For greater vaccine equity, first fix these misconceptions

By Philip Schellekens, Senior Economic Advisor – IFC (World Bank Group)

As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic’s dark tunnel, inequities in the distribution of vaccines across countries are coming under intense scrutiny. Unequal vaccine distribution is not necessarily unfair—after all, some population groups are more vulnerable than others. Yet relative to sensible metrics of need, the current inequality is excessive. Efforts to boost and balance deployment have galvanized under the clarion call for #VaccinEquity, but progress has been slow and marred by bottlenecks.

In addition to the various practical constraints—including financing, logistics, manufacturing, and patent rights—three misconceptions stand in the way: the view that COVID-19 is mainly a “rich-country disease”; a focus on herd immunity that detracts from the pressing goal of protecting the global priority group; and a belief that fixing vaccine hoarding in rich countries will fix vaccine equity on its own.

A global snapshot of vaccine inequity

Competing interests in diplomacy, economics, and global health shape the international distribution of vaccines, but overshadowing them all are universally recognized ethical principles that center on “need” and “priority for the disadvantaged.” Needs encompass a fuzzy spectrum. They include the burden of morbidity (e.g., long COVID), broader health effects (e.g., undermanaged illnesses), and wider socioeconomic effects (e.g., food security and poverty). But as long as this pandemic rages on, needs will first and foremost be defined by the vulnerability to premature death—which not only is devastating but also irreversible and hence hard to compensate for.

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We need a new multilateralism to bring about a better post-pandemic world

By Benigno Lopez, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge, IDB

When discussing life after the pandemic, many express a longing to return to a pre-Coronavirus world. But instead of dreaming of the status quo, I hope Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) advances towards a better and “new normal”, born under the pressures of COVID-19, and far more equitable and collaborative than before. Critically, multilaterals will need to work together more than ever to help make this happen.

Bringing about a better, post-pandemic future will not be easy. LAC has been hit hard by the crisis. According to recent estimates, the region saw a 7.4 percent contraction of GDP in 2020, with 34 million people losing their jobs and at least 40 million falling into poverty. To further complicate matters, the region grappled with pressing challenges even before the emergence of COVID-19. Economic growth and productivity have been lagging for some time. And our region is the most unequal in the world: the richest tenth of the population captures 22 times more income than the bottom tenth, while the richest 1 percent captures 21 percent of the income in the entire economy — double the average in the industrialised world.

As the pandemic spread, so have concerns over inequality. References to inequality on social networks have multiplied by 10 since March 2020, according to our own digital tracking tools.

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A deliberative wave for development?

By Ieva Cesnulaityte, Policy Analyst, Open Government, OECD

Citizen-centred and citizen-led policymaking is no longer an abstract vision. Polarisation, populism, and low levels of trust in governments, have prompted academics, practitioners, politicians, and policy makers to reflect upon innovative ways of breathing new life into democratic institutions. And some of the tools being rediscovered and applied today, such as deliberation by a representative group of citizens, date back to ancient Athenian democracy.   

A new OECD study shows that public authorities from all levels of government are increasingly turning to citizens to tackle complex policy problems. They are doing so by convening groups of people representing a wide cross-section of society to learn, deliberate, and develop collective recommendations. The OECD ’s Open Government team has been looking into citizens’ assemblies, juries, panels and other representative deliberative processes as ways to meet citizen demands for more open governments and more agency in shaping public decisions.

A landmark among these processes is the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (2016-2018), which involved 100 randomly selected citizens who deliberated over and provided recommendations for five important legal and policy issues, including the 8th Amendment of the Constitution on Abortion. More recently, 150 randomly selected citizens, representative of the French population, met for seven weekends over six months last year, to form the French Citizens’ Convention on Climate. They had a mandate to define a range of measures that will enable France to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) in a socially just and equitable way.

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Financial integrity for sustainable development

By José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University, and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Finance Minister of Colombia

The world must curb financial flows associated with tax evasion and avoidance, as well as those obtained through corrupt activities and money laundering. The magnitude of the funds involved is immense; trillions of dollars in bank accounts and other assets, and not just in tax havens. The concealed money drains resources from the hands of governments, generates increasing inequality –because the beneficiaries are generally rich people— and causes significant deterioration in public sector governance worldwide. Increased transparency and accountability to curb these flows would improve governance and enhance fairness at the national and international levels.

The problems are systemic and therefore require systemic solutions. This is the basic message of the Financial Integrity for Sustainable Development Report launched by a High Level United Nations Panel on February 25th. It represents a landmark in the fight against illicit financial flows in the global economy. Former prime minister of Niger Ibrahim Assane Mayaki and former president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė co-chaired the Panel, which included 15 independent members from around the world. The Panel’s recommendations aim at strengthening national governance, as well as enhancing international co-operation on specific controls on tax abuse, money laundering or corruption, but also to build a coherent ecosystem of institutions to curb these illicit practices.

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La révolution tunisienne dix ans après : pourquoi doit-on continuer à y croire ?

Par Hakim Ben Hammouda, Universitaire et ancien Ministre de l’Économie et des Finances, Tunisie

La révolution tunisienne le 14 janvier 2011 a été à l’origine d’une grande espérance. Non seulement, elle a libéré la Tunisie d’un autoritarisme anachronique mais elle a aussi ouvert le système politique sur les principes de la modernité politique. Les nouveaux pouvoirs dans les pays des révolutions arabes et dans les autres pays se sont engagés à opérer de grandes réformes constitutionnelles afin d’instaurer le pluralisme politique et un système démocratique avec des élections ouvertes. Parallèlement aux changements politiques, la refonte des modèles de développement était au cœur des priorités post-révolutions et le rêve de construire de nouveaux modèles durables.  

