Taiwan are early examples, but China or Vietnam later made similar strategic choices. The progress they made in reducing poverty looks more sustainable.

Under what conditions does that happen?
That is very hard to say. There is no magic formula. What we know is that the state must have some autonomy; it must not be captured by vested interests. Private enterprise is important too. Where societies are very unequal, however, state capture is highly likely, with the plutocratic elite simply buying the government decisions they want.

What exactly is the “middle-class”, and what role does it play in development?
In development discourse, it basically means that people are well-off enough to look beyond their immediate needs because they do not have to worry about whether they will eat tomorrow or not. The conventional political theory is that they become politically assertive and demand a say in public affairs. But that is not a given. We have been waiting for some kind of middle-class counterrevolution in China for decades, but it is not happening. On the other hand, South Korea and Taiwan did indeed eventually become democracies. India, however, is a disaster, with very many middle-class people supporting an increasingly authoritarian government. There clearly is no automatism by which economic growth would lead to the emergence of a progressive middle-class. The fundamental issue is who the middle class builds coalitions with. In Brazil, the Workers’ Party (PT) used to be an alliance of the poor with the middle classes, and it was quite powerful for some time. Perhaps it will come back in next year’s elections.

What allows people to escape poverty?
It takes a combination of safety nets and jobs. One lesson of the Covid-19 pandemic is that responding to the disease was easier where some kind of social-protection system was in place and could be scaled up. Perhaps governments will now ratchet up social protection long term. That would be a welcome consequence of this terrible disaster.

What does lasting middle-class prosperity require?
Political stability and the rule of law are very important, and so are various kinds of infrastructure. For example, one should not have to pay bribes to get electric power. Access to education and health care are essential too. The very rich can send their children to Harvard or the London School of Economics, and they will travel to richer countries for medical attention – or merely for shopping. Middle classes cannot afford to do so. They depend on what is available at the local level. Accordingly, they certainly have a potential for assuming a progressive role in national politics. However, they do not always do so.

Do we need action at the national or the multilateral level to eradicate poverty?
We need both. The biggest drivers to reduce poverty are national, and effective governments are essential. At the same time, we need multilateral policies to provide and safeguard global public goods. By themselves, for example, nation states cannot protect the climate. Diseases require a global response. In regard to taxes, the race to the bottom must stop. The list goes on …

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been deviating from free-market orthodoxy for some time. It is now in favour of a strong state and massive government spending. Has it really changed?
Well, if you look at what it is doing at the nation-state level, it has not changed much. It is still telling governments to stay within their means et cetera. But at the multilateral level, it has indeed changed, and I think that this reflects the ongoing professional debate among economists. After all, the failure of free-market orthodoxy has become obvious. Massive state spending and budget deficits were supposed to cause inflation, but that didn’t happen after the financial crisis of 2008, nor is it happening now. And as I just said, the big numbers of well-paid and secure jobs never materialised as promised. A few weeks ago, the London-based magazine The Economist argued that the international economic paradigm is changing after 40 years in favour of a stronger role for the state. The way President Joe Biden wants to massively expand US government spending shows that something is indeed happening.

In the past, the IMF largely endorsed White House rhetoric, but this time, it changed its stance before Biden became president.
Well, the geometry of international politics is varying. In the past, non-governmental organisations thought they knew who the good guys and the bad guys were. Today, things are more confusing. Different kinds of coalitions keep arising. In climate affairs, sometimes cities may take the lead, or insurance companies do, or other big investors. Central banks and law courts have begun to take interest in the climate. To build clever alliances, we have to understand persons with completely different backgrounds rather than simply teaming up with like-minded “good guys”.

How do right wing populists fit into the picture? Their approach is bewildering. They agitate against globalisation, telling people who feel left behind that they are being cheated. But when they rise to power, they typically do not use the powers of the nation state to improve the lives of those who voted for them. They are more likely to serve the interests of a rich oligarchy that neither wants to pay taxes nor accept any social or environmental standards. Right-wing populists deny climate change, are not especially good at delivering social services and show more interest in polarising society than solving problems. Multilateral institutions, by contrast, are trying to tackle those problems. In a way, anti-state oligarchs are cleverly using nationalistic rhetoric to rally a frustrated base against a “globalist elite”, which is really more an educated, professional middle class.

Yes, the picture is very confusing. There is indeed an international trend of poor, uneducated people voting right wing, whereas highly educated, prosperous people are increasingly voting for centre-left parties. Marxists have a very hard time explaining that. I don’t agree with you about plutocrats being anti-state, however. They are opportunists. They love the state when they need a bail-out in a crisis, but they do not want to accept any limitations in good times. They do not oppose government per se. They want to capture the state and control it.

Duncan Green is senior strategic adviser at Oxfam Britain and a professor in practice in international development at the London School of Economics.
Twitter: @fp2p

Kategorien: english

Changing the conversation

14. Juni 2021 - 10:54
Racial tensions haunt South Africa, impeding the country’s progress

The African National Congress (ANC) party has governed South Africa since the country’s first democratic, non-racial elections in 1994. The ANC won a resounding victory that year, ending the disgraceful apartheid system of racial segregation (see box).

But when the team of the new president, anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, took office, it found apparent vacant buildings and empty file cabinets. Beyond a steady exodus, much of the civil service, dominantly whites, anxiously hid in their offices fearing retribution and had destroyed those files that recorded their abuse.

Today, 27 years later, things have moved on. South Africa’s government appears to be substantively involved in interracial cooperation. The principle of black majority rule is firmly in place and the civil service is overwhelmingly black. Yet elements of the old racial mistrust persist, and government agencies do not function as efficiently as they should. In a different guise, race and race-driven politics continue to hamper progress, making it harder to spread prosperity.

In the early years after the 1994 election, the outlook for cooperation between the races was promising. Under Mandela’s leadership, the ANC took a non-racial high ground. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s vision of a “Rainbow Nation”, in which all peoples would come together, served as a basis for genuine reconciliation efforts on all sides. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission exposed the brutality of apartheid, and, to some extent, helped the nation to come to grips with it. South Africa seemed prepared to set its demons aside.

Perhaps reflecting this optimism, South Africa’s economy experienced a 20-year growth spurt. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita rose from a low of $ 9,100 in 1993 to around $ 12,500 in 2014 (see chart.) Growth accelerated sharply under the government’s 1996 “Growth, Employment and Redistribution” policy. When Mandela stepped down in 1999 his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, became president and continued to pursue growth and redistribution policies to aid the poor.

The growth trend did not last. Per-capita GDP began to decline under the corrupt presidency of Jacob Zuma, a traditionalist who became the head of state in 2009 and who was again confirmed in office in the 2014 election. He presided over a wasted decade – with per-capita GDP eventually plummeting to $ 12,200 in 2019 and then $ 11,100 by 2020 due to Covid-19. His tenure has become associated with “state capture” where private interests subvert governmental decision-making for their own benefit. A judicial commission is still reviewing the corrupt practices of that period.

Regrettably, racial politics became virulent again in the years of stagnation and decline, giving rise to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a political party with an aggressively anti-white and anti-Indian message. Its firebrand leader, Julius Malema, has accused the ruling ANC of serving “white monopoly capital”. He claims that whites have remained in de facto control even in black majority ruled South Africa by manipulating the ANC. Agitation along racial lines has made the EFF the third largest party in parliament. It is not an exaggeration to accuse it of reverse racism.

Redistribution policies

The notion of a powerful white minority manipulating the government behind the scenes has thus taken hold in large segments of the population, including some ANC members. The facts show that it is wrong. South Africa has a strongly progressive tax regime that transfers significant sums to poor blacks. Some 19 million of the country’s 60 million people receive grants from the government, and every aspect of government spending is governed by aggressive black empowerment criteria.

