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Call for Action: Intellectual Property and Trade Measures to Address the Covid-19 Crisis by the South Centre 

The South Centre views with concern the attempts by some governments and industry players to monopolize the availability of treatments, diagnostics, medicines, medical supplies and devices needed for their own nationalist agenda or to maximize profit, ahead of societal interest in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The private enforcement of patents and government trade restrictions may pose a dire threat to the containment of this global public health emergency. Governments should act swiftly to put in place legislation and plans to ensure that patents and trade measures do not become barriers for access to those products.

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Open letter from Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre, to the Director-Generals of the World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization.

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Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Patented Medicines: Precedents Relevant to Address COVID-19 

To meet public health needs, such as in the current COVID-19 emergency, governments can use compulsory licenses and government use as a tool for procurement and import of patented medicines. These mechanisms are provided for in most laws worldwide. The WTO TRIPS Agreement, as reaffirmed by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, recognises the right of WTO members to grant compulsory licenses and their freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licenses may be granted. The table provides information of instances of their use.

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Trade Measures Adopted by Countries in Response to COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many WTO members have adopted several measures affecting trade. Some are trade liberalizing; others are trade restrictive. South Centre has elaborated a worksheet that compiles these measures (updated till 16 April) based on available sources of information. The compilation does not intend to be exhaustive. However, it may help members to have information about the landscape of trade measures that may affect them.

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Message from the South Centre at the launch of the “Solidarity Call To Action” by the President of Costa Rica and the Director-General of the WHO

The architecture for access to medicines and vaccines, which is already complex to manage in normal times, requires even more structured actions in times of a pandemic by the scale of the demand and the urgency in meeting it. This call for solidarity to bring together the technologies and treatments related to COVID 19 is part of the necessary solution. It complements other available instruments for States to facilitate access to prevention and treatment for the population, including through the use of the flexibilities of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

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Compilation of Extracts from Selected Country Statements during 73rd World Health Assembly supporting Access to Health Products on COVID-19

The compilation below was done on the basis of published statements on the WHO website ( and the speeches delivered orally for those delegations which have not submitted their statements. This is a non-official document for information only.

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The prolongation of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic threatens developing countries disproportionately, deepening the catastrophic social and economic crisis and reversing the gains made to date to eradicate extreme poverty and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this situation, ensuring timely access to essential commodities by overcoming acute shortages faced by countries due to high demand and disruptions in the supply chain is critical. There is also an urgent need to speed up development of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, at scale, and make these widely available.

As reaffirmed by many delegations in the special session of the WHO Executive Board, transfer of technology and know-how is fundamental for scaling up manufacturing of medical products and equipment. In this regard, India and South Africa have made a joint proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to support the global Covid-19 pandemic response.

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South Centre Statement to the WHA 73 Session (November 2020)

Item 13

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that, despite the magnitude of the global health challenges it has to face, the WHO is currently unable to fully enforce its directives, norms and standards. It also shows that its funding is neither sustainable nor adequate to respond effectively to current and future global health crises. Overreliance on voluntary targeted funding puts at risk its capacity to operate as the global agency responsible for public health. These are some of the main challenges facing the WHO today.

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Guide for the Granting of Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Pharmaceutical Patents (Research Paper 107, April 2020)

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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Equitable Access to COVID-19 Related Health Technologies: A Global Priority (Research Paper 114, June 2020)

By Dr. Zeleke Temesgen Boru

Since COVID-19 was first identified, infections from the virus and the death toll have spiked abysmally. The pandemic has also paralyzed the economies (particularly, global trade, tourism and transport) of many countries. The dire social and psychological ramifications associated with the pandemic are also immense. The threat posed by COVID-19 on global health and the economic downturn resulting thereof necessitates the development of health technologies (such as medicines and vaccines). A global effort to invent new health technologies or the likely application of existing technologies is also underway since the outbreak of the pandemic. Even though the race to develop these technologies can be hailed as a pivotal undertaking, the development of health technologies alone may not expedite equitable access to the outcome of such development. Particularly, the lack of access to health technologies may befall if the conventional model of health technology pricing, which is derived from monopoly rights created by IP protection, is set. However, legal as well as policy tools can be used to overcome such hurdles and ensure global access to health technologies. In this sense, this paper discusses plausible legal and policy options that can help to accelerate access to health technologies targeting COVID-19.

