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.
Flirting with the Private Sector: The GCF Private Sector Facility — achievements, challenges and constraints in engaging the private sector
By Rajesh Eralil, Mariama Williams and Dianyi Li
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is committed to include the private sector as both driver and beneficiary of climate action. It envisions in particular the inclusion of not only large enterprises, but puts much emphasis on the cooperation with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries. This paper evaluates the state of play of the GCF work with the private sector and its MSMEs. It finds that the fund’s success in stimulating private sector engagement has been underwhelming and imbalanced. To begin with, only a minority of GCF projects are in fact private and a considerable amount of these projects operate through multilateral and other public institutions. GCF’s private sector projects show on top of that a strong bias towards energy access and generation, while only little funding goes to adaptation. Attempts to include MSMEs in developing countries have moreover been largely unsuccessful, although MSMEs constitute an important pillar of developing countries’ economies. It is suggested that there is a need for a bottom-up approach when dealing with the private sector in developing countries, including a more sustained and sustainable focus on MSMEs, including capacity building of MSME networks.
The ISDS Reform Process: The missing development agenda
By Nicolás M. Perrone
The foreign direct investment (FDI) governance agenda is centred on the reform of international investment agreements (IIAs) and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The proliferation of IIAs and ISDS has contributed to narrowing the FDI agenda. A key policy question is whether this fragmented approach remains consistent with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Current FDI discussions point at the need for a holistic approach in this policy area, quite the opposite of a regime primarily aimed to protect foreign investors through treaty standards and international arbitration. The realisation of the SDGs depends on multi-stakeholder partnerships to combat poverty and provide clean water and energy to the world population. Crucially, these partnerships will require more cooperation and coordination than IIAs and ISDS can promote and nurture.
In a more and more climate change threatened world, Africa’s energy vision should be premised on moving from an energy landscape based on underdeveloped and carbon intense pathways to a modern, clean and decentralized energy system. This transition is a critical enabler of meaningful and endogenous socio-economic development. While the continent may face a broad set of challenges in achieving this vision, it has at the same time the opportunity to avoid the fossil fuel lock-in that many industrialized countries face and to take advantage of vast supplies of untapped energy resources and/or any stranded asset problem. The Africa Energy Transition Program in the making under the auspices of the African Energy Commission forms a continent-wide and coordinated approach in facilitating the required transformation for the realization of Africa’s development aspiration.
The Role of South-South Cooperation in Combatting Illicit Financial Flows
By Manuel F Montes
Developing countries bear the brunt of costs from illicit financial flows (IFFs). These losses are the result of the facilities that the global system provides transnational companies, operating in multiple tax jurisdictions, to move their profits to favorable locations. International cooperation has been seen to be a key ingredient in restricting IFFs. However, a difference in interests in the treatment of many types of transactions between developed and developing countries is an obstacle to a fast solution of the problem. Developing countries must seek to seize the initiative to restrict their losses from IFFs. They can deploy various joint and concerted actions, within the umbrella of the principles of South-South cooperation for this purpose.
US-China trade deal: preliminary analysis of the text from WTO perspective
By Peter Lunenborg
The long-awaited ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between the United States and China, officially termed the ‘Economic and Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China’, was signed on 15 January 2020. It will enter into force on Valentine’s Day, on Friday, 14 February 2020. This deal is a result of US exercise of political power and unilateral World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent tariffs in order to extract trade concessions, an expression of the most pure protectionism that the WTO is supposed to prevent. Nevertheless, the WTO was unhelpful in addressing the US economic aggression against China. This failure to protect a Member from illegitimate unilateral measures is, perhaps, one of the most significant manifestations of the often-mentioned ‘crisis’ of the WTO, and actually is one of the subjects on which the proposed ‘reform’ of the organization should focus.
This policy brief provides an overview of the outcomes of selected agenda items that were discussed at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO), held from 21 to 26 May 2019 in Geneva. These items reflect some of the health priorities of developing countries.
