Council on Foreign Relations


Lack of drug safety monitoring threatens global health progress | 

Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna

The push to expand access to life-saving drugs and vaccines in low-income countries is threatened by the lack of drug safety monitoring.

How so? Well, the standard approach to getting drugs out to the developing world has been for the pharmaceutical industry to first make a product it can sell to the rich world and, as costs go down over time, eventually distribute it to the poor. The problem with that approach is that the costs don’t always go down enough and many drugs or vaccines needed solely in poor communities simply don’t get developed.

It was this fundamental problem – which Bill Gates in the early days of his philanthropy identified as one of the world’s most deadly kinds of market failure – that helped launch the movement (and/or industry) we now call global health. Continue reading

Child marriage seen as a girl’s health issue | 


The development community is starting to pay closer attention to the problem of child marriages.

Long considered an issue of human rights, the conversation about child marriage is shifting to that of health and education. Girls married too young are denied the educational opportunities of their peers and are put at greater health risks, such as HIV and teen pregnancy.

What may seem like a distant problem, child marriage is found in every part of the world. Ending the global practice will unleash opportunity for millions of women and girls.

The number of global child marriages is declining, but not quickly enough. Rates are staggering in places like Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic. More than two out of every three girls are married before eighteen. Roughly half of the girls married early in Niger do so before turning fifteen.

The global rate of child marriage is alarmingly high in developing countries where one out of every three girls will marry before turning eighteen. It is estimated that 142 million girls will marry before the age of eighteen this decade. The majority of cases are found in South Asia and West and Central Africa, but it is India that carries the majority of the burden, 40% to be exact.

It is not only a problem in Africa and Asia. Closer to the US, Haiti has a child marriage rate exceeding thirty percent. Continue reading

On human rights, U.S. pursues ‘global governance’ on its own | 

The Council on Foreign Relations has produced an interactive “Global Governance” monitor to, as they say: “Track, map and evaluate international efforts to address today’s global challenges.”

Council on Foreign Relations

One of the categories monitored by CFR is international human rights (go to link for map, above is just a screen grab) which as you can tell upon a quick glance at the map is one issue in which the U.S. takes a minority stance.

I point this out because international human rights, as NPR reports, was a big issue before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The first case is brought by Nigerians with political asylum in the U.S. who are seeking to sue Shell Oil for complicity in government abuses and atrocities they suffered in Nigeria. The other regards an American citizen allegedly abducted and murdered by the Palestinian Liberation Organization:

Human rights are front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in two cases testing how American law intersects with international law. At issue in both cases is whether foreign nationals in the United States can sue corporations or other entities in U.S. courts for alleged violations of human rights.

Given this, it’s worth taking a closer look at CFR’s Human Rights map. It’s interactive, full of lots more information (and better resolution at their website).

As the map shows, the United States is among a minority of countries to have not agreed to adhere to the statutes of the International Criminal Court. I’m not an expert on international law, but I wondered if these cases going to the U.S. Supreme Court next week should not more appropriately be heard at the International Criminal Court.

Why is the U.S. legal system in charge of deciding if Nigerians can sue Royal Dutch Shell Oil? Why is the U.S. Supreme Court trying a case, the one against the Palestinian Authority, which perhaps should be more a matter for the International Criminal Court, or maybe the U.S. State Department or diplomats?

These cases are all being brought on the basis of some obscure 1789 law called the Alien Tort Law, which was originally passed to fight pirates. NPR reports:

Shell Oil counters that corporations cannot be sued in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute because international law doesn’t recognize corporate liability for human rights crimes.

Well, why doesn’t it? Again, I am not at all knowledgeable when it comes to international law. Are these cases being tried here because of the gaps in international law governing corporate behavior — or because the U.S. refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court? Or both?

In any case, the CFR map indicates how the U.S. often tends to avoid participating in  established ‘global governance’ mechanisms and, instead, often ends up trying to govern the globe on its own.