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The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic (Research Paper 116, August 2020)

By Frederick Abbott

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Governments to contemplate measures to override patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to facilitate production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical devices. This paper discusses whether the COVID-19 pandemic may be considered an “emergency in international relations” and how WTO Member States may invoke Article 73 (“Security Exceptions”) of the TRIPS Agreement as the legal basis for overriding IPRs otherwise required to be made available or enforced. It concludes that the pandemic constitutes an emergency in international relations within the meaning of Article 73(b)(iii) and that this provision allows Governments to take actions necessary to protect their essential security interests.

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Re-thinking Global and Local Manufacturing of Medical Products After COVID-19 (Research Paper 118, September 2020)

By Dr. Germán Velásquez

The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since the first quarter of 2020 has reopened the now-urgent discussion about the role of local pharmaceutical production in addressing the health needs in developing countries. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the interdependencies in the global production of pharmaceuticals—no country is self-sufficient. Many industrialized countries are making the decision to repatriate or initiate the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines. Governments are beginning to talk about ‘pharmaceutical sovereignty’ or ‘health security’. If this becomes a reality and the production of pharmaceuticals is led by nationalistic policies, developing countries that still lack manufacturing capacity will have to start or expand the local production of pharmaceuticals, whether at the national or regional level. The war to get access to the future vaccine for COVID-19 does not look easy with these new developments.

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Patent Analysis for Medicines and Biotherapeutics in Trials to Treat COVID-19 (Research Paper 120, October 2020)

By Srividya Ravi

This report provides an analysis of patents covering medicines in trials to treat COVID-19. The aim of the report is to support national patent offices and interested parties in developing countries with information that can serve as guidance for the examination of the claims contained in relevant patents or patent applications.

The medicines considered for the patent analysis in this report are remdesivir, ruxolitinib and favipiravir, and the biotherapeutics tocilizumab, siltuximab and sarilumab.

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The World Health Organization Reforms in the Time of COVID-19  (Research Paper 121, November 2020)

By Germán Velásquez

During its 70-year history, the World Health Organization (WHO) has undergone various reforms led by several Directors-General, including Halfdan Mahler at the Almaty Conference on primary health care in 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland with her “reach out to the private sector” in 1998, and Margaret Chan with her unfinished debate on the role of “non-state actors” in 2012. The organization’s fragility is once again being highlighted, as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that WHO does not have the legal instruments and mechanisms necessary to enforce its standards and guidelines, and that its funding is not sustainable and adequate to respond to the challenge. This paper seeks to identify the main problems faced by WHO and the necessary measures that a reform of the organization would have to take.

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Las reformas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud en la época de COVID-19 (Documento de investigación 121, Noviembre 2020)

Por Germán Velásquez

A lo largo de sus 70 años de historia la OMS ha pasado por varias reformas lideradas por varios directores generales, como Halfdan Mahler en la Conferencia de Alma ata sobre la atención primaria de salud, 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland con su « reach out to the private sector » 1998, Margaret Chan con su inconcluso debate sobre el rol de « los autores no estatales » 2012 . Una vez mas, y de forma contundente la crisis sanitaria del 2020 pone en evidencia la fragilidad de la Organización y nos revela que la OMS no tiene los instrumentos y mecanismos legales necesarios para aplicar sus normas y orientaciones y que su manera de financiamiento no es sostenible y adecuada para responder al desafío de la COVID-19. Este documento trata de identificar cuales son los problemas principales de que sufre la OMS y cuales serian las medidas necesarias que una reforma de la Organización tendría que abordar.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic: R&D and Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (Policy Brief 73, April 2020)

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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La pandémie de COVID-19 : R&D et gestion de la propriété intellectuelle pour l’accès aux tests diagnostiques, aux médicaments et aux vaccins (Rapport sur les politiques 73, Mai 2020)