Moreover, South Africa’s spending on education is among the highest globally, roughly 6.5 percent of GDP. The government has also continued to make huge investments in expanding access to water, electricity and sanitation. In addition to black empowerment, large sums are spent on creating a black industrial class. The private sector is encouraged and regulated to advance the interests of the black population. Nonetheless, many believe that the ANC is exploiting poor blacks as evidence of large-scale corruption within the party mounts.

In some areas, for example land transfers, progress for black citizens has indeed been slow. The reason, however, is not some kind of conspiracy, but rather administrative waste, inefficiency and corruption. Hiring ANC members for important government jobs was supposed to empower black people, but the result was that many government agencies, especially at the local and provincial levels, have ground to a halt. Many services are simply not provided.

Slow progress also has other causes, however. Insufficient economic growth has limited opportunities. South Africa needs labour-intensive and sustained high rates of growth over several decades that creates new opportunities for all. It would generate additional wealth that could be invested in reducing inequality and deprivation. The country must generate more prosperity if it wants to improve the prospects for its black majority. Only trying to redistribute existing wealth, the focus since Zuma took over, is a dead-end strategy. It will not deliver results.

President Cyril Ramaphosa became Zuma’s successor in 2018. His rhetoric and attitudes are completely different. He has managed to halt South Africa’s downward trend but has been unable to ignite growth given the extent of wastage, policy confusion and lack of accountability that has become a hallmark of government. The Covid-19 pandemic, moreover, has hit the country hard. Ramaphosa is a veteran ANC leader and trade-union activist. He later thrived in the private sector and has become one of the country’s richest persons.

To move forward, South Africa needs a new, inclusive national narrative. It needs to embark upon its own mythmaking – putting forward a positive story of its present and future that focuses on what binds and not what divides. Since race and class largely coincide in South Africa, the focus should shift from race to class-based policies that provide opportunity based on need, not skin colour lest the country remains trapped in the policies that created many of its past crises.

That said, South Africa must keep working on coming to terms with its past, revisiting painful memories to draw useful lessons from them. A new social contract depends on all parties looking closely at how apartheid began, what it meant and how it ended – and then vowing never again to use race as criteria for privilege.

Jakkie Cilliers is the founder and former executive director of the Institute for Security Studies, a non-profit organisation with offices in South Africa, Senegal, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Kategorien: english

Repurposing offers rays of hope

14. Juni 2021 - 10:05
How finding new uses for established pharmaceuticals matters in the fight against Covid-19

Developing a new pharmaceutical takes a lot of time (about 15 years) and costs a lot of money ($ 1 billion or more). There are five stages in drug development:

  • drug discovery,
  • preclinical testing,
  • clinical testing in three phases,
  • approval by an international regulator such as FDA/EMA and
  • post-market safety monitoring.

Repurposing can save up to seven years of time and hundreds of millions of dollars. It skips the first stage entirely. Moreover, it gives a chance to reduce or abolish unwanted side effects.

Health-care systems can benefit from the repurposing of generic drugs in particular. These drugs are not protected by intellectual property rights, so their prices tend to be much lower. Moreover, generic production facilities exist in many developing countries, so the dependence on imports is reduced.

Aspirin is one of the best examples for drug repurposing. It was originally registered by the German pharma company Bayer at the end of the 19th century to treat pain and fever, but was later repurposed for many other indications, including blood clots, some kinds of cancer and inflammations such as rheumatoid arthritis. The active chemical is acetylsalicylic acid. It can be derived from plants and has been used in traditional medicine for millennia by various cultures.

Industry observers warn, however, that repurposing regulations must be drafted well so companies cannot rake in excessive profits. On the other hand, pharma companies that specialise in innovative patent-protected drugs will benefit if repurposing means they can sell branded products for more than the originally intended application.


The novel coronavirus has caused the worst pandemic humanity has witnessed since the Spanish Flu a century ago. In absolute numbers, the Covid-19 pandemic is actually the worst in history. By 7 May, almost 160 million infections had been counted internationally. To some extent, of course, the high number reflects that the world population has grown to almost 7.8 billion people, at least four times more than when the Spanish Flu struck.

To date, there is no pharmaceutical treatment specifically for coronavirus, so drug repurposing offers rays of hope. About two dozen previously existing drugs are currently being tested for Covid-19 treatment. Indeed, 225 trials were completed by September 2020. At that point, 321 trials were concluded and documented for the anti-malarial drug Hydroxycholorquine. The respective numbers were 85 for Azithromicin (an antibacterial drug), 52 for Favipiravir and 23 for Remdesivir (two antiviral drugs). Many other drugs were tested as well. So far, none has been fully approved for Covid-19 treatment.

However, the FDA did give approval for treating Covid-19 patients with Remdesivir in certain conditions. This drug does not cure the disease, but it has been proven that it reduces the time patients are hospitalised, need to stay in intensive-care units (ICUs) and depend on ventilators. It is thus valuable in the sense of providing a kind of emergency help. It is nonetheless in huge demand as a supportive treatment or sometimes as a survival drug, not least in India in view of the current coronavirus surge.

The pharma corporation Gilead Sciences originally developed Remdesivir to treat Hepatitis C. Later, the drug was repurposed for Ebola. In business terms, repurposing has made it a much more valuable pharma product. Gilead sales increased in the third quarter of 2020 by $ 2 billion, as the Financial Times reported. Gilead has been accused of charging a very high price (more than $ 3,000 per course in prosperous nations). It states, however, that it is generously donating the drug to developing countries and granting production licenses there. The dispute on how effective it is continues, of course.

Before the Covid-19 related approval, Remdesivir was actually a so called “orphan drug”. This term means that a drug serves only a very specific purpose, so it is not commercially attractive. To some extent, developed nations subsidise the development of orphan drugs if they are believed to be necessary.

Not all hopes come true, of course. When the coronavirus pandemic started, many believed that Hydroxychloroquine would be useful too. The most famous proponent was probably US President Donald Trump, who for some time also did his best to hoard Remdesivir in the his country. Health-care systems in many countries started using Hydroxychloroquine, but the World Health Organization (WHO) later declared it to be useless and even dangerous.

A big question is to what extent Hydroxychloroquine is still being given to Covid-19 patients nonetheless. Apparently, that is happening in several African countries and probably elsewhere too. The background is that doctors prescribe drugs which they believe to be helpful. Government guidelines and even regulations are not enforced stringently in many places, especially in developing countries and emerging markets.

Some antibiotics are becoming obsolete

The implications of drug misuse and overuse can be quite devastating, and not only at the level of individual patients. Indiscriminate use of antimicrobial drugs without adequate indication exacerbates one of the other huge health problems that humanity is facing: the emergence of antibiotics-resistant strains is making an increasing number of important drugs ineffective.

The most dangerous strains today resist more than one kind of antibiotic. According to the WHO, the share of new tuberculosis patients who could not be treated with conventional TB medication was five percent in 2018 (see Roli Mahajan in Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2020/03).

Multidrug resistance among cancer patients is worrisome too. Another challenge is that mosquitos become resistant to insecticides with the result of malaria spread­ing more widely.

The more an anti-microbial drug is used, the more likely the emergence of resistant strains becomes. The additional – and often unnecessary – use of antibiotics in the Covid-19 response will increase their overall consumption, potentially multiplying multi-drug resistant strains of various diseases. A long-standing issue is inappropriate drug use. Problems include application of the wrong drug, discontinued treatment of patients before they are cured but also pollu­tion from production sites. These malpractices are particularly common in developing countries. In a similar way, the excessive use of antibiotics in industrial-scale animal farming in advanced nations is resulting in ever more anti-microbial restistant strains.

One implication is that new anti-microbial drugs should be used sparingly so their healing power does not begin to erode. To some extent, this is counterintuitive, however. Doctors like drugs that are particularly effective, and patent holders want to maximise sales before generic production begins.

Never ending race

To some extent, science-based health care is involved in a never ending race. The challenge is to find effective treatments faster than mutant diseases make established treatments obsolete. Indeed, drug repurposing can prove helpful in this context too. In view of the increasing number of drug-resistant disease varieties, the interest in repurposing has been growing for quite some time, even before Covid-19 further accelerated the trend.

