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Sometimes great changes result from small actions. Technical advances might grab headlines, but changes to administrative processes can potentially have an equally important effect on how public health actions are carried out on the ground. In the past six decades, the World Bank's increasingly diverse portfolio has grown to include more than US$1 billion in annual commitments for health, nutrition, and population activities—about a quarter of all its projects.1 That is why it is so essential that the global community pays attention to the discussion and any proposed decisions about safeguards against any unintended social and environmental effects of World Bank policies and investments.

At a time when governments are failing abysmally to mitigate climate change, reduce inequality or end poverty, the key to creating a more equal and sustainable world is establishing participative forms of political engagement at all levels of society – from the local to the global.

Among many services both great and small that Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” has rendered to economics is his skeptical view of the terminology of human capital. That coinage was one of the biggest mistakes in economic nomenclature in the last 50 years. It was ideologically motivated and has contributed to conceptual confusion.

More countries are now facing a worsening debt situation and if they embark on debt restructuring, they may face a challenge from “vulture funds”, as Argentina recently did.

This issue of the South Bulletin focuses on the battle to curb the vulture funds, and the effects these funds have had on developing countries and on global financial stability. These articles are the following:

Battle hots up to curb ‘vulture funds’

The Human Rights Council condemns vulture funds

Argentina’s vulture fund crisis – global implications

A long history of predatory practices by vulture funds against developing countries

Why we need to counter the threat from vulture funds, statement by Ambassador Alberto Pedro D’Alotto of Argentina

Other articles in the bulletin include:

Comment on IPCC’s Final Climate Report


2015 started with some heavy bangs.

First came the terrorist attacks in Paris against journalists and against a Jewish supermarket. Then came the victory of the radical leftwing party Syriza in Greece.

You might think these two events have nothing in common. Yet, some elements make me think we should take some time to reflect on it.


A new report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indisputably confirms what many scientists had predicted: 2014 is officially the hottest year on record. And this past year is not an anomaly -- the previous 10 hottest years on the books have all occurred since 1998. This announcement adds to the urgency expressed just last month in Lima, where political leaders and business tycoons from around the world met for the 20th yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The gathering in Peru was historic in that it was the last time the decision-making body would meet before COP 21 in Paris next December, where an international and legally binding agreement on climate will be signed.

The killing of polio workers in Pakistan by the Taliban is a tragic illustration of why no development program can ignore the political problems associated with poverty.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2015 annual letter outlines their vision for global development and poverty reduction. The letter outlines four areas where they expect breakthroughs over the next 15 years to transform the lives of the world’s poor for the better.

However, critics accuse them of being complicit in a “tyranny of experts”, which reduces development assistance to quick-fix solutions that do nothing to resolve the political problems that are seen as the main underlying cause of poverty.

Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws, a new International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation has found.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion.

Read more on Swissleaks and read more below


Despite snowstorm warnings and ice-cold temperatures in New York, the Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations managed to pick up speed when governments convened for the first drafting session at the end of January. They are currently negotiating the outcome of the upcoming Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place on July 13-16 this year, and is planned as a key milestone ahead of the Post-2015 Summit and the UNFCCC Climate Conference later this year.

Human rights experts warned that World Bank plans to delegate responsibilities for environmental and social monitoring to private banking institutions sub-lending on its behalf will effectively weaken both the level of protection currently offered by environmental and social safeguards and the Bank’s accountability for their implementation.

The analysis was part of a letter to the World Bank President Mr. Jim Kim by 28 UN human rights thematic mandate-holders – an unprecedented number acting together on a single issue – conveying several concerns regarding the World Bank’s latest draft of its Social and Environmental Safeguards (“draft ESF”).

The Bank is embarked in a process to reform and streamline its Safeguard policies, process which Mr. Kim had earlier promised will not lead to their dilution.

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