Par Viviana Muñoz Tellez

La propagation rapide actuelle du COVID-19 met à l’épreuve la capacité des gouvernements et celle de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) à apporter une réponse mondiale coordonnée à la pandémie. Les pays en développement et les pays les moins avancés (PMA), en particulier en Afrique, sont particulièrement vulnérables aux effets de la crise de santé publique. Un domaine prioritaire de collaboration mondiale consiste à faire progresser la recherche et le développement (R&D) de vaccins et de médicaments qui soient disponibles, abordables et accessibles dans le monde entier. Il n’existe actuellement aucun vaccin et aucune thérapie directe pour COVID-19 dont l’innocuité et l’efficacité ont été prouvées. Il est également nécessaire d’accélérer les capacités et les outils d’essai dans les pays en développement et les PMA en leur donnant un accès accru à des diagnostics peu coûteux. L’approche de la gestion des droits de propriété intellectuelle par les institutions de recherche, les entreprises pharmaceutiques et biotechnologiques et les organismes de financement de la R&D aura une incidence décisive sur la disponibilité et l’accès, ainsi que sur le transfert de technologie et de savoir-faire. Les gouvernements doivent s’assurer qu’ils disposent de cadres législatifs et procéduraux leur permettant de surmonter les obstacles liés aux brevets, à l’exclusivité des données et aux secrets commerciaux afin de se procurer et de produire des diagnostics, des vaccins, des médicaments et d’autres produits thérapeutiques pour le COVID-19.

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La pandemia de COVID-19: el fomento de la I+D y la gestión de la propiedad intelectual para acceder a diagnósticos, medicamentos y vacunas (Informe Sobre Políticas 73, Mayo 2020)

Por Viviana Muñoz Tellez

La rápida difusión actual de COVID-19 está poniendo a prueba la capacidad de los gobiernos y de la Organización Mun-dial de la Salud (OMS) para poner en marcha una respuesta mundial coordinada a la pandemia. Los países en desarrollo y los países menos adelantados (PMA), en particular los de África, son particularmente vulnerables a los efectos de la crisis de salud pública. Una esfera prioritaria para la colaboración mundial es el fomento de la investigación y el desar-rollo de vacunas y medicamentos que estén disponibles, sean asequibles y accesibles en todo el mundo. En la actualidad no existe una vacuna ni una terapia directa segura y eficaz probada para COVID-19. También es necesario acelerar la capacidad y los instrumentos de ensayo en los países en desarrollo y los países menos adelantados con un mayor acceso a diagnósticos de bajo costo. El enfoque de la gestión de los derechos de propiedad intelectual por parte de las instituci-ones de investigación, las empresas farmacéuticas y biotecnológicas y las entidades de financiación de la investigación y el desarrollo afectará de manera decisiva a la disponibilidad y el acceso, así como a la transferencia de tecnología y conocimientos técnicos. Los gobiernos deben asegurarse de que disponen de marcos legislativos y de procedimiento que les permitan superar cualquier barrera de patentes, de exclusividad de datos y de secretos comerciales para adquirir y producir diagnósticos, vacunas, medicamentos y otros productos terapéuticos de COVID-19.

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Rethinking R&D for Pharmaceutical Products After the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Shock (Policy Brief 75, April 2020)

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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Repensando la I+D para productos farmacéuticos después del choque de la Coronavirus COVID-19 (Informe sobre políticas 75, Mayo 2020)

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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COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures (Policy Brief 77, May 2020)

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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The 73rd World Health Assembly and Resolution on COVID-19: Quest of Global Solidarity for Equitable Access to Health Products (Policy Brief 77, May 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam, Mirza Alas and Vitor Ido

The annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) held virtually on 18-19 May 2020 discussed the global response to COVID-19 and adopted Resolution WHA73.1 on “COVID-19 Response”. The Resolution reaffirms the role of WHO as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work and it recognizes that all countries should have timely and affordable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines as well as to essential health technologies and equipment to respond to COVID-19. However, the Resolution does not define concrete actions to address the pandemic. Though the Resolution makes a commitment of ensuring access to medical products, vaccines and equipment for all countries in a timely manner, there are no concrete actions defined.  In order to ensure global equitable access, WHO Members should make full use of the flexibilities of the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  and also enhance transparency of costs of research and development (R&D), openness and sharing of data, tools and technologies, and build more capacity through technology transfer.

