Submission by the South Centre to the USITC hearing on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics
India, South Africa and co-sponsors made a proposal for a waiver to certain provisions of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in March 2020. In June 2022, the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement provided a partial waiver to obligations in Article 31, namely an exception to the 31.f export restrictions, in relation to patents for Covid-19 vaccines. No decision has yet been made with respect to diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
In this context, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to prepare a report on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
Read below the submission by the South Centre to the USITC investigation: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities (Inv. No. 332-596).
South Centre Inputs to UN Secretary-General for “Promotion of inclusive and effective tax cooperation at the United Nations”
The South Centre submits the following comments and recommendations to the UN Secretary-General for the report being prepared in response to UN General Assembly resolution 77/244 on “Promotion of inclusive and effective tax cooperation at the United Nations.”
The copyright system must be truly balanced. It means it should enable public interest purposes, particularly access to knowledge and education, a fair reward for creators, and real incentives – and not barriers – for creativity and research…
The Midterm Comprehensive Review of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development amid growing tension between a human rights perspective and the commodification and privatization of water
By Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada
Climate change is affecting the availability of water resources in different regions around the world. In addition, some growing trends towards water commodification and privatization could exacerbate the problem since they are guided by profit maximization strategies. The United Nations (UN) will hold the Midterm Comprehensive Review (MCR) of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028, from 22 to 24 March 2023. This is an important opportunity for the international community to assess the challenges on access to clean drinking water and sanitation. The MCR debates and outcomes should be guided by a human rights approach towards promoting access to water for all in 2030 in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
Understanding the Functioning of EU Geographical Indications
By Andrea Zappalaglio
This contribution investigates the functioning of the EU sui generis Geographical Indication (GI) system, with a specific focus on the regime for the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs within the scope of EU Regulation 1151/2012. In particular, based on the results of the recent “Study on the Functioning of the EU Geographical Indications System” of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition (February 2022), this paper: (1) clarifies the nature of EU GIs as it emerges from an empirical assessment of the specifications of all the products that appear on the EU register; (2) comparatively analyses the national practices of the EU Member States and explores the discrepancies that exist among them to date; (3) provides an in-depth assessment of the structures of the specifications of EU GIs, highlighting the domestic specificities; (4) investigates the contents and functions of the amendments to the specifications of the registered products. It concludes by emphasizing the importance of the present research in light of the current EU international agenda, with a specific focus on the bilateral agreements recently or currently negotiated.
Digital taxation under the OECD Amount A and UN Article 12B mechanisms for market jurisdictions in Africa: a comparative analysis
By Erica Rakotonirina
This Policy Brief examines the need for the evolution and harmonization of international taxation in the face of the digitalization of economic transactions.
Between the OECD proposal for shared taxation of residual profits through the Amount A mechanism and the UN proposal of Article 12B for taxing income from Automated Digital Services on a gross basis through shared but capped taxation, with an optional variant of the taxation of net profits, African States need to make vital political and technical choices.
The strategic negotiations must include regulatory sustainability, the right balance and fiscal fairness between the divergent interests of residence states vs source states (which include almost all African countries), and MNEs in their quest for profit and expansion.
The Policy Brief carries out quantified evaluation of possible revenue estimates using a case study approach. However, such an exercise remains difficult for questions of accessibility and reliability of data relating to the activities of multinational companies.
To be realistic, the scope of the study was restricted to a reference company in the digital sector but targeted economies of different scales. The results of the revenue estimates represent an optimistic case of the impacts on tax revenues of the application of the OECD and UN measures on different types of economies.
The WTO faces an existential crisis, despite a reasonable outcome at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference. The one way by which the WTO can resuscitate itself is to make sure that the negotiating agenda is anchored in the SDGs rather than in the narrow interests of its most powerful members. The changing role of the State must also be factored in by the WTO.
Strengthening United Nations Actions in the Field of Human Rights through the Promotion of International Cooperation
Geneva, 24 February 2023
The South Centre submits the following written contribution to the United Nations Secretary General’s Report on ‘Strengthening the United Nations’ action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation’, in line with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution A/RES/76/164, adopted on 16 December 2021. The resolution recognises the need for respecting the political, economic and social realities of each society in compliance with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. The report to be presented by the Secretary-General to the UNGA represents an important opportunity to recognise that global challenges do not affect all societies equally, and that they require a broader consideration of policies and innovative solutions that can cater to the unique realities and specific needs of each society.
The UPOV accession process: Preventing appropriate PVP laws for new members
By Nirmalya Syam, Shirin Syed, and Viviana Munoz-Tellez
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants adopted in Paris in 1961. UPOV requires its contracting parties to establish an intellectual property system for plant varieties that favors the interests of commercial plant breeders but does not address the needs of farming systems in developing countries or the rights of smallholder farmers.
The accession process for new countries to UPOV as provided in the UPOV Convention is based on an examination of conformity of the plant variety protection (PVP) law of the acceding country with obligations under the UPOV Convention. Only if the UPOV Council gives a positive decision on the basis of such conformity examination, the acceding state can deposit its instrument of accession. This accession process does not allow new members any flexibility to adapt their national PVP law to their own needs and accommodate their traditional agricultural sector and related public policy issues such as the livelihoods of farmers, sustainable agriculture, and implications for food security. Prior UPOV members have greater flexibility than new members in enacting domestic legislation to implement the obligations under the 1991 Act by adopting their own interpretations of the obligations, which cannot be reviewed by the UPOV Council at the time of their accession to the 1991 Act.
The various acts of the convention were essentially negotiated between developed countries. The UPOV accession procedure is unique compared to intellectual property treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as the accession processes in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols, or the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. None of these agreements have an obligatory conformity examination of national legislation before accession. In addition, the UPOV Council’s decisions regarding examination of conformity are not always consistent, and significant discretion is exercised by the UPOV Secretariat in interpreting the provisions of the convention as well as their implementation in national law. The UPOV Council’s guidance document for the preparation of laws in accordance with the 1991 Act also provides an extremely narrow interpretation of the provisions of the convention.
Therefore, developing countries should consider whether, instead of accession to UPOV, it would be better for them to adopt their own sui generis system of PVP which allows them to enact a law in accordance with their needs and circumstances. It would also be important for the UPOV Council to adopt a national deference principle in conformity examinations; limit the examinations to a review of adopted laws, as the convention does not mandate the council or the secretariat to intervene in the process of development of national PVP laws; and not undertake additional examinations after a positive decision is given.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and the Right to Seeds in Africa
Geneva Academy Briefing No. 22
By Karine Peschard, Christophe Golay and Lulbahri Araya
Pursuant to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), the African Union and African states should ensure that their regional & national laws & policies, as well as international bodies to which they are party, lead to effective protection of peasant rights, including their right to seeds.
The Geneva Academy acknowledges the support of the South Centre for the production of this publication.