Lights Go Out at the WTO’s Appellate Body Despite Concessions Offered to US
By Danish and Aileen Kwa
As of 11 December 2019, the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been rendered non-functional. This policy brief provides a summary of the issues discussed amongst WTO Members in the last two years, in their valiant efforts to address the US’ concerns regarding the AB. The issues include: the use of AB Members’ services to complete an appeal after their term has officially expired; timelines for issuance of AB reports; the meaning of municipal law; advisory opinions; precedence-setting; and overreach by the AB. After much effort by Members in the ‘Walker process’ of negotiations, concessions have been proposed to the US in the draft General Council Decision of 28 November 2019. Language was provided limiting the scope of appeals to questions of law, even though there are situations where the boundary between issues of law and fact are difficult to draw. The text also provides that ‘precedent’ is not created through WTO dispute settlement proceedings. In the area of anti-dumping, the language inserted by the US into the anti-dumping agreement to protect their zeroing practices is confirmed. Nevertheless, the US has rebuffed these offered concessions. It seems determined to amplify its leverage by taking the WTO’s Appellate Body hostage, to extract still more from other Members, including in terms of far-reaching ‘WTO Reforms’.
The State of Play of Climate Finance – UNFCCC Funds and the $100 Billion Question
By Mariama Williams; editing support and data by Rajesh Eralil
Climate finance is key to achieving the ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement as well as in fulfilling the climate actions that developing countries have proposed to implement in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the key vehicles for implementing the agreement reached in Paris in 2015. However, there is much concern that the current flow of finance is inadequate to meet the expectations surrounding both the NDCs and the Paris Agreement. This brief presents quick snapshots of the state of play of climate finance of one dimension of the broad, complex and increasingly fragmented universe of climate finance. It focuses on the flow of climate finance that can be monitored and tracked under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the context of the developed countries’ collective goal of mobilizing US $100 billion annually to support developing countries’ climate actions. The issues on both the demand and supply side of climate finance flows are explored, with specific attention to the ebb and flows and achievements of the multilateral public funds. After highlighting some of the more serious challenges with the flow of climate finance, the brief ends with an overview of the key negotiating issues around future climate finance flows.
Crisis at the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB): Why the AB is Important for Developing Members
By Danish and Aileen Kwa
The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Appellate Body (AB) will be made dysfunctional by 11 December 2019. A disabled AB means that the WTO’s dispute settlement system loses its enforcement mechanism. Even though many smaller developing countries are not major users of the dispute settlement system, nevertheless, they are beneficiaries of the rule of law, and a more predictable trading environment. Several stop-gap measures have been suggested. None are satisfactory. The right to appeal is an important right for all Members which was part of the Uruguay Round package. If this right is removed, why should other parts of that package also not be changed? The future is uncertain – between a much weakened multilateral trading system similar to the days of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); or deep reform of the WTO, in ways that primarily benefit the US and its partners, whilst foreclosing important policy choices for the developing world.
Addressing Developing Countries’ Tax Challenges of the Digitalization of the Economy
By Monica Victor
This Policy Brief sheds light on some of the implications for developing countries concerning the new international taxation global governance structure and the ongoing corporate tax reform process under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project umbrella in the context of the digitalization of the economy. The objective is to inform developing country tax authorities on the issues that may require further South-South cooperation and action to protect taxing rights that are of vital importance for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Firstly, the new international collaborative mechanisms created after the BEPS Project – the Platform for Collaboration on Tax and the Inclusive Framework on BEPS – are described. Secondly, the international tax reform proposals under negotiations in the Inclusive Framework on BEPS are outlined. The final remarks will address the challenges for developing countries to participate in the ongoing international tax reform effectively.
The Core Elements of a Legally Binding Instrument: Highlights of the Revised Draft of the Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights
By Daniel Uribe Terán
Discussions towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument on business and human rights have reached its fifth year. The Chairperson-rapporteur submitted the Revised Draft of the legally binding instrument on 16 July 2019, having in view the comments and proposals received until the end of February 2019. The present policy brief reviews the core elements of the legally binding instrument as they are proposed in the revised draft, with the aim to provide analytical support to States’ delegations and other stakeholders during the negotiations on the binding instrument. This brief examines a number of issues, concerns and legal aspects that have been addressed during the previous sessions of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights and how they have evolved going towards the 5th Session of the OEIGWG.