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Intellectual Property, Innovation and Access to Health Products for COVID-19: A Review of Measures Taken by Different Countries (Policy Brief 80, June 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam

The rising incidence of COVID-19 will require all countries, particularly developing and least developed countries, to be able to procure and manufacture the products required for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Intellectual property (IP) rights over such products can constrain the ability of countries to rapidly procure and produce and supply the products required at a mass scale. This Policy Brief describes the measures and actions taken by different countries to address potential IP barriers to access to the products required for COVID-19. A number of countries, both developed and developing, have adopted measures to enable governments to take action to overcome IP barriers in case they constrain access to the products required for COVID-19. In addition to these measures, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) also allows considerable flexibility to adopt a number of other possible measures which can be considered by developing countries where necessary.

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The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan (Policy Brief 81, July 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam

The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19.  This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.

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Examining antimicrobial resistance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic (Policy Brief 82, July 2020)

By Mirfin Mpundu, Caline Mattar and Mirza Alas

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of health systems not only to be better prepared for the next pandemic but also to address ongoing crises such as antimicrobial resistance. The unfolding crisis due to antimicrobial resistance is, unfortunately, similar to the current health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit at a slower pace. As countries address the pandemic, there is a need to identify interlinkages between the pandemic and antimicrobial resistance and to continue strengthening the actions needed to slow down the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

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Will post COVID-19 pandemic lead to a climate compatible, more just, resilient and sustainable society? (SouthViews 194, 7 May 2020)

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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COVID-19: An Opportunity to Fix Dysfunctional Biomedical R&D System (SouthViews 195, 14 May 2020)

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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Taxing the Digital Economy to Fund the COVID-19 Response (SouthViews 196, 22 May 2020)

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Daniel Uribe Teran

The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global economic growth, raising pressures on revenue authorities to fund the fiscal stimulus necessary to contain the spread of the virus and provide income support to affected households. Accordingly, countries are taking national measures to tax the digital economy as highly digitalized businesses are seeing a rise in sales, subscribers and profits owing to the work from home lockdown measures. The three main policy responses undertaken are digital service taxes, nexus rules based on significant economic presence and withholding taxes on digital transactions. These are briefly summarized here and elaborated in detail in a forthcoming research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI).

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The post-Covid world needs a new social contract (SouthViews 197, 22 May 2020)

By Alfred de Zayas

The post-Covid world requires a new social contract. The United Nations Secretary-General should convene a World Conference on Post-Covid Recovery based on multilateralism and international solidarity. This entails a paradigm shift in the prevailing economic, trade and social models.  Governments bear responsibility for their unwise and inequitable budgetary allocations, which prioritized military expenditures over investment in health, education and people-centered infrastructures. A new functional paradigm on human rights should discard the skewed and artificial division of rights into those of the first, second and third generations and impose new categories of enabling rights, inherent rights, procedural rights and end rights so as to ensure human dignity and development for all.

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COVID-19 Crisis and Developing Countries: Digital Health Perspective (SouthViews 198, 8 June 2020)

By Ambassador Fauzia Nasreen, Dr. Azeema Fareed, Ms. Huma Balouch

Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS)

Technology and Innovation are quintessentially relevant especially in dealing with the multiple threats posed by COVID-19. Most developing countries are already under tremendous stress because of financial constraints, enormous development challenges and technology innovation and knowledge deficiencies. COVID-19 which has disrupted every walk of life is having a multiplier effect on many countries, posing difficult governance choices. Reform and reorientation of the health system and structure is fundamentally important in dealing with the public health issues in the post COVID-19 period, and digital health could help in providing solutions.

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COVID-19 Economy vs. Human Rights: A Misleading Dichotomy (SouthViews 199, 12 June 2020)

By Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky

While COVID-19 is a threat to the rights to life and health, the human rights impact of the crisis goes well beyond medical and public health concerns. The health crisis itself and a number of state measures to contain it-—mainly isolation and quarantine-—are leading the world into an economic recession. States and others need to take preventive and mitigating measures urgently to contain the pandemic and these must entail global cooperation and coordination. Just as the health crisis response must be rooted in human rights law, so too must national and international responses to the drastic economic downturn.

