The South Centre’s Board approved in September 2022 its Programme of Work 2023-2025 where the policy dimensions of digital transformation are highlighted as one of the priority areas for developing countries, including the need to harness digital technologies in education, health and the production of goods and services, support the development of a domestic digital industry, improve their digital infrastructure, advance digital equity and inclusion, effectively tax the digital companies and contribute to shaping the digital governance architecture to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Following the call made in the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations (A/RES/75/1) for improved digital cooperation, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and his report ‘Our Common Future’, the South Centre submits the following written contribution to the UN Secretary General ahead to the Summit of the Future with the objective of providing support to developing countries in the intergovernmental process concerning the digital transformation.
Contribución del Centro Sur al Informe del Secretario General sobre la aplicación de la Resolución A/RES/77/7 de la Asamblea General de la ONU sobre la “Necesidad de poner fin al bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero impuesto por los Estados Unidos de América contra Cuba”
Esta aportación del Centro Sur se presenta en respuesta a la solicitud del Secretario General como contribución al informe del Secretario General de acuerdo a la resolución A/RES/77/7, con respecto a la imposición de medidas económicas, financieras y comerciales unilaterales por parte de los Estados Unidos de América, contra Cuba, en violación de los principios básicos de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas.
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.”
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.
South Centre Supports Debates on Developments in Copyright Law and Access to Knowledge in Africa
By Vitor Ido
A conference “A Right to Research in Africa? A Week of Debates on Copyright and Access to Knowledge” took place on 23-27 January 2023 at the University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The gathering of scholars, artists, librarians, researchers and government officials had the objective to discuss the evolution of copyright law and the role of limitations and exceptions (L&Es) to advance research in Africa. The week of debates was co-organized by the South Centre, ReCreate South Africa, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) – American University Washington College of Law, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), the University of Pretoria – Future Africa, the University of Cape Town – IP Unit, the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) – Strathmore University, Wikimedia Foundation and Masakhane.
COMMENTS ON PILLAR ONE – AMOUNT A: DRAFT MULTILATERAL CONVENTION PROVISIONS ON DIGITAL SERVICES TAXES AND OTHER RELEVANT SIMILAR MEASURES
The BEPS Monitoring Group, 25 January 2023
The BEPS Monitoring Group submitted comments to the public consultation on the draft provisions on withdrawal of Digital Services Taxes and ‘relevant similar measures’. Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Senior Programme Officer of the South Centre Tax Initiative, was a contributor.
Transfer pricing remains a highly complex and challenging area for developing countries. The ultimate objective of transfer pricing is to determine a market price for intra-company transactions, but doing this in practice is a largely subjective exercise, which makes it prone to abuse and profit shifting. Developing countries lose billions of dollars in revenue each year due to abusive transfer pricing.
Amount B is important for developing countries as it seeks to provide a simple method through which in-scope intra-company transactions can be priced, which can potentially ease tax administration, reduce disputes and increase tax certainty. However, the current form of the proposal renders it highly complex and unlikely to achieve its stated objective of simplification.
These draft provisions are amongst the most controversial aspects of the Pillar One rules, as countries which decide to implement the OECD solution will be expected to give up the use of DSTs and similar measures on all companies, not just those in-scope of Amount A.
Combating Illicit Financial Flows : “Now or Never”
Statement of H.E. Thabo Mbeki, Chairperson of the African Union High Level Panel on IFFs
“I fully support the creation of a globally inclusive, intergovernmental process at the UN. I urged all international organisations and Member States to resist attempts to block this important step forward, and thus call into question our global commitment to fighting illicit financial flows and corporate tax abuse in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
* H.E. Thabo Mbeki is also the Chair of the Board of the South Centre.