Key issues

Policy Brief 77, May 2020

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures

By Aileen Kwa, Fernando Rosales and Peter Lunenborg

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are faced with demands to i) permanently liberalize their markets in health products, and also in agriculture; ii) ban export restrictions in agriculture; and iii) conclude new digital trade rules including liberalizing online payment systems, and agreeing to free data flows. There seems to be a confusion between short-term and long-term responses. For the short-term, governments must take measures needed to address the crisis, including liberalizing needed health products. However, permanently bringing tariffs to zero for the health and agricultural sectors will not support developing countries to build domestic industries. Export restrictions in agriculture cannot be given up. They can be a very important tool for stabilizing domestic prices and for food security. New digital trade rules at the WTO would foreclose the possibility for countries to impose data sovereignty regulations, including data localization requirements that can support their infant digital platforms and industries.

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SouthViews No. 195, 14 May 2020

COVID-19: An Opportunity to Fix Dysfunctional Biomedical R&D System

By Sreenath Namboodiri

Failures of the patent system to meet the public health priorities demand a new approach in research and development (R&D) financing and incentive to pharmaceutical innovations. An R&D model delinking the cost of R&D from the price of the product is the way forward.

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SouthViews No. 194, 7 May 2020

Will post COVID-19 pandemic lead to a climate compatible, more just, resilient and sustainable society?

By Youba Sokona

As a result of the economic shutdown and physical lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions, in particular CO2, have decreased and air pollution levels have seriously dropped. However, the temporary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the pandemic is not to be celebrated as it is not a result of deliberate climate and sustainable development policy. People who are the most vulnerable, most marginalized, and least empowered are the hardest hit by both COVID-19 and climate change. Both crises require robust scientific, evidence-based, accurate information in order to inform adequate policies and actions. They are global in nature and as such need global participation at all levels as well as strong international cooperation and transparency for their resolution.

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Informe Sobre Políticas 75, Mayo 2020

Repensando la I+D para productos farmacéuticos después del choque de la Coronavirus COVID-19

Por Germán Velásquez

La crisis sanitaria mundial sin precedentes provocada por la pandemia de coronavirus –COVID-19–, durante el primer trimestre de 2020, hace que vuelva a ser especialmente urgente el debate sobre el modelo de investigación y desarrollo (I+D) de productos farmacéuticos y otras tecnologías sanitarias. La crisis de COVID-19 muestra que existe una necesidad urgente de rediseñar la gobernanza mundial de la salud pública para la I+D en materia de salud.  La adopción de un instrumento vinculante –como permite el artículo 19 de la Constitución de la OMS– en esta materia fue propuesta hace muchos años. Este documento sostiene que es hora de revivir y materializar esta iniciativa.

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SouthViews No. 193, 30 April 2020

Reforming Responsibly: Why Governments Should Assess the Human Rights Impacts of Economic Reforms

By Daniel Bradlow

The purpose of economic reforms is to change the structure and overall direction of an economy. They therefore will affect the amount and allocation of resources available to a country. This means that the reforms will also affect the human rights situation in the country. This requires impact assessments of each reform option before it is implemented.

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Research Paper 108, April 2020

Public Health and Plain Packaging of Tobacco: An Intellectual Property Perspective

By Thamara Romero

In 2018, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel ruled that plain packaging of tobacco products was consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and was in the interest of public health. Plain packaging restricts the use of logos, colours and brand images to reduce the demand for and consumption of tobacco products by diminishing their advertising appeal. This paper discusses the intellectual property aspects triggered by the implementation of plain packaging, examines the best practices for its implementation and provides analysis of Australia’s case from the public health perspective. It also highlights the main arguments used in the dispute against Australia and provides practical guidance for WTO Members on implementing measures to protect public health.

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Research Paper 107, April 2020

Guide for the Granting of Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Pharmaceutical Patents

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

Like other rights, patent rights are not absolute. There are situations in which their exercise can be limited to protect public interests. Such situations may arise, for instance, when access to needed pharmaceutical products must be ensured. Compulsory licenses and government use for non-commercial purposes are tools, provided for under most laws worldwide, that can specifically be used to address public health needs. This document is intended to provide legal guidance for the effective use of such tools, consistently with the international law.

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Policy Brief 75, April 2020

Rethinking R&D for Pharmaceutical Products After the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Shock

By Dr. Germán Velásquez

The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus –COVID-19– pandemic, during the first quarter of 2020, brings back with particular urgency the discussion about the research and development (R&D) model for pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. The COVID-19 crisis shows that there is an urgent need to re-design the global public health governance for health R&D.  The adoption of a binding instrument –as allowed by Article 19 of the WHO Constitution– on this matter was proposed many years ago. This brief argues that it is time to revive and materialize this initiative. 

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Book by the South Centre, 2020

Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Access To Medicines: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (3rd Edition)

About the Book:

The South Centre seeks to provide appropriate technical assistance and country support to developing countries, within comprehensive and coherent national IP strategies to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement that is consistent with the protection of public health and the promotion of access to medicines. This selected and annotated bibliography has been prepared to assist developing countries to implement IP policies and regulations consistent with development goals and public health principles. The growing volume of literature on the issue of IP, R&D, human rights and access to medicines can help developing countries to find the opportunities and room for manoeuvre to protect their citizens from the unhealthy environment created by international trade rules. This bibliography is not an exhaustive list but it highlights some of the most pertinent works from the South views and perspectives. The selected references are a valuable instrument for those interested in promoting universal access to medical innovation.

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Policy Brief 74, April 2020

Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing the Declaration of the Right to Development

By Yuefen Li, Daniel Uribe and Danish

The 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development was a milestone for both human rights and development. The Declaration recognizes that the right to development (RTD) is an inalienable human right and introduced an alternative and holistic approach to development that goes beyond the economic field to include social, cultural and political development. Although there are current concerns about the pace of progress in fulfilling the RTD, this Policy Brief examines the linkages of the right to development and different global initiatives tackling current challenges for different aspects of the RTD. This brief shows that there has been broader support by countries and people since 1986 to fulfill the RTD although much still needs to be done for addressing income and other inequalities while empowering people in the processes of formulating and implementing people-centered development policies. Despite challenges, the brief also examines some promising opportunities for the RTD.

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Policy Brief 73, April 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic: R&D and Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez

The ongoing rapid spread of COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of governments and of the World Health Organization (WHO) to timely put in place a global coordinated response to the pandemic. Developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular in Africa are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the public health crisis. A priority area for global collaboration is to advance research and development (R&D) for vaccines and medicines that are made available, affordable and accessible worldwide.

There is currently no vaccine and no proven safe and effective direct therapy for COVID-19. There is also the need to accelerate testing capacity and tools in developing countries and LDCs with increased access to low-cost diagnostics. The approach to the management of intellectual property rights by research institutions, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and R&D funders will decisively affect availability and access, as well as the transfer of technology and know-how. Governments must ensure that they have legislative and procedural frameworks in place to enable them to over-come any patent, data exclusivity and trade secret barriers to procure and produce COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and other therapeutics.

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SouthViews No. 192, 6 April 2020

The adverse human rights impact of economic inequality

By Blerim Mustafa

Increasing economic inequality is a defining challenge of our time. Economic growth can often be disproportionate and unequal, adversely affecting marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society. Economic inequality has had adverse economic, social and political impacts for social stability and cohesion, political participation, poverty reduction, as well as the enjoyment of human rights. The realization of human rights cannot be separated from broader questions of economic and social justice.

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