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Making Covid-19 Medical Products Affordable: Voluntary Patent Pool and TRIPS Flexibilities (SouthViews 200, 16 June 2020)

By Sudip Chaudhuri

The proposal of Costa Rica to create a voluntary pool mechanism for medical products and technologies for COVID-19 has evoked huge interest and optimism. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Costa Rica have followed it up through a Solidarity Call emphasizing the need for voluntary licensing on non-exclusive basis to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The success of a voluntary pool critically depends on the willingness of the patentees to join the pool. In a public health crisis, boundaries of public policy must not be determined by the patentees. MPP will work much better if the patentees are compelled or induced to join the pool. International cooperation is important in this regard. Highlighting the virtues of voluntary measures and promoting MPP without adequate emphasis on the use of compulsory licensing and other TRIPS flexibilities, actually weakens the MPP. In the light of the experience of MPP, the basic objective of this paper is to analyze to what extent voluntary pool mechanisms can be relied upon to make COVID-19 medical products affordable and accessible. It is important to appreciate the achievements of MPP. But the constraints under which it operates, and its limitations must also be kept in mind.

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The Weakness of Economic Multilateralism/La debilidad del multilateralismo económico (SouthViews 201, 23 June 2020)

By José Antonio Ocampo/Por José Antonio Ocampo

The weakness of multilateral cooperation was evident at the meetings of the Group of 20 and the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington. The limited international cooperation contrasts with the ambitious domestic policies adopted by some developed countries, and in particular the United States, to manage their crisis. The big losers will be the emerging countries, for whom cooperation has so far been minimal.

La debilidad de la cooperación multilateral fue evidente en las reuniones del Grupo de los 20 y las instituciones de Bretton Woods que tuvieron lugar en Washington. La limitada cooperación internacional contrasta con las ambiciosas políticas internas que han adoptado algunos países desarrollados, y en particular los Estados Unidos, para manejar su crisis. Los grandes perdedores serán los países emergentes, para quienes la cooperación ha sido, hasta ahora, mínima.

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The Weakness of Economic Multilateralism/La debilidad del multilateralismo económico


Lessons from COVID-19: Pharmaceutical Production as a Strategic Goal (SouthViews 202, 17 July 2020)

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

As often said, major crises bring about challenges but also opportunities. The strategic importance of a local pharmaceutical industry has been growingly recognized as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Developing countries should take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen their pharmaceutical industry, including biological medicines. Industrial policies would need to be reformulated under an integrated approach so as to expand value added & create jobs while addressing public health needs. South-South cooperation may also play an important role in increasing the contribution of developing countries to the global production of pharmaceuticals.

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Coronavirus pandemic: the vaccine as exit strategy


By Francisco Colman Sercovich

Sars-CoV-2, a novel pathogen, submits a stern warning, a clarion call, on the huge human costs of shortsightedness, inaction and lessons lost in the face of common predicaments at the global level. Yet, a number of key actors remain oblivious, including ethically-challenged politicians seeking to elbow their way to the front of the queue at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable nations and communities. Contrary to expectations being formed, a safe and effective vaccine for the Covid-19 strain once, if ever, attained, is the best way out but unlikely to do as a silver bullet in the midst of the complexities and unknowns at play.

As a result of the harmful impact of the pandemic and ensuing policy aftermath, the world runs the risk of squandering the gains barely made in the fight against poverty over the last few decades – a looming scenario of egregious global governance failure, in view of the eight close calls recently received (three flu epidemics or near-flu epidemics, two Sars episodes, one Mers episode, Zika & Ebola). A promptly and universally distributed vaccine promises to prevent future disease outbreaks. However, many scientific, economic and distributional hurdles stand in the way. Whilst each day counts, the survival of hundreds of millions of lives hangs in the balance as health issues and those pertaining to livelihoods, nutrition, schooling and deprivation are so closely interdependent. Can we rule out the need to resort to internationally sanctioned legal remedies as an inescapable response?

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The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties (SouthViews 204, 11 August 2020)

By Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah

COVID-19 can increase liability for countries under international investment treaties. Professor M. Sornarajah, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Singapore, discusses in this SouthViews the imminent challenges faced under such treaties by developing countries. The text is based on his presentation at the South Centre webinar on “Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures” held on 30th July 2020. The recording of the webinar is available here:

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Is the right to exclusivity a Hamlet question? (SouthViews 207, 28 September 2020)

By Justice Prabha Sridevan

Today the judicial authority may be faced with balancing patent rights and patients’ rights or right to life. It shall use all the tools at its command and innovate if necessary, but shall rule in favour of life.