In 2020, the Trump administration launched the Repurposed Generic Development Program in the USA. Its main objective is to provide funding for and coordinate testing in the preclinical phase, clinical trials and market approval. About $ 200 million are believed to be needed for the repurposing of one drug. Currently, trials on two generic drugs are ongoing. If one or more succeed, that will further boost the interest in repurposing.

One academic study has warned that the EU institutions and member governments so far are not paying sufficient attention to the potential of repurposing. Pharma companies, however, have taken note. That is also true in India, which has become a global hub of pharma production in the past decades. The pharma industry has had a global outlook since its beginnings, and Covid-19 has further boosted the interest in foreign markets.

Krupali Patel is a PhD student at Bonn University’s Centre for Development Research (ZEF – Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung).

Kategorien: english

Anti-racists’ two-front struggle

11. Juni 2021 - 13:17
Lessons from the history of racist ideas in the USA

As Ibram X Kendi writes in the prologue to his book “Stamped from the beginning”, historians’ work is marked by the era they live in. He claims to be writing in the Black Lives Matter era. The book was published in 2016, four years before the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis triggered protests around the world. The depressing truth is that Floyd was neither the first nor the last innocent Black victim of police brutality.

An important distinction Kendi makes is between individual racism and institutional racism. He insists that racism is about much more than personal feelings of hatred. Institutional racism is about members of a particular community faring worse than the rest of society – for example in regard to job opportunities, housing, education et cetera. There can be no doubt that, in institutional terms, the USA is indeed a racist society.

Referring to federal statistics, Kendi reports that young Black males were 21 times more likely to be killed by the police and their white counterparts between 2010 and 2012. The median wealth of white households exceeds the median wealth of Black households by the factor 13, and Black people were five times more likely to be incarcerated.

Kendi is a professor at Boston University and the founder/director of its Center for Antiracist Research. As he sees it, antiracists are fighting a two-front struggle. While segregationists, who want to keep Black and white people apart, are obviously racist, the case is less clear for assimilationists who basically argue that Black and white people could share a nation if only Black people adapted better to society’s standards. The fundamental problem with the assimilationist approach is that it makes Black people responsible for repairing the damage they suffer in an unjust society with the horrific history of slavery.

Kendi spells out clearly why it is impossible for Black people to assimilate in a way that would satisfy assimilationists’ expectations. Black achievers, however, are perceived as exceptions who do not really represent the Black community. There is a long history of some white people appreciating an individual Black person as an “extraordinary Negro”. He names Barack Obama as the most recent prominent example. At the same time, many white people respond to a Black person’s success with resentment.

Inescapable double bind

This kind of double-bind means that however much Black people try to live up to assimilationist demands, they simply cannot succeed. The expectations are excessive. Nobody is perfect, Kendi insists, so nobody expects a white person to be flawless. By contrast, there is a pattern of reading any shortcoming of any Black person as proof of inadequate adaptation of every Black person, whereas any achievement is considered exceptional.

Marginalised communities around the world will recognise these patterns:

  • There is a tendency in all Western countries, for example, to hold all Muslims responsible for atrocities committed by Islamist extremists. At the same time, perpetrators of right-wing hate crimes are generally declared to be isolated individuals who may well suffer mental health problems.
  • Systemic discrimination against disadvantaged communities means worse opportunities in regard to jobs, health care, housing and education. Indigenous communities in the Andes or India’s Dalits and Adivasis share that fate. They know, for example, that it is considered proof of personal inferiority when members of their community rarely graduate from educational institutions they only have limited access to in the first place.
  • Many mainstream conservatives will deny they have any racist leanings simply because they happen to have an acquaintance who belongs to the minority and interact with that person on friendly terms. They refuse to discuss institutional racism.

Racist ideas, according to Kendi, have always helped to entrench vested, privileged interests throughout American history. Today, the stoking of racist tensions distracts attention from other issues such as universal access to health care or affordable college for everyone. By facilitating progress in these areas, the author argues, anti-racist policymaking would benefit the majority of white Americans too.

On the other hand, Kendi warns that attempts to end the debate on racism normally promote unwitting racism. For example, it was wrong to declare that the USA had become a post-racial society simply because a Black man was elected president in 2008. That Barack Obama moved into the White House, after all, did nothing to change the statistics that prove the USA’s institutional racism.

Slave owners’ call for liberty

Kendi’s book is powerful. He traces currently prevalent racist ideas in the USA back to the 15th century when Portuguese and Spanish seafarers started to interfere in far-away societies. His book elaborates how the slave trade flourished in the colonial era. Kendi emphasises irony of the founding fathers of the USA demanding liberty from Britain whilst denying freedom to their slaves. Most prominently, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the declaration of independence and a highly influential third president of the USA ideologically opposed slavery, but also opposed its abolition. Indeed, he owned slaves. He had sex – and several children – with one of them.

The book explores why segregationists prevailed, especially in the South, after the civil war. Even though slavery was abolished, white supremacists brutally enforced their rule. State laws circumvented constitutional amendments designed to protect the rights of Black people. Horrific lynchings were common, but the perpetrators claimed they were only “punishing criminals”. In particular, they had a pattern of accusing Black men of raping white women. Kendi elaboates why Black intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois often started out as assimilationists, with some never moving beyond that approach. The historian points out that segregationist views stayed acceptable among scholars until the genocidal horrors of Nazi Germany discredited attempts to create a genetic hierarchy of peoples.

He explains why the Voting Rights Act in the 1060s was more progressive than other contemporary civil-rights legislation: it emphasised results rather than intentions. Among other things, it required southern states to get federal approval for their voting laws. However, the Supreme Court decided that this was no longer needed in 2013 – and as a result, laws that make it harder for Black  people to vote have been proliferating since.

In 2016, “Stamped from the beginning” won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in the USA. That was also the year in which Donald Trump was elected president. While the Black-studies scholar admits that an anti-racist society will not be achieved soon, he expresses the optimism that it will eventually happen. What is needed, in his eyes, is policies that ensure Black people enjoy equal opportunities.

Kendi, I. X., 2016: Stamped from the beginning – The definitive history of racist ideas in America. New York, Nation Books.

Hans Dembowski is editor in chief of D+C/E+Z.

Kategorien: english

Useful insects

11. Juni 2021 - 10:51
Innovative recyclers are turning larvae of black soldier flies into animal feed

Black soldier flies are harmless insects that are attracted to decomposing waste. They can be found in dumping grounds and urban landfills – but also in residential areas with uncollected garbage. Decomposing garbage is a health hazard for humans, not least because it offers a breeding ground for diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

A few Zimbabwean entrepreneurs see a business opportunity in both the decomposing waste and the black soldier flies. By carting away the garbage and putting it in specially-built cages for breeding black soldier flies, they have created an infrastructure for producing a new form of animal feed.

After collecting garbage, the entrepreneurs put it in net-bottomed cages, where it attracts male and female black soldier flies. After mating the flies lay eggs. These fall through holes in the netting into separate cages, where they hatch into maggots – the worm-like, juvenile form of the fly. The maggots are then harvested, mixed with plant-based feeds and sold as feed for fish and poultry.

This process has various benefits. It creates a cheap and protein-rich feed for farm animals, while also helping to solve the problem of uncollected urban waste. Also, removal of garbage from dump sites cuts down on methane and carbon dioxide emissions produced by decomposing waste. Both carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases that worsen climate change.

One of Zimbabwe’s new black soldier fly entrepreneurs is Killian Ruzande, whose main business is raising fish at Eden Urban Farm in Waterfalls, on the outskirts of Harare. He began farming black soldier flies in April 2020 as a way to produce inexpensive feed for his fish-farming business.

“We use waste from garbage dumps nearby and also from our urban farm,” he says.  “We are recycling waste into a useful resource while also reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Once we scale up our operation, we will be able to service the whole community.”

