The World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancun, Mexico, beginning next week, will decide whether poor countries “will or will not, at last, be given a real chance to trade their way out of poverty,” Mr. Annan said in a video message in support of the “Big Noise” campaign by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam.“The decisions they take there can make the difference between poverty and starvation – perhaps even between life and death – for millions of people in poor countries,” he declared.Mr. Annan emphasized two crucial issues – access to cheap generic drugs for poor countries, on which an outline agreement was recently reached, and trade in agricultural products.“We must now ensure that developing countries are given the support they need to make use of the mechanisms that have been agreed, so that drugs reach the millions who are suffering and dying,” he said, referring to the agreement that would allow developing countries unable to produce generic versions of patented drugs to import them from countries that can. “This is a moral imperative.” Noting that poor countries are under pressure from rich countries to liberalize their markets, yet find that many of their products are excluded from rich countries’ markets by protective tariffs and quotas, Mr. Annan said: “That is not fair. Even less fair is the competition they face from heavily subsidized producers in those same rich countries. These subsidies push prices down, driving the farmers in poor countries out of business.“Far from being empowered, the fisherman in Viet Nam, the cotton-grower in Burkina Faso, and the indigenous cultivator of medicinal herbs in Brazil are being held down. Many of the poorest countries lose more through missed trading opportunities than they receive in aid or debt relief,” he added.“For humanity’s sake, these subsidies must be phased out, as fast as possible,” he declared. “I congratulate all of you who are working to draw attention to this gross injustice. I am glad to join my voice to your ‘Big Noise’.”
Condemning the recent murder of two reporters in Iraq as an outrageous attack on human rights, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today once again called on all authorities in the strife-torn country to give greater priority to improving the safety of journalists. Hind Ismail, a 28-year-old reporter for the local daily As-Saffir, was killed in the northern city of Mosul last week and Fakher Haider of the New York Times was killed this week in the southern city of Basra, bringing to 55 the number of journalists of killed in Iraq since the start of the war there in 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. “I cannot find words strong enough to express my outrage at the deadly campaign waged against journalists and media workers in Iraq,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement, the latest on the carnage in Iraq by his agency, whose mandate includes the defence of freedom of expression and press freedom.“I am also at a loss for words with which to express my admiration for these women and men who pay with their lives for their right to tell us what they see and think, and for our right to read and hear about what is going on,” he added.“The work of these people is essential for the reconstruction of Iraq as a free country and their murderers are clearly trying to crush the basic human right of freedom of expression along with all the other human rights which the people of Iraq deserve to enjoy.“It is in the name of these basic human rights that I exhort all authorities in Iraq to give greater priority, despite the difficult situation on the ground, to improving the safety of those journalists brave enough to carry out their important work in such appalling conditions,” he concluded. Mr. Matsuura has frequently condemned the murder of journalists around the world as an attack on one of the fundamental pillars of democracy.