‘Global trade critical to reduce poverty’

2011-01-19 13:52

International trade will only help fight global poverty if rich countries turn their rhetoric into action, the Global Poverty Summit heard in Johannesburg today.

“It is time to bring the talks to a close. Successfully doing so requires courage and sacrifice by the rich countries,” said Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz, chairperson of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, in a speech prepared for delivery.

“They’ve got to accept that they are going to have to pay for the change.” Such a change meant “turning the tables” to some extent on how the world currently trades, he said.

According to a statement issued after the event, delegates argued such a bold action was justified given the ever-growing gap between rich and poor nations.

Fifty of the world’s best minds came together during the summit to question the role of global institutions in poverty reduction.

The summit, which started on January 16 and ended today heard that over a billion people, around a fifth of the world’s population, lived in absolute poverty, despite inhabiting a world rich in resources, knowledge and technology.

Significant progress had been made in reducing global poverty since the Union Nations’ Millennium Development (MDGs) Goals were agreed to in 2000, but it was not enough.

Delegates resolved that in order to tackle poverty, the world needed to accelerate progress on the MDGs and make preparations for a set of global development goals.

Policies had to be reformed, which was best illustrated through international trade policies.

Delegates proposed that governments had to be key players in the global economy, and not sit on the sidelines in a world of unfettered markets.

“No industrial country got to where it is today without significant state intervention,” said Rorden Wilkinson, research director at the Brooks World Poverty Institute.

“The burning issue of food security underscores the case for state intervention.”

Delegates to the summit endorsed a proposal that countries should have the right to implement measures to combat food price volatility, and that global rules should be adopted to limit insecurity in this sector.

Another key point was that trade rules could not all be applied willy-nilly to rich and poor countries alike.

“There should be serious, substantive and meaningful differentials and complementary provisions for countries at different stages of development,” delegates said in a joint statement.

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