Among the first black soldier fly entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe is Josphat Nyika, based in Bindura, 88 kilometres northeast of Harare. He founded Zim Maggot Producers, a private limited company, in 2019 to sell maggot-based feeds to farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. The firm also sells mature maggots to farmers who use them for breeding black soldier flies.

Black soldier fly maggots are gaining acceptance as a supplemental animal feed, particularly as plant-based feeds such as soya and maize become more expensive, says Paul Zakariya, executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.

“The cost of feed for poultry farmers is a cause of concern,” he says. “We are now looking at promoting use of insect-based proteins to supplement other feeds. The key is to gather scientific evidence to guide the commercialising of this feed source.”

Farai Shawn Matiashe is a journalist in Mutare, Zimbabwe.


Kategorien: english

Counterfeit medicines are very profitable for criminals

10. Juni 2021 - 16:38
Hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of counterfeit medicines

Counterfeit purses, watches or shoes annoy the manufacturers whose products are being copied, but they do not harm consumers. That is different when it comes to the trade in counterfeit drugs. Using them causes health risks. In the worst case, taking counterfeit medicines can be deadly. That warning is included in a recent study published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The report, launched in early 2020, closely examines the extent and scope of the problems caused by counterfeit medicines. They did not get much attention to date. But what exactly are counterfeit medicines? The study relies on an established definition, according to which a medicine is counterfeit if false claims are made about composition or source. For instance, the contents or appropriate dosing may deviate from what is indicated on the label. In contrast to generics, fake pharmaceuticals do not necessarily work like the original. Generic drugs are legal and their active ingredients are identical to those of brand-name pharmaceuticals.

Every year, according to the authors, some 72,000 to 169,000 children die from pneumonia and over 100,000 people die from malaria because they were treated with counterfeit medicines. The patients typically have no idea of what is going on. They fail to spot the fakes.

The study points out other consequences as well. For example, improper disposal of chemicals causes environmental damage. Social impacts include fewer jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.

The authors list several factors that drive the trade in fake pharma. First of all, the profits are huge. Pfizer, the US-based pharma giant, estimates, for example, that it is more expensive and less profitable to produce a kilogramme of heroin than the same volume of fake Viagra. Organised crime sees a lucrative market with strong growth potential. Pharmaceutical are currently the tenth most frequently counterfeited kind of good, according to the OECD/EUIPO report.

Another factor that makes fake pharma attractive is the growing online trade. The authors state that it offers criminals an easy way to sell fake drugs to intermediaries. It helps that counterfeited packaging is difficult for consumers to distinguish from the original.

The OECD/EUIPO study identifies India and China as the most significant countries of origin for counterfeit medicines, while Singapore and Hong Kong are considered the most important transit countries. From there, the medicines are usually shipped by post and typically in smaller packages to Africa, the USA or Europe. According to the study, the shipment of smaller volumes makes it more difficult for investigators to detect the packages.

The authors have calculated that, in 2016 alone, the international trade in counterfeit drugs generated revenues worth $ 4.4 billion. It particularly hurts pharmaceutical corporations in the US and Europe, which are the largest manufacturers of pharmaceuticals. For the entire industry, however, the trade in counterfeit medicines still makes up a marginal share of less than one percent of imported pharmaceutical products.

International organisations like Interpol have tried to take targeted action against criminal operations. According to the OECD/EUIPO paper, it would make sense to punish counterfeiters more stringently. That might have a deterrent effect. In most countries, however, the trade in counterfeit medicines is punished much more lightly than the trade in illegal drugs.

OECD/EUIPO, 2020: Trade in counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

Linda Engel is a freelance author.

Kategorien: english

Why February 2020 became the month of lost opportunities

8. Juni 2021 - 15:56
Independent Panel makes proposals on better pandemic preparedness and response

COVAX, the international initiative to ensure vaccine supply in disadvantaged nations, had received 70 million doses at the end of May according to the WHO. That was enough for only 0.5 % of the people living in the countries concerned.

Several proposals made by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response could improve matters. They include:

  • High-income countries should commit to increasing the vaccine-doses they provide to COVAX. The goal should be 1 billion additional doses by 1 September 2021 and more than 2 billion doses by mid-2022.
  • In line with their ability to pay, G7 countries should cover at least 60 % of the $ 19 billion needed for international efforts to ensure the availability of vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and better health care in general.
  • An international agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfer regarding Covid-19 vaccines should be concluded.

If action is not taken accordingly by the end of July, the Independent Panel wants the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights. The Panel was set up last year to assess what went wrong in the pandemic and spelled out these and other demands in a recent report.

According to the Panel, some of the worst implications of Covid-19 by the end of April were:

  • 3 million dead, including 17,000 health workers,
  • lost economic output worth $ 10 trillion by the end of 2021 and
  • 115 to 125 million more people living in extreme poverty.

Things did not have to turn out this bad, but both national and multilateral institutions were fast overburdened, as the authors write. In spite of recent experience with SARS or Ebola, pandemic preparedness was inadequate. A particularly consequential failure was that national governments did not react immediately when the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) at the end of January 2020.

A PHEIC is “the loudest alarm” the WHO can sound. Nonetheless, “most countries did not seem to get that message”, according to the Panel. Only a minority set in motion coordinated protection measures. Most governments neither sufficiently understood the threat nor knew what action to take. Most adopted a “wait and see approach”, so February 2020 became “a month of lost opportunity”, the Panel argues. It was co-chaired by Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia.

As coronavirus spread internationally, national health systems came under enormous stress, and lockdowns severely affected economies. According to the Panel, prudent government action proved more important than a country’s prosperity: “The countries with the poorest results in addressing Covid-19 had uncoordinated approaches that devalued science, denied the potential impact of the pandemic, delayed comprehensive action, and allow distrust to undermine efforts.” Problems were compounded by long-standing issues of fragmentation, underfunding and poorly paid staff. Far too many countries, moreover, did not even have plans for handling a deadly epidemic.

On the upside, the Panel appreciates that research and development set in fast and that vaccines became available within only a few months. Moreover, the multilateral system managed to establish new bodies such as COVAX. The authors regret, however, that not all of them are operating well. In particular, the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) did not receive any contributions. It was set up for the voluntary sharing of knowledge, intellectual property and data. Voluntary pooling of this kind has proved valuable in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis (TB).

According to the Independent Panel, the international system must be redesigned in order to become better prepared for future pandemics. Proposals include:

  • stronger leadership and better coordination at national, regional and international levels,
  • investments before the next crisis hits,
  • a better surveillance and alert system,
  • a pre-negotiated platform able to produce vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and supplies and
  • adequate funding.

In particular, the Panel is in favour of establishing a global health-threats council and concluding a pandemic framework convention.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response, 2021: Covid-19: Make it the Last Pandemic (available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish).

Hans Dembowski is editor in chief of D+C Development and Cooperation / E+Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.

Kategorien: english

Our colleague Jeffrey Moyo has been arrested in Harare

31. Mai 2021 - 17:16
Our colleague Jeffrey Moyo has been arrested in Harare


Jeffrey also works for the New York Times and other media houses. The New York Times ran a long story on the matter, stating that he is being held in harsh conditions:

 As far as we can tell, he has not committed any serious wrong doing. He is apparently being accused of having helped foreign journalists do research in Zimbabwe. We appeal to the country’s authorities to free our colleague immediately and to respect to the freedom of the press. Governments should not fear media coverage. It does not matter where the journalists come from, they should be free to serve the public.   

According to the New York Times, Jeffrey’s arrest “has come amid a crackdown on press freedom in the southern African country”. The newspaper also reportred: “The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, said in a statement that Mr. Moyo’s arrest reflected a pattern of media repression in Zimbabwe.”






/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:"Normale Tabelle";
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;

Kategorien: english

Why we believe in our e-Paper

28. Mai 2021 - 17:27
What purposes our monthly e-Paper serves, and how it differs from the print issue

Our monthly e-Paper compiles four weeks’ worth of content on our website. Anyone who downloads it, can read it off-line. We believe that the e-Paper is valuable, especially in places where internet connectivity cannot be taken for granted. To ensure the download is feasible, we have reduced the size of the e-Paper, and plan to keep it below four MB consistently.