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Access to medical supplies and devices — the lesser known story of COVID-19 and medical monopoly (SouthViews 208, 19 October 2020)

By Salimah Valiani

Discussions around access to potential vaccines for COVID-19 are widespread, particularly in the global South. Much less discussed is the lack of access to already existing medical technology crucial to stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus and assisting its most severely affected victims. The latter is the outcome of the monopoly control of medical technology — a phenomenon stretching at least as long as the monopoly of Big PHARMA — though much less understood.

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South Centre Statement to G24 (SouthNews No. 317, 14 April 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a major health calamity with mounting humanitarian costs but also the biggest economic crisis since the Second World War. Immediate debt relief is needed for poor countries with unsustainable debt. The global pandemic requires a global solution and solidarity.

Full Statement 


The COVID-19 Pandemic: Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (SouthNews No. 319, 8 May 2020)

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez and Vitor Ido

The South Centre held an open webinar with Dr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director, and Dr. Viviana Munoz Tellez, Coordinator of the Health, Intellectual Property and Biodiversity (HIPB) Program, on 30 April 2020 to discuss access to diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.  There is an urgent need to ensure that innovations in medical technologies for Covid-19 go hand in hand with affordable access to these, for all. The main principle to move forward is recognition of these technologies and know how as global public goods.

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South Centre Statement at the WHA73 (SouthNews No. 321, 18 May 2020)

Message from the South Centre to the 73rd World Health Assembly

Today we are facing a global health, economic and social crisis, the most serious in the last hundred years. The resolution adopted by this World Health Assembly on COVID-19 should have been more ambitious given the dimension of the current crisis. The response to an exceptional challenge must be exceptional. The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to reflect on whether many health systems and the World Health Organization (WHO) itself were prepared to face this crisis.

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Costa Rica and Chile announced an open, collaborative platform to combat COVID-19 (SouthNews No. 322, 19 May 2020)

By Mirza Alas

On Friday, May 15th the World Health Organization (WHO) held its press briefing for the World Health Assembly on COVID-19. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, noted that the WHO had received a proposal from Costa Rica, and had accepted to assist to set up a health technology repository for vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and any other tools that may work against COVID-19. A platform for open, collaborative sharing of knowledge, data and intellectual property on existing and new health tools to combat COVID-19 will be launched. Dr. Tedros noted that new health tools would not end the pandemic without equitable access to them. Moreover, traditional market models will not be able to deliver at the scale that is needed to cover the entire globe; emphasizing solidarity within and between countries and the private sector is essential to overcome these difficult times. Dr. Tedros made a call for leaders to come together.

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Communiqué from Africa’s Leadership in COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Virtual Conference (SouthNews No. 324, 2 July 2020)


African Union (AU) Ministers of Health and Heads of Delegation commit to scale collective effort for access to COVID-19 vaccines, to promote local manufacturing and use of flexibilities of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), at the COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Virtual Conference held on 24-25 June 2020.

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WTO TRIPS Council discusses national IP measures and TRIPS flexibilities in the context of COVID-19 (SouthNews No. 327, 7 August 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam

A regular session of the TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council was held virtually on 30 July 2020. This session offered the first opportunity for the World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to discuss intellectual property (IP) related issues in the context of COVID-19. Discussions focused on national measures taken by various countries in relation to IP in response to COVID-19 as well as the scope of the use of TRIPS flexibilities across the spectrum of various IP rights in order to ensure rapid development, scaled up manufacturing of and affordable, timely and equitable access to various technologies and products required to respond to COVID-19. South Africa made a strong general statement pointing to the need to consider new bold measures that will comprehensively and expeditiously address IP challenges.

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EU Parliament adopts resolution on public health strategy post-COVID-19 based on use of TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to health technologies (SouthNews No. 329, 12 August 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam

The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the post-COVID-19 European Union (EU) health strategy that calls upon the European Commission (EC) and EU member States to make use of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities, including granting compulsory licenses, ensure joint procurement and transparency of research and development (R&D) costs and pricing, as well as explore alternatives to the existing intellectual property based model of incentivizing biomedical research and development.

