Development, particularly in developing countries, in the current context requires thinking about how multiple global crises are interlinked, their impact on development prospects, and the narrative framing needed to generate positive and progressive systemic policy change.
Global value chains (GVCs), as a dominant form of capitalism today, have been a vehicle for entrenching the concentration of economic resources and power in the hands of multinational corporations. While COVID-19 compounded health and economic crisis, reports emerged that suppliers in the garment industry value chains have been facing mounting challenges as a result of unreasonable demands from big clients, mainly corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the current patterns of production and consumption, exemplified by GVCs and the global trade and investment order in which they operate. These fragilities have resulted in the aforementioned social, economic and financial crises but what they represent most of all, is a crisis of responsibility in which powerful actors, state and private, that have been the main beneficiaries of GVCs, have failed to discharge their ethical and normative obligations to those most vulnerable within their production and supply chains. To this end, a new approach is sorely needed to address the vulnerabilities of a global economy built on fragile GVC governance that serves as new nodes of global inequality and precarity.
This online symposium is the outcome of a workshop on ‘GVCs, Trade and Development’ hosted by the Kent Law School and IEL collective in July 2020 and supported by the British Academy (Grant no. MD19\190020). The workshop engaged with the policy research literature produced by the World Trade Organisation and World Bank since 2013, in particular their Global Value Chain Development (GVCD) reports of 2017 and 2019.
The role of the international community in achieving adequate access to energy and reducing energy poverty, particularly at the regional level, is the central theme of Dr Victoria R Nalule’s book under this review.
The laws of the international trading regimes are crafted, not by Africans, but by economists and policymakers in the Global North, with the interest of the elites of the Global North at the heart of any prescriptions. That is why neoliberalism and the “free market” is sold as the panacea for Africa’s developmental impasse.
The most glaring gap in global economic governance is the lack of an orderly and fair sovereign debt restructuring arrangement. Annamaria Viterbo’s new volume, Sovereign Debt Restructuring: the Role and Limits of Public International Law, helps us understand why this is so and how we might move forward.
There is no doubt that solving this pandemic is the most pressing challenge of our time. This is not a zero sum game. Below, I elaborate on the four points for effective global solidarity to tackle the pandemic.
While WIPO’s technical assistance programme has been seen as less biased than much of the bilateral assistance on offer from the EU and the US, the history that Africa has with WIPO concerning cooperation in the provision of IP technical assistance can be said to have led to the introduction of Western-style IP norms across the continent. Our leaders and negotiators, therefore, need to proceed with caution in negotiating the AfCFTA IP protocol and the kind of technical assistance they receive. They must consult broadly and court the services of African scholars and experts on the matter.
There are two basic problems that may resonate with those who are engaged in teaching and researching international law in developing countries: first, motivating students, and second, seamlessly accessing the requisite resources for teaching and research. This essay presents and outlines challenges and proposes some solutions to address them. This is not to say that these are the only constraints they face, rather this choice is driven by the length of this essay.