In countries under authoritarian rule, moreover, it is safer to download an e-Paper fast than to stay on our website for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, not all governments welcome our insistence on good governance and human rights. Spy agencies increasingly monitor the web, but keeping track of e-Papers is very difficult.

Those who read the e-Paper as soon as it is published will find that it includes several items that have not yet appeared on the website. Our team is too small to cover breaking news, and we make sure we post something on our website at least six times per week. All of our contributions are original content and was written for D+C/E+Z.

Our e-Paper differs from our print issues, which we publish every two months. The print issues only include a selection of the articles we post on the website. Up to 2014, we published 11 print issues per year, but postal services are expensive and snail mail is slow. We therefore decided to reduce the number of print issues and produce more content online.

For those of our readers who were used to the monthly rhythm, however, we kept producing the e-Paper. Back copies are accessible in our archive ( which, before 2015, indicated the links to the articles contained in any given print issue. The archive is actually a long-term resource. If you like, you can scroll down all the way to a contents page for our print issue of March 2007.

At the beginning of every month, we post the e-Paper on our homepage. If you want to be made aware of every new issue, please subscribe to our newsletter.

If, on the other hand, you’re interested in the print issue, free subscriptions are currently available here.

Kategorien: english

Tribalism hides the gap between rich and poor

28. Mai 2021 - 14:00
Kenya’s underlying class struggle needs to be addressed

Some 20 % of the voting-age population did not attend school. This large segment is an easy target for well-educated, but manipulative merchants of tribalism. Moreover, the emerging, but insecure middle class is anxious to escape poverty, and not interested in any potentially disruptive discussions. They have reason to fear that some kind of class war may erupt.

Nonetheless, a conversation about the gaps between rich and poor is overdue. The country has dozens of millionaires. Their wealth was largely stolen from the public. At the same time, over 15 million people languish in deep poverty. The list of ills is long, including:

  • theft of public funds meant for youth,
  • giving retirees jobs meant for young people,
  • hiring young people in jobs with big titles but no influence.

Corruption takes many other forms of course. Tribal abuses are linked to attitudes that justify privilege and discrimination. A good place to start changing these attitudes is to ask why tribalism – with its implicit message that some people are inherently better than others – continues to play such an important role in national life. It is worth noting, moreover, that it goes along with a serious and proven risk of violent conflict (see main story).

Alphonce Shiundu is a Kenyan journalist, editor and fact-checker based in Nairobi.
Twitter: @Shiundu

Kategorien: english

Paying over the odds

28. Mai 2021 - 12:28
Thrashing out a vaccines pricing deal with multiple players

Vaccine prices for developing countries typically are negotiated within an organisation called GAVI – the Vaccine Alliance (previously the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization). GAVI is a forum that brings together the vaccine industry, donor governments, developing country governments and a range of international organisations. One of GAVI’s roles is co-leading COVAX, the global initiative to bring coronavirus vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

GAVI aims to reduce vaccine prices for developing countries, first by pooling demand among these countries to boost their collective buying power. “Manufacturers need to see a market with sufficient size and income to cover their costs,” GAVI states. In addition to pooling demand from eligible poor countries, GAVI raises funds from donors to finance those countries’ vaccine purchases.

Equally important, GAVI seeks multi-party pricing agreements that assure global pharma companies they can recoup any lost profits in the developing world by charging higher prices in advanced countries. According to GAVI, it pursues “a tiered-pricing policy, whereby low-income countries are charged less than higher income countries for the same product.” This has enabled developing countries to pay a fraction of the market price paid in developed countries for important vaccines, including the hepatitis B, rotavirus, pneumococcal, pentavalent and tetravalent vaccines (see main story).

Aviva Freudmann is a freelance author.


Kategorien: english

INGO opposes vaccine patents

28. Mai 2021 - 12:11
Oxfam explains how current pricing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines highlight global inequality

In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, a frequently heard comment was that the virus knows no borders and we are all in this together. Very soon, though, it became clear that the impact of the virus, if not the virus itself, does indeed differ between rich and poor regions. People of colour and those in the global South are much more likely to be infected and die from Covid-19, and are much more vulnerable to the economic fall-out of the pandemic.

Adding to those disparities is the unfair way that life-saving vaccines are being priced and delivered in different regions of the world. Distribution is far from equitable. According to the Financial Times, African countries had only received 40 million vaccine doses for 1.2 billion people by mid-May. Some of the poorest countries have not yet even begun to immunise their populations.

Vaccine deliveries in low-income countries have recently started, thanks to the efforts of COVAX (the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, a global initiative aimed at fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, led by the World Health Organization). Yet COVAX itself says distribution will fall short because of a shortage. Only three percent of people in poor countries can hope to be vaccinated by mid-year and only one fifth at best by the end of 2021.

There are two major reasons for this dim outlook, and both stem from the world’s dependence on a handful of pharma giants to produce vaccines.
The first reason is that these companies simply can’t make enough vaccines for the entire world on their own. Yet they refuse to share their science and technology freely with other qualified manufacturers that could help in the effort.

The second reason is that pharma companies, through their patents, have monopolies on the sale of these vaccines, which in turn gives them powers to set prices. Particularly in a scarcity situation, having these rights means a patent owner can set what­ever price it wants for a product in demand.

While some price negotiations with buyers and public agencies do take place, patent owners control crucial information on product development costs, which is essential to setting the price. This information is part of the companies’ intellectual property; they are not required to disclose it. Such an imbalance inevitably disadvantages those with the least amount of information, leading to higher than necessary prices in poor countries.

As many examples show, poor countries sometimes pay more than they should for vaccines. This disadvantage is in addition to the disproportionate damage they already suffer from the pandemic itself. Oxfam’s recent report “The inequality virus” shows how precarious their situation is (see Sabine Balk in D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2021/03, Monitor section). The pandemic has put a strain on low income countries’ external resources, with a 20 % fall in remittances, a 25 % fall in foreign direct investment and sharply increased capital flight.

Pausing patent protection

The response from the Group of 20 leading economies has so far been inadequate. Creditor nations have delayed debt service payments for only 1.66 % of the debt owed by poor countries. Immediate debt relief across the board, including from banks and investment funds, is urgently needed. So too is action to increase vaccine supply and bring prices down to affordable levels.

Several solutions have been proposed, but they are being blocked by rich countries and pharma companies. For example, a UN initiative called the “Covid Technology Access Pool” calls on pharma companies to voluntarily disclose their vaccine technology to other producers so that more vaccines can be made. So far, none of the big pharma companies has done so.

Similarly, some rich countries say they’ll donate some of their vaccine surplus to poor countries. This is helpful. But donations of unknown amounts at unspecified times is an inadequate solution and will not bring enough vaccines to countries that need them.

The reform that would help the most would be to pause the patent protections given to pharma companies until the world reaches herd immunity against Covid-19. South Africa and India, supported by 100 developing countries, are calling on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to do this. Civil-society organisations endorse this proposal. However, rich nations, led by the US, UK, EU and Japan have opposed this proposal, although the Biden administration in the US has changed its stance, with several other governments following suit.

In an open letter to President Biden, 175 individuals including former heads of state and government and Nobel laureates call on him to back a temporary waiver of patent protections. The letter was organised by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of health and humanitarian groups.

Pharma companies argue that keeping their patent protections is the best way to guarantee innovation and thereby maximise the benefits for humanity. In fact, though, the patent system locks away the benefits of publicly funded science and thus delays the end of the crisis. Vaccines are public goods paid for by over $ 100 billion of taxpayers’ money. These technologies should be freely available in the interest of protecting public health.

Some pharma companies also contend that pausing patent protections would allow sub-standard vaccines to enter the market. But pharma firms worldwide already produce a wide range of medicines and vaccines under licence with good results. They are fully capable of producing a Covid-19 vaccine that meets strict WHO standards – if they are allowed to do so. Suggesting otherwise is a long-used tactic of pharma companies to protect their profits.

