From 11-12 June in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Group of 77 (G-77) and China held a ministerial meeting to commemorate the group's 40th anniversary. In addition to calling on the international community to fully and speedily achieve the Millennium Development Goals, their Ministerial Declaration noted that countries "are concerned about the adverse effects of domestic support and subsidies granted to the production and export of commodities by some developed countries that causes distortions in international trade and undermines trade opportunities". UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated the G-77 countries on progress "in raising life expectancy and lowering child mortality, and in some cases achieving spectacular economic growth". Addressing the group, he added that the challenge is now "to consolidate those gains, while at the same time addressing the needs of those countries that have yet to advance or have even regressed". To counter emerging global threats such as the widening gap between the South and the North and problems such as terrorism, contagious diseases and environmental degradation, Yi Xiaozhun, Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce, suggested that developing countries pool their efforts. Cuban president Fidel Castro also sent a message to this group of countries, affirming "we are a force capable of successfully defending our right to live in a better and more just world, if we act in a united way". G-77, now comprising132 members, was established in 1964 by 77 developing countries, aiming to boost unity and cooperation among developing nations. This meeting was scheduled to precede UNCTAD XI, held from 15-18 June in Sao Paolo (see related article, this issue).
To read the Ministerial Declaration, see http://www.g77.org/40/declaration.htm
"President Fidel Castro sends message to Group of 77," GRANMA INTERNATIONAL, 14 June 2004; "G-77 urged to forge new economic order," XINHUA, 13 June 2004; "G77, China vow to implement MDGs," XINHUA, 13 June 2004; "UN conference in Brazil focuses on new South-South trade agreements," BUSINESS REPORT, 14 June 2004; "Hafeez urges G-77, China to retrieve Doha work program," PAK TRIBUNE, 14 June 2004; "Developing countries aim to reduce mutual trade barriers," TAIWAN NEWS, 14 June 2004.
RIGHTS COMMITTEE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER IP RULES IN EL SALVADOR
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, reviewing the situation in El Salvador, recently raised concern over the potentially negative impacts of tightening intellectual property (IP) rules negotiated in trade treaties. According to the Committee, such rules could hamper access to low-cost generic medicine, and thus interfere with children's right to health. The Committee stated that El Salvador should "systematically consider the best interests of the child" when negotiating or implementing IP rules into national law. The Committee further requested El Salvador to conduct an impact assessment of IP agreements "on the accessibility of affordable generic medicine, with a view to ensuring children's enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health". El Salvador, along with Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) agreement with the US on 28 May. The treaty includes strict rules for IP protection. Civil society group 3D warned that the CAFTA could undermine El Salvador's ability to obtain cheap drugs for children and fulfil its human rights obligations. The CAFTA agreement -- which has yet to be ratified and implemented -- has received mixed reviews, especially concerning environment and labour provisions (see BRIDGES Weekly, 26 February 2004).
To access the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child document see http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/doc/co/El%20Salvador-CO2.pdf
"UN Committee Warns El Salvador that IP Rights in CAFTA Must Not Undermine Children's Rights," 3D PRESS RELEASE, 10 June 2004.