Mais, ces promesses ont été rapidement trahies laissant derrière elles un champ de ruines et un goût d’inachevé. Les transitions politiques se sont transformées dans des conflits ravageurs et dans des guerres destructrices comme en Syrie, en Libye ou au Yémen. Dans d’autres pays la parenthèse démocratique s’est rapidement renfermée et a donné lieu à une restauration autoritaire. Les printemps arabes se sont mus en un hiver glacial qui a emporté les rêves et les espoirs de lendemains qui chantent. Seule la Tunisie a pu poursuivre son chemin et sa transition démocratique. Mais non sans de grandes difficultés et des défis importants qui restent à relever, parfois dans une grande indifférence.

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Joe Biden’s chance to renew multilateralism for a green recovery

By Kevin P. Gallagher, Professor and Director of the Global Development Policy Centre at Boston University & Co-chair for the ‘Think 20 Task Force on International Finance’ at the G20 for 2021

This blog is part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of capital flows and debt in developing countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. World leaders were quick to convene through the G20 to try and stem the crisis but limited by the dismissal of the process by the United States. Newly elected US President Joseph Biden has just issued a game changing new Executive Order declaring that the United States Treasury shall “develop a strategy for how the voice and vote of the United States can be used in international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, to promote financing programmes, economic stimulus packages, and debt relief initiatives that are aligned with and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

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Can civil society survive COVID-19?

By Elly Page, Senior Legal Advisor, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and Simona Ognenovska, Research and Monitoring Advisor, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law Stichting (ECNL)

As the world confronts new waves of COVID-19 cases, civil society should be wary of a parallel surge of new emergency laws and measures that restrict fundamental freedoms. According to our COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker, 146 countries enacted 385 measures in response to the pandemic that affected human rights, during the initial waves of the virus from January to September 2020. While some may have been a necessary and understandable reaction to a public health crisis, many overreached, exacerbating existing challenges to civic space. In particular, existing barriers to foreign funding for organisations have remained in place during the pandemic, limiting their ability to provide support to vulnerable populations during the crisis. The onslaught urgently requires an international response to roll back restrictions and increase support for embattled civil society.  

Our Tracker, based on information from our worldwide network of civil society partners, reflects ways that governments’ responses to COVID-19 have affected civic space, and suggests ways that OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members could respond. These suggestions are timely as the OECD-DAC takes further steps to develop a DAC policy instrument on enabling civil society.

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Gaps in the trap: Neglected politics in middle-income trap analysis

By Richard F. Doner, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Emory University1


Scholars, advisors and policymakers alike have paid extensive attention to the middle-income trap. Despite some differences in definition, most agree that the “trap” refers to various conditions that have discouraged many middle-income countries from ascending to high-income status. Cross-national economic convergence has been nowhere near what was expected given middle-income countries’ access to advanced technologies and market opportunities.

Explanations for the trap vary but typically include some combination of low productivity, inconsistent macroeconomic policies, weak institutional frameworks, policies ill-adapted to promoting technology absorption, and weak human resource development. As a recent post by Alonso and Ocampo argues, these writings have been valuable in focusing attention on the challenges of a particular stage of development. Nevertheless, gaps, we might even call them blind spots, persist in analysis of the middle-income trap.   

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A new social contract for informal workers: Bridging social protection and economic inclusion

By Martha Chen, Senior Advisor, WIEGO and Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Laura Alfers, Director, Social Protection, WIEGO and Research Associate, Rhodes University, and Sophie Plagerson, Visiting Associate Professor, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg

Photo by Martha Chen

Calls to renew the social contract have proliferated in recent years as the “standard” employer-employee relationship has ceased to be the norm, while traditional forms of informal employment persist and informalisation of once formal jobs is on the rise.1 However, there is a mismatch globally between traditional social contract models based on assumptions of full (male and formal) employment and the world of work today in which informal workers, both self- and wage employed, constitute over 60 per cent of the global workforce. Can the call for a new social contract really help to achieve greater recognition and a more level playing field for informal workers?

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Middle-income countries should not be rushed to graduate

By Otaviano Canuto, Senior Fellow at the Policy Centre for the New South, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, and Former Vice President at the World Bank; Matheus Cavallari, Senior Advisor and Tiago Ribeiro dos Santos, Advisor at the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank Group. Opinions here are their own. The authors wrote chapter 12 of the recent book: Alonso, J.A. & Ocampo, J.A. (eds.), Trapped in the Middle? Developmental Challenges for Middle-Income Countries, Oxford University Press, 2020

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Many donor countries seem eager to see middle-income countries (MICs) “master out” and graduate to a non-client status in multilateral development institutions before fully achieving their development potential. We argue that such institutions can still significantly contribute to the sustainable development of MICs, while also seizing many benefits from this relationship (Middle income countries and multilateral development banks: traps on the way to graduation).  

Multilateral development banks operate in two main ways: regular lending and concessional finance. Regular lending uses interest rates close to market levels and relies on multilateral development banks’ wealth of knowledge to create attractive projects for MICs. Concessional finance on the other hand, is attractive for low-income countries, not only because of the banks’ knowledge, but also because it is much more financially favourable, offering low interest rates or grants.

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