Ultimately, since the coronavirus indeed does not recognise borders, ensuring an adequate and affordable supply of Covid-19 vaccines in poor countries will protect public health worldwide. Monopolies on vaccine technology stand in the way of scaling-up production and reducing prices. Expanding production and reducing prices in developing countries would contribute to the global public interest, both in the current pandemic and in future ones.

Marion Lieser is executive director of Oxfam Germany.

Kategorien: english

Islamist ideology has softened a bit in Afghanistan

27. Mai 2021 - 16:25
German expert’s insights into how the Taliban have changed

As the USA and NATO prepare to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, it is clear that the influence of the militant Islamist Taliban, who never accepted the occupa­tion, will play a stronger role. Current Taliban rhetoric sheds light on several issues, including:

  • the media,
  • schools,
  • women rights and
  • the role of Islam in politics.

As Berlin-based Ruttig writes in West Point’s CTC Sentinel the Taliban are sticking to their principle religious motivation, so power-sharing with others should prove difficult. Before 2001, they imposed their dictatorial rule on the country, but their regime was toppled by the US-led invasion after the Islamist attack on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. The big worry now is that they will try to rise to totalitarian power once again and may even succeed to do so.

According to The New York Times, US President Joe Biden’s administration has launched a diplomatic effort with a roadmap for a future Afghan government with Taliban participation. It foresees a revised constitution, terms for a permanent cease­­- fire and eventually national elections. The road map insists on fundamental rights for all citizens, including women and minorities. Part of the plan is an independent judiciary which, however, would be supported by a high council for Islamic jurisprudence.

Ruttig, who speaks two Afghan languages and has lived in the country for more than a decade, reminds readers of the Taliban’s history of authoritarian rule. They first grew strong in the 1990s as their militias became a force in Afghanistan’s long civil war. After rising to power, they kept perpe­trating brutal violence and executed many opponents. They did not respect women’s rights, restricted girls’ school attendance and did not allow freedom of speech. They outlawed music for purposes other than religious worship.

On the other hand, Ruttig points out that the Taliban regained strength after the US invasion because many people were angry with the corrupt government and the violence perpetrated by occupying troops. The Taliban became so strong that US President Barack Obama deployed additional troops to step up the fight against them from 2009 on. His successor Donald Trump, however, declared he wanted to end this “endless war” and decided to withdraw US troops. In April, President Biden confirmed that choice.

According to Ruttig, who worked for UN missions in Kabul in the years 2000 to 2003, the Taliban’s main appeal to many Afghans and people in neighbouring countries is that they have consistently opposed foreign forces – first the Soviet troops, and later NATO. According to Ruttig, they have understood that their regime in the 1990s hurt the economy and isolated the country. The co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network argues that now, by contrast, they appreciate that peace and prosperity depend on cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbours.

At the same time, Ruttig states that they still want to establish a political order based on Islamic law and accuse the current government of being non-Islamic. Their ideology has been softening to some extent, but remains rigid nonetheless. The most notable change is the attitude towards the media. In their early days, the Taliban banned watching TV, monopolised the use of phones and basically relied on print media and radio to spread their views. Today, they use all kinds of technology, including social media and multilingual websites.

Ruttig also assesses the Taliban’s current approach to education. In their view, schools are an entry point for western values. When they were in power, they opposed co-education in schools and insisted on boys and girls being taught separately – and only by teachers of their own gender. More­over, they did not want girls to continue school after puberty set in and, in some cases, limited the curriculum to Koran lessons. In recent years, however, their approach has become less restrictive, Ruttig reports. In August 2013, they proclaimed that children – not only boys – need both religious and modern education, with an emphasis on computer skills and foreign languages.

Headscarves will do

The Taliban approach to women’s rights has been shifting slowly too, the German expert writes. In US sponsored negotiations in Qatar, for example, they declared that the Islamic dress code did not require women to hide their faces with burqas, since headscarves were sufficient.

In the past, the Taliban were hostile to non-governmental organisations in principle, Ruttig adds, but to some extent they have become willing to cooperate with them as well as with government agencies.

To what extent the Taliban are prepared to become one political force among others in Afghanistan, remains unclear, according to Ruttig. He acknowledges that they have been engaging in negotiations. On the other hand, they have not spelled out how they envision Afghanistan’s political future beyond demanding an Islamic system and the withdrawal of all foreign troops. In their internal affairs, of course, the Taliban have not changed much, according to Ruttig. They remain a militant organisation with an authoritarian leadership which does not give scope to open debate and democratic deliberation among their fighters.

Ruttig, T., 2021: Have the Taliban changed? In: CTC Sentinel, March 2021.

Rishikesh Thapa is currently working as an intern for the editorial office of D+C/E+Z and studying international relations and cultural diplomacy at the Berlin campus of Furtwangen University (Hochschule Furtwangen).

Kategorien: english

Reality check

27. Mai 2021 - 15:58
A group of Libyan journalists is battling Covid-19 fake news in social media

In a project initiated by the Libyan Organization for Independent Media and its founder Reda Fhelboom, the group publishes articles refuting “fake news” concerning Covid-19. Its platform is a Facebook page called Sabr. It was developed with support from the American Bar Association.

The word “Sabr” means “probe” or “exploration” in Arabic. It carries articles, often accompanied by graphic designs, identifying specific cases of falsehoods on social media concerning Covid-19 and setting the record straight.

The group consists of 12 Libyan journalists, including five women. Before launching the project they participated in a week-long workshop focusing on Covid-19 facts, techniques and tools for fact-checking, and spotting hate speech contained in Covid-19 misinformation. They honed their skills in checking sources, interviewing experts and writing fact-checking reports.

The project took shape as social media become increasingly important news sources for Libyans. “Facebook has a strong influence on public opinion,” says journalist Kholoud Alfalah. “Fake accounts have 70 % of the viewers and news agencies have only 30 %.”

 “We launched the site because there is no Libyan platform observing fake news about Covid-19 on Facebook” says Reda Fhelboom, a journalist and human-rights activist who serves as the site’s managing editor. Sabr currently has over 14,000 followers.

The journalists have plenty to do; Covid-19 misinformation appears nearly daily on social media. “We first look at how far a posting might influence public opinion, and then we start to check the information with reliable sources,” says Amel Sabri, a Sabr fact-checker.

Fact-checking reports appear on the Sabr site in different categories relating to the original information. These range from “misleading and missing important information” and “partly false” to “completely fake” and finally “containing hate speech and promoting discrimination”.

For example, a Facebook page calling itself Old City of Tripoli recently included a post quoting a University of California study as predicting the coronavirus will disappear on its own within two months, as new mutations kill the virus off. The original post generated hundreds of comments.

Sabr journalist Amjed Dabob checked with the University of California and with the World Health Organization, both of which denied the report. He then wrote an article correcting the record and labelling the original posting as “completely fake”.

In addition to written reports and graphic designs, Sabr journalists prepare podcasts to promote awareness of the facts. “We design awareness materials on such topics as the importance of wearing masks or the danger of using certain verbal expressions which spread hate speech and promote discrimination,” says Sabr fact-checker Fida Yahya.


Moutaz Ali is a journalist in Tripoli, Libya.

Kategorien: english

Postcolonial perspectives must be taken seriously

27. Mai 2021 - 12:55
How international cooperation can transcend long established power relations

Criticism of development cooperation from postcolonial and post-development perspectives has been expressed for decades, but it has not made much of a difference. If you compare the analyses included in „The Development Dictionary“, a book published in 1992, with those in its sequel of 2019, you will get the impression that power relations that are marked by colonialism have hardly changed.

Those who criticise imbalances in cooperation are often told that they certainly have a point, but that their reasoning is too abstract and too far removed from day-to-day operations. Attempts to bridge those divides have been made for many years. Legitimate criticism from postcolonial and post-development perspectives must be taken seriously.

