Global Trends in Inequalities - Highlights of the Academic Council Debate held on 3 May 2012 at the University of Neuchâtel
The first of this year’s series of round table debates took place at the University of Neuchâtel. Charles Gore, Honorary Professor of Economics at Glasgow University and former head of research at UNCTAD, opened the debate by addressing the issue of the increasing income inequalities that are noticed on a global level as well as an inter-country phenomena. Some striking key figures showed the rising gap in income between the North and the South over the last thirty years, not to forget that inter-country inequality, weighted by population, accounts for 70 per cent or more of global inequality.
Michele Falavigna, former humanitarian coordinator of UNDP in Chad and Niger, shared his reflections on the humanitarian crisis management in regions such as the Sahel zone in Africa where extreme poverty leads to cyclic food crisis. Whereas the international community usually provides immediate response and relief over a period of about thirty-six months, it is legitimate to ask what long term measures should be taken to avoid these crisis that never come as a specific, isolated event.
The question of trade and access to the global market was addressed by Bernard Kuiten, Head of External Relations, World Trade Organization. He reminded the audience that the WTO, set up in 1995, has been created in order to establish equal and transparent trade rules among the 155 members states. The existing dispute settlement mechanism, whose rulings are final, ensures that members adhere to the rules they have established. The figure of 18 trillion dollars in global trade realised in 2010 illustrates the importance of today’s trade.
In the current times of financial and economic crises, an important objective of the WTO is to combat the looming spectre of protectionism. Trade negotiations, where political power is reflected, have very much evolved over the past 10 years as the dominant trade blocks (USA, Canada, Japan and the European Union) have been joined by China and Brazil as significant actors.