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COVID-19 impact actions across Africa. First-hand information from policymakers and leading experts (SouthNews No. 330, 19 August 2020)

By Rajesh Eralil and Youba Sokona

Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, has generally low levels of socio-economic development and modern energy usage. The COVID-19 outbreak and its consequent economic downturn present additional challenges and pose questions requiring urgent answers. Success of the pandemic measures depends upon, among other elements, a strategic vision reflecting current situation and future uncertainties; and aligning interests of all stakeholders. In order to build such a strategic vision, the South Centre, the African Energy Commission (AFREC) of the African Union and the Clean Energy Innovations Partnership (CEIP) are organizing  a series of webinars entitled “Energy for sustainable development in Africa in the post-COVID-19 world – looking for the New Normal” and have invited leading experts to facilitate information gathering and to generate ideas for further work on strategies development and stakeholders’ engagement necessary for the continent’s energy transition in the post-COVID-19 world.

In the first webinar “COVID-19 impact actions across Africa. First-hand information from policymakers and leading experts”, held on 16 July 2020, we discussed the multifaceted effects of COVID-19 in the continent and on different stakeholders and which approaches experts and policy makers propose to better respond to the crisis and be well prepared for the recovery era.

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Innovación y propiedad intelectual en escenarios pospandemia (SouthNews No. 331, 20 August 2020)

by Derecho al Dia

Los días 23 de junio, 7 y 21 de julio tuvo lugar el seminario “Innovación y propiedad intelectual en escenarios pospandemia”, organizado en conjunto por el Centros de Estudios Interdisciplinarios de Derechos Industrial y Económico (CEIDIE) y el South Centre.

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Sustainable Energy for Africa: transition through growth. How to boost output, improve access and reduce impact on the nature and society? Technologies, scenarios, strategies, sources of finance and business models (SouthNews No. 335, 11 September 2020)

By Dmitry Kalinin and Rajesh Eralil

On July 22, 2020 the successful series of webinars on COVID-19 response and post-COVID development in Africa was continued with an international discussion on “Sustainable Energy for Africa: transition through growth. How to boost output, improve access and reduce impact on the nature and society? Technologies, scenarios, strategies, sources of finance and business models”.

This second webinar in the series focused on practical solutions to increase energy access and advance the energy transition in the context of the Covid crisis and recovery. Leading African and international experts presented specific challenges and solutions.

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Enhance South-South cooperation in the era of COVID-19 and the recovery process (SouthNews No. 336, 12 September 2020)

Carlos Correa, Executive Director of South Centre

On the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the United Nations (UN) South-South Cooperation (SSC) Day, we should celebrate the great achievements made over the years, highlight the immense challenges ahead in flattening the curve of COVID-19 and recover better through leveraging South-South and Triangular cooperation (SSTrC).

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South Centre co-organizes discussions on Covid-19 Vaccines in Brazil (SouthNews No. 337, 18 September 2020)

By Vitor Ido

The South Centre jointly organized with the School of Magistrates of the Second Federal Region of Brazil (EMARF-2) two webinars to discuss the main issues pertaining to Covid-19 vaccines in Brazil. The first webinar, focused on an analysis and on solutions in relation to the law of intellectual property (IP), was held on 7 July 2020. The second webinar, focused on aspects of access, regulation and competition related to Covid-19 vaccines, took place on 5 August 2020.

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COVID-19 and the right to development (SouthNews No. 338, 21 September 2020)

Intervention of Dr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre, at the biennial panel discussion on the right to development, 45th session of the Human Rights Council held on 17 September 2020 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

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Tax policy options for funding the post-COVID recovery in the Global South (SouthNews No. 339, 22 September 2020)

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

The South Centre in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Tax Justice organized a webinar on the theme, “Tax policy options for funding the post-COVID recovery in the Global South” on 23 July 2020. The primary objective of the webinar was to provide developing countries with a set of practical policy options that could be used to raise revenue from international taxation. A secondary objective was to lay out the opportunities and risks in multilateral negotiations on the taxation of the digitalized economy now ongoing in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework, which is in reality a much larger discussion on the redistribution of taxing rights between source and residence countries. The speakers examined the challenging international economic context for developing countries and discussed policy options for developing countries both at the domestic and international levels.