An important goal of development cooperation is to reduce inequalities and fight marginalisation. Accordingly, elements of discrimination in cooperation are not acceptable. We are convinced that it is indeed necessary to move beyond ideas of development that are rooted in colonial times. Aram Ziai and Julia Schöneberg have recently raised this demand in D+C/E+Z (see Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2020/09). In our eyes, they are right. At the same time, we acknowledge that a strong global network, which can facilitate solidarity and the sharing of knowledge, is needed for an equitable and environmentally sustainable future.

Permanent critical discourse

Inequality marks both the structures and the procedures of global cooperation. It must be reduced. For that to happen, historically grown power relations must be deconstructed in critical discourse. As postcolonial studies have shown, colonial thinking still facilitates economic exploitation. It also enables geo-strategically motivated interventions in conflicts and leads to the suppression of non-Eurocentric knowledge.

To drive change, organisations must therefore engage in recurring reassessments of these matters. It is crucially important that this must happen in global networks in which voices from the global south are not only present, but indeed heard. The newly forged networks of the Global Tapestry of Alternatives, the Global Partnership Network or the EU COST Action Decolonising Development may provide good examples in the next few years.

Institutional racism is a core element of unequal power relations. It must be tackled head on. Reoccurring anti-racism training makes sense, for example. In Germany, the Akademie für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (academy for international cooperation), the independent association glokal and other organisations run voluntary workshops.

Exchange and cooperation in partnership

Critically assessing global power relations is not enough. It must lead to structural change. The motto „think globally, act locally“ deserves more attention in development cooperation. Sending white experts to places of which they have a poorer understanding of cultural, social and political dynamics than local people is often problematic. Instead, a system should be established that is geared to cooperate on projects organised by the people concerned themselves. Such projects could benefit from the knowledge and the aspirations of activists from grassroots organisations.

Approaches of this kind are being taken in civilian conflict transformation, for example. Peace Brigades International is a civil-­society organisation that promotes peace and human rights. It supports human-rights defenders in crisis regions, ensuring international attention, whilst also respecting the principle of non-interference. This international organisation only becomes involved in a project when local partners ask it to do so. Moreover, that project must fit Peace Brigades’ own guidelines.

All too often, international cooperation takes place in a murky context in which neither the legal framework nor the precise jurisdiction of agencies is spelled out clearly. Transparency and accountability must be prioritised more. For practical purposes, this means that an information infrastructure is needed that gives people easy access to data pertaining to a project. Moreover, accountability mechanisms should ensure justice across borders. The World Bank Inspection Panel is a good example. Though it has been accused of not being entirely barrier free, it has certainly heard the voices of people concerned and contributed to more sensitive project designs and project operations.

Living well within planetary boundaries

In our time of climate crisis, postcolonial perspectives tell us that the world economy must be transformed in an equitable and sustainable way. It does not make sense to continue assessing the success of a country or a region by relying on indicators that do not take into account earth’s limited resources. Further growth based on resource extraction is not acceptable. We should take the „planetary boundaries“ by the Stockholm Resilience Center as a reference point. Its research shows that the international community has already begun to breach critical limits, especially with regard to biodiversity and biochemical cycles.

Generally speaking, the global north has exceeded its resource budget due to centuries of colonialism and industrialisation. Concepts for an equitable global economy are needed in view of the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and the dramatic imbalances between the global north and the global south.

Good practices for transcending economies built on excess and focusing on social welfare and environmental health exist all over the world. One example is the Buen Vivir principle, a pluralistic notion of a good life shared in diversity (see Philipp Altmann in Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2020/09). Buen Vivir is based on the values, experiences and practices of indigenous communities in Latin America, especially in Ecuador and Bolivia. Both countries have enshrined it in their constitutions, which spell out rights for nature as well as a fundamental right to water, for example. The dogma of economic growth must be challenged. We need models of economic activity and living together that fit local contexts. Establishing alternative economic models should be a priority of development cooperation too.

In sum, it is high time to institutionalise a critical discourse reflecting one’s own mode of operation. That kind of discourse will ultimately allow us to make use of the insights from postcolonial and post-­development studies for practical purposes.


Global Tapestry of Alternatives:

Global Partnership Network:

EU COST Action Decolonising Development:

Kornprobst, T. et al., 2020: Postcolonialism & post-development. Practical perspectives for development cooperation. FES Scholarly Working Group on Global Development and Postcolonial Issues.

Myriell Fußer is Research Fellow at the Institute for Sociology and Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Philipps-University Marburg.

Adrian Schlegel is affiliated with the M.A. Global Studies Programme of Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Pretoria and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

Tanja Matheis is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Organic Agricultural Sciences of the University of Kassel.

Julia Fritzsche studies Global Sustainability Science at the University of Utrecht.

Florian Vitello works as a journalist and digital consultant for non-profits. He is the founder of Good News Magazine and

Kategorien: english

IMF keeps pressing for more assertive government action

26. Mai 2021 - 15:23
IMF proposes investments worth $ 50 billion to boost Covid-19 vaccination programmes

In a recent blog post that she co-authored with IMF colleagues, Georgieva argues that the Group of 20 leading economies (G20) would have to contribute $ 35 billion as grants, adding that member countries have already pledged $ 22 billion. National governments, it is stated, can stem the remaining $ 15 billion, not least with the support of multilateral development banks. The World Bank is indeed cooperating with dozens of countries on vaccine-financing operations, as David Malpass, its president, stated in April. According to him, those programmes might amount to $ 4 billion in June.

The IMF team wants G20 governments to do several things. The most important – amounting to costs of about $ 8 billion – are:

  • stepping up funding for the international COVAX facility, which is so far only ­meant to vaccinate 20 % of partner countries‘ populations,
  • ensuring free cross-border flows of vaccines and ingredients and
  • donating their surplus vaccine doses (estimated a 1 billion doses).

Georgieva and co also see the need to invest in additional vaccine production, boost health-care capacities in general and monitor the spread of the disease and the evolution of mutants, in order to be able to respond to changing patterns. The authors do not mention intellectual property at all, but insist that action must be taken immediately. Escaping the pandemic, they argue, will bring huge benefits, including a fast economic recovery worth trillions of dollars, with tax revenues increasing by $ 1 trillion internationally.

This proposal fits recent IMF thinking. The focus is on strong government action to rise to global challenges (see José Siaba Serrate in Tribune section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2020/12). This pattern was reconfirmed at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in April. Apart from Covid-19, the core topics were economic recovery, debt financing, environmental sustainability, poverty and inequality. Current trends, experts warned, will make violence and fragile statehood worse.

According to IMF data, economic recoveries are diverging dangerously, with poorer countries lagging behind, with low vaccination rates in poorer world regions compounding matters. According to the IMF, only two percent of people in Africa, but 40 % in the USA and 20 % in Europe had received at least one vaccine dose in late April.

To improve matters, G20 countries have agreed to extend their debt servicing suspension. It now applies to 73 developing countries and will last until December. In April 2020, they had allowed 43 countries to discontinue debt-related payments because of the pandemic. Moreover, the G20 countries have committed to issuing $ 650 billion worth of new IMF special drawing rights (SDRs), a virtual currency used in internal IMF operations.

SDRs, however, are issued according to how many IMF shares member countries hold, so the least-developed countries benefit the least. About $ 33 billion will become available to African countries without no strings attached.

Some say that, in view of the need, this is a mere drop in the bucket. The financing gaps are indeed huge. As Georgieva told African leaders in late May, she believes their countries will need at least $ 570 billion to get back on to the promising path of catching up with rich nations. She pointed out that tax collection must improve in developing countries, but it is obvious, that more has to happen for the international community to rise to global challenges.

