Academic Tells WTO, WIPO, WHO To Stop Using The Term “Developing Countries” 28/10/2015 by Marianna Drake for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A lively keynote address urging international organisations to adopt a fact-based view of the world and new ways of segmenting countries in an increasingly convergent world, set the scene for the annual trilateral symposium on public health, intellectual property and trade taking place at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) today. The technical symposium is a joint effort of the WTO, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This year, the symposium is entitled, “Public Health, Intellectual Property, and TRIPS at 20: Innovation and Access to Medicines Learning from the Past, Illuminating the Future.” The event brings together the “tremendous pool of expertise” of all three organisations providing a chance for sharing experiences and “sparking new ideas,” WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo said in his opening remarks to the forum. Prof Hans Rosling The event’s keynote speaker, Hans Rosling, professor of international health at Karolinska Institute and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, began by challenging the perceptions of the audience by asking them two questions: Firstly, “how many people in the world have electricity at home?” Secondly, “how many young girls throughout the world are enrolled in primary school?” Rosling remarked that the answers given by the audience were “forty years behind” the present global situation. The fact that 80 percent of people have electricity at home, and 90 percent of young girls throughout the world are enrolled in primary school, supports the case that the world is converging as “countries are getting more and more similar,” according to Rosling. “The inequities in the world as a whole are decreasing.” People are currently facing the “uphill struggle of keeping up with what’s happening in the world,” he said, as there is a universal lack of “world factfulness” – a term he coined to describe a fact-based understanding of how the economic and social circumstances of countries are rapidly changing and affecting “how the world works.” Income inequality throughout the world was at its peak in the 1970s, but has since gradually converged in the process we termed “globalisation,” he pointed out. For instance, the majority of the Chinese population “is now better off than the worst off in the United States.” Rosling went on to say that the fact that the number of children throughout the world has stopped increasing is the “biggest event in the history of mankind which has been missed by the media.” He explained that in the 1800s throughout the world, women had on average 6 children, a figure which remained fairly constant until 1965 when the average started to steadily decrease from 5 to our current average of 2.5. He emphasised that this is truly a global phenomenon as the number of children in India has stopped increasing, and the average number of children per woman in China has fallen to 2. Rosling brought together these statistics by emphasising that they reinforce the fact that “we need to stop using the term developing countries,” as we no longer live in a world that can be divided in developing and developed countries. As the majority of the world today lives in “middle income countries,” he said this is far too broad a “group to be talking about these countries in.” He expounded on the urgency of finding new ways of categorising and discussing countries by providing the example of Vietnam. Explaining that “Vietnam today has the same health situation as the United States had in 1980. They are 30 years behind US in terms of health. However, in economic terms they are as far behind from the US as the 1880s.” He explained that in Vietnam there is a significant need for affordable medicines combatting non-communicable diseases, rather than for cures to infectious diseases – the primary concern in many other low middle income countries. Without affordable cures to non-communicable diseases, Vietnam is unable to “deal with” its public health “issues.” This country specific situation would be lost if we simply considered the needs of middle income countries in an aggregate manner, he said. Rosling concluded his speech by underlining the need for a “facts-based world view” and for UN organisations to develop a “better way of segmenting the world.” He asserted: “Without this, we can’t move forward.” Marianna Drake is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch and DiploFoundation. She has an LLB Honours in Law from King’s College London where she developed an interest in information technology law, Internet governance and Internet related intellectual property issues. 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