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Action at the WTO is needed to accelerate research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products to combat Covid-19: Proposal from India and South Africa (SouthNews No. 341, 5 October 2020)

By Viviana Munoz Tellez

India and South Africa are calling for the WTO Members to agree to waive some of the obligations on protection and enforcement of patents and other intellectual property rights during the Covid-19 pandemic. The South Centre encourages all WTO Members to support the proposal in the upcoming TRIPS Council meeting on 10-11 October 2020 to forward a request to the General Council for the adoption of the decision text.

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High-Level Representatives from Governments, IGOs and NGOs reflect on the role for WHO’s C-TAP to ensure access to COVID-19 health technologies (SouthNews No. 343, 8 October 2020)

By Vitor Ido and Mirza Alas 

On 25 September 2020, the Government of Costa Rica, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and the PATHFINDERS (for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, hosted by the Center on International Cooperation, New York University (NYU)) organized a high-level event to discuss how to ensure access to COVID-19 health technologies, with a particular focus on the role of and need for the Costa Rican-proposed and WHO-managed COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

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The 74th UN General Assembly Adopts New Resolutions on COVID-19 Response (SouthNews No. 344, 9 October 2020)

By Mirza Alas and Nirmalya Syam

On 11th September the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) adopted an omnibus resolution titled “Comprehensive and coordinated response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic” (document A/RES/74/306), and another resolution titled “United response against global health threats: combating COVID-19” (document A/RES/74/307). These resolutions follow the adoption of two previous resolutions by the General Assembly on “Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)” and the resolution on “International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19.”

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Full Statement


WHO´s Executive Board assesses current COVID-19 response and requests to be more involved in the review processes (SouthNews No. 346, 20 October 2020)

By Mirza Alas and Vitor Ido

The World Health Organization´s (WHO) Executive Board (EB), comprised of 34 individuals nominated by Member States of the organization, met in a special session on COVID-19 response on 5-6 October 2020.

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WTO TRIPS Council discusses major proposals from developing and least developed countries for waiving certain TRIPS obligations and extension of transition period for LDCs (SouthNews No. 347, 23 October 2020)

By Nirmalya Syam

A regular session of the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council held on 15-16 October discussed two major proposals submitted by developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs). In addition, this session of the TRIPS Council, chaired by Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter of South Africa, also discussed several standing agenda items. These included an annual review of the special compulsory licensing system incorporated under article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement, and the issues relating to non-violation and situation complaints under TRIPS.

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WHO/UNICEF webinar training on WASH for health care facilities (South Centre News on AMR 38, 8 April 2020)

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are currently organizing a mini training series through webinars to help increase capacity related to water, sanitation and hygiene interventions (WASH) for health care facilities (HCF) as guidance for COVID-19. As WASH interventions are critical in preventing all infections, they are a vital element in addressing antimicrobial resistance, in addition to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Webinar Details 


WHO recommends measures to improve antimicrobial use during the COVID-19 pandemic (South Centre News on AMR 41, 2 July 2020)

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez

Antimicrobial stewardship involves appropriate prescription and optimized use of antimicrobials. The July issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) features an editorial arguing that antimicrobial stewardship activities should be integrated into the COVID-19 pandemic response across the broader health system.

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Civil Society press for actions on Antimicrobial Resistance (South Centre News on AMR 42, 15 July 2020)

The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition (ARC), a coalition of over 25 civil society organizations working to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from a One Health perspective, has published its June newsletter highlighting key activities by its members relating to the response to COVID-19 and AMR. The South Centre is also a member of ARC as an intergovernmental partner.

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NEW South Centre Policy Brief: Examining antimicrobial resistance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic (South Centre News on AMR 43, 16 July 2020)

The South Centre is pleased to announce the publication of Policy Brief No. 82 entitled “Examining antimicrobial resistance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic” by Mirfin Mpundu, Caline Mattar and Mirza Alas.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic: Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (Webinar), 30 April 2020

Developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular in Africa are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A priority area for global collaboration is to ensure that diagnostics, vaccines and medicines 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, consistently with the TRIPS Agreement, any patent, data exclusivity and trade secret barriers to procure and produce COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and other therapeutics. This webinar provided participants with information on recent South Centre Covid-19 publications.