Georgieva, K., Gopinath, G., and Agarwal, R., 2021: A proposal to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chimezie Anajama is a sociologist and a development researcher. She is presently completing her Master’s programme in Development Management at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.
Twitter: @mschimezie

Kategorien: english

Why Kenya’s president has fallen out with his deputy

26. Mai 2021 - 15:02
Kenya is stuck in tribalism, and calls for national unity are all too often manipulative

Kenya’s top two leaders, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, are in a potentially dangerous political conflict. They were re-elected on a joint ticket to a second term in 2017. Their alliance was billed as a unity pact between Kenyatta’s tribe, the Kikuyu, and Ruto’s tribe, the Kalenjin. Nonetheless, the two leaders are now scheming against each other, stoking old tribal rivalries once again.

In the run-up to the 2022 election campaign, Kenyatta has announced a “national unity pact” with opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Luo tribe – thus leaving Ruto and the Kalenjin out in the cold. The Kenyatta-Odinga combination has historical precedent. In 1963, Kenyatta’s father and Odinga’s father became president and vice president of Kenya’s first independent government after colonial rule.

The new Kenyatta-Odinga alliance claims to be more than a reshuffling of tribal coalitions. Instead, it claims to have the loftier aim of national unity.

After signalling their new alliance with a much-advertised handshake, Kenyatta and Odinga proposed a sweeping constitutional overhaul. Among other things, they proposed to “promote electoral competition based on ideas, values and our shared humanity, rather than on the common-enemy identity politics that have defined our electoral cycles to date.”

Similarly, Kenyatta and Odinga want to decentralise the administration to ensure “greater inclusivity, fairness, equity and accountability in the distribution of resources.” Moreover, Odinga suggested a “rotating presidency” in which each tribe gets a chance to lead the country. The big irony is that Kenya’s constitution is only ten years old and was adopted after the country went through a traumatic post-election violence in early 2008. Back then, tribal clashes and police killings claimed more than 1,000 lives.

No exclusive claim to the presidency

In January 2021, however, Kenyatta stated that the presidency is not the private reserve of Kikuyus and Kalenjins. “Perhaps it is the turn for another community to rule,” he said. His comment was widely interpreted as an attack on Ruto.

Ruto shot back, saying that politics should focus on issues other than tribalism in the first place. Instead, he said that “everybody should campaign based on policies that will change the lives of Kenyans.” Ruto took up the cause of young people who say politicians are talking about tribes when they should be talking about money and livelihoods. Ruto’s comments, in turn, were interpreted as an attack on the new Kenyatta-Odinga alliance.

Quite obviously, debate is still focused very much on tribal identity. Leaders may debate ways to lessen its influence, but they are far from eradicating it.

Rooting out tribalism

Kenyatta himself admitted as much when he announced the constitutional reform proposal in October 2020. He said the system of incentives linked to tribalism will be difficult to change.

“The fact of the matter is that we are a tribal society, and this is what divides us,” he said. “We pretend that we are national leaders. But when the time comes, we switch to [tribal] vernacular and become what we are.” He admitted that he himself was not an exception.

Indeed, he reverted to type fast. When Ruto started mobilising his supporters in early 2021 in opposition to the new Kenyatta-Odinga alliance, the president, who has unlimited access to the national broadcast network, turned to radio stations that broadcast in his tribal language. He chose to address only the Kikuyu people – his people. He had done so before. His step immediately re-kindled resentment over “Kikuyu privilege”.

Such grumbling is nothing new. Sometimes inter-tribal tensions flare up into violence, especially during election campaigns. The reason is that so much patronage is at stake. Tribal affiliation determines whether one gets a job or a government contract, and whether a region gets a new road, a new hospital or other crucial infrastructure.

Two dominant tribes

Although the country has at least 44 tribes, two dominant groups – the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin – hold close to 40 % of civil-service jobs. Not coincidentally, only members of these two tribes have served as presidents of independent Kenya. Government officials are generally known to use their jobs to share the spoils with their respective communities.

Had Kenya’s leaders done a better job since the British colonial power left in 1963, ethnicity would no longer be an issue. Instead, tribalism is today what racism was in pre-independence Kenya. It is held in place by informal structures, with networks making the system profitable for those in power.

As a result, tribal identity remains very important. These attitudes are rooted in traditions and cannot be eradicated quickly. Tribalism is perpetuated in subconscious cues, innuendos, dog-whistling, stereotyping and even overt cultural slurs. Proving hate speech is difficult, so abuses are not necessarily punishable by law. When the targets of slurs call out such behaviour, they are often accused of tribalism themselves.

Youth rebellion

Still, there are signs of change in the enduring focus on tribalism. At least in theory, Kenyatta and Odinga are calling for an end to identity-driven politics – although their actions speak a different language. Their new call for unity may simply serve as a smokescreen to hide the shutting out of Ruto, at least it started a conversation about changing the focus to fair opportunities for all.

More promising is the emergence of a movement of young people. They want identity-based patronage to end and demand more opportunity for all (see box below). Ruto has taken up their cause, arguing that discussing fairness and opportunity is far more important than debating nuanced constitutional reforms.

He is trying to attract the potentially huge constituency of Kenya’s young people. An estimated 75 % of the population is under 35 years old. Most of them have primary and secondary education but still must eke out a living in the informal sector. They are less willing than their elders to accept the narrative of one or the other tribe being to blame for grievances. They are increasingly turning away from cultural stereotyping, fabricated ethnic animosities and long-standing divide-and-rule strategies.

The big issue

Ruto says the real political divide is between those who work their way up the economic ladder and those who inherit privilege and wealth. He says the important issue is fair access to land, jobs and opportunities. Fair access would mean, for example, that regions dominated by the opposition would get their share of roads, hospitals, electric power lines and other infrastructure.

The big issue is how to achieve fair distribution. There already are laws and institutions to guard against discrimination based on ethnicity. There is even a National Cohesion and Integration Commission, a government agency that promotes diversity and inclusion.

Ultimately, discrimination persists because of entrenched beliefs that one’s own group is better than “those others”. Tribal prejudice in this sense is similar to racism; beliefs about the superiority of one’s own group perpetuate injustices. Those beliefs must be addressed through a process of public education, and implementing the aspirations of equality and fairness in existing laws. More laws and a big, ill-timed constitutional reform will not do the job.

Alphonce Shiundu is a Kenyan journalist, editor and fact-checker based in Nairobi.
Twitter: @Shiundu





/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:"Normale Tabelle";
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";


Kategorien: english

Changing hearts and minds

26. Mai 2021 - 14:37
Government tries ‘mind-set change strategy’ to clear Malawi’s streets of beggars


None of this worked. Beggars who were forced off the streets came back as soon as the police went away. Families proved ineffective at keeping beggars at home. And handing out tools actually backfired. “At the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha), we tried to train beggars in a skill and gave them tools,” says its chairman Chiwoza Bandawe. “But they sold the equipment and returned to begging.”

As a result, begging is still widespread, typically involving children and disabled adults. According to a 2017 government study, nearly 4,000 beggars throng the streets, mainly in the major cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. About 10% are homeless. Many are handicapped and use children to help them.

Now the government, together with NGOs working with children and the handicapped, is trying a new approach: Talk to beggars and try to persuade them to take a different direction in life. The government, through the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, calls the new approach a “mind-set change strategy”, says Minister Patricia Kaliati.

She spoke on the sidelines of a summit meeting with charities earlier this year focusing on how to deal with beggars. Above all, beggars need to reorient their thinking toward self-sufficiency, she says. “We need to empower them with some means of earning income, so they can sustain themselves economically.”

“We are trying to bring about a change in mind-set,” agrees Bandawe, whose organisation works closely with the ministry. “We need to engage beggars in discussion to find out what it will take for them to stay off the streets.” The strategy also involves speaking with the beggars’ families, he says.

Not everyone thinks this approach will work. Bright Sibale, a business consultant, says a comprehensive programme is required. “We need a broader approach that includes building community awareness of the problems of beggars, effective skills training for those affected, and better policing,” he says. “This needs to be done at a national level with the aim of removing beggars from the streets permanently.”

Raphael Mweninguwe is a freelance journalist based in Malawi.


Kategorien: english