Courtesy Reuters


Children are our most precious resource -- and, like most precious resources, they are traded across borders. As more parents have adopted babies from abroad over the past decade, the international market for children has boomed: in 2001, some 34,000 children -- mainly from Asia and central and eastern Europe -- found new homes in western Europe and North America.

With 9.5 million children now languishing in developing-world orphanages, there are many more opportunities to create loving families across borders. Yet, because the demand for infants from poor countries is rising among adults who live in wealthy ones, corruption has distorted the baby trade. Unscrupulous go-betweens buy or abduct infants from needy biological parents and sell them to eager adoptive families.

Facilitating the placement of orphaned children while attacking the corruption that accompanies it will be a fine balancing act. A free market for babies is out of the question:

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  • Ethan B. Kapstein is Paul Dubrule Professor of Sustainable Development at INSEAD in France, a Research Fellow at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales, and a Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
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