What can IBSA Offer to the Global Community?

This issue of Poverty in Focus brings together articles by speakers on the four panels organized. They address the role of non-contributory cash transfers and employment programmes, the debates on healthcare innovation, intellectual property rights and access to essential drugs, and the discussions about IBSA’s role and potential as a plurilateral arrangement. Lyal White starts by taking stock of IBSA’s progress in the seven years since it was launched in 2003. He argues that, given the economic crisis, IBSA’s role can be more relevant than ever. It has made significant progress on political coordination and development cooperation, though the substance in the working groups remains a challenge. Fábio Soares and Radhika Lal take an integrative approach to social development, linking cash transfers and employment programmes with a view to addressing vulnerability across the life cycle. The IBSA countries offer a good example of rights-based frameworks, and have a vision of moving beyond schemes to more comprehensive systems. Amita Sharma describes the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and emphasises the legal approach whereby NREGA is seen as a service provided by the government, an entitlement that involves public scrutiny and participation at a local level. NREGA has links to other policy areas, revealing the potential for integration that has been the great challenge of social policy in India. Ingrid Woolard discusses how South Africa’s Unemployment Insurance Fund is limited. She argues for greater integration between social assistance and labour-market policies. There is still no coherent system in place, and the fiscal sustainability of these policies will be a major concern as the country confronts a tougher growth environment. Sergei Soares shows the differences between taking account of a transversal definition of income (income in a given month) and a longitudinal one (income during the next 24 months) when calculating the targets for Brazil’s Bolsa Família. The longitudinal poverty rate is about twice the transversal poverty figure, thus explaining the mismatch between the targets and the eligible population. Radhika Lal gives an overview of the discussions on healthcare and points to problems in the field of trade-related intellectual property rights. Potential areas for collaboration between the IBSA countries include sharing information on drug prices and on sources of low-cost drugs, as well as research and development for drugs that treat neglected diseases. Biswajit Dhar and Reji Joseph express their concern for the weak legal distinction between substandard medicines and counterfeit drugs. Since laws on the matter apply to both branded and generic drugs, there is a risk of equating authorised generics with counterfeit products. This could disrupt the trade in generics and thus hamper access to crucial life-saving medicines in the Global South. Kamal Mitra Chenoy argues that plurilateralism in arrangements like IBSA can add value to multilateralism only if it can connect the excluded countries of the South to the blocs of the North. He also argues that plurilateralism is valuable if it goes beyond the interests of capital and helps create a people-centred development paradigm. Alcides Costa Vaz closes this Poverty in Focus with a discussion of the different approaches taken by each of the IBSA countries. As a flexible mechanism, however, IBSA should be able to accommodate the different perspectives. This publication features the following articles: IBSA Seven Years On: Cooperation in a New Global Order; The Emerging Dialogue on Social Strategies in the IBSA countries; Social Protection: Policy Innovation in India; Social Assistance & Labour Market Policies: The Case of South Africa; What you Measure is Important: The Case of Bolsa Familia; Health Innovation, IPR and Access to Essential Drugs in IBSA countries; Anti-Counterfeiting Initiatives and Trade in Generic Medicines; IBSA, Plurilateralism and the Global South; and IBSA: The Prospects of a Plurilateral Arrangement.