Welcome to the 4th issue of Sustainable Development Observer bringing you news and views on sustainable development goals mainly from the perspective of the Global South.
This month we focus on the global health crisis that has been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and pharmaceutical industry’s greed – at the cost of peoples’ health. While the world’s media has gone berserk about a new “Omicron” variant of the COVID virus, the World Trade Organisation has quietly postponed a ministerial conference that had as its main agenda item, an Indian and South African initiative supported by over 100 countries to waive patents on COVID vaccines and other medical testing systems and equipment. Meanwhile, Pfizer – which has made billions of dollars out of the pandemic – has gone on a propaganda offensive to sell its “COVID booster shots” even to children as young as 5 years! Any questioning of this is labeled a “conspiracy theory” by the world’s so-called “mainstream media”.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has published a report that argues for less than a dollar a year per person of investments in prevention and treatment for non-communicable diseases by most low to lower-middle-income countries, so that close to 7 million deaths could be prevented by 2030. Yet, during the pandemic, many countries have increased their military spending to build or purchase sophisticated weapons systems that were absolutely useless in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. In a future issue of Sustainable Development Observer, we hope to do a more detailed analysis of this great myth of “national defense” spending.
We raise awareness in this issue on how destruction to education systems during the pandemic has drawn attention to why higher education should not be seen as a privilege – and why education funding should be seen as development funding not only at primary and secondary levels but also at the university level.
Our special feature article is focusing on the new Laos-China rail link opened this month as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). We present this as an SDG issue where the rail line should be looked at in the broader context of development policies where livelihood opportunities and planning need to be looked at as part of such infrastructure development. Thus, borrowing for such projects should not be a “debt trap” if proper sustainable development strategies are adopted to benefit from such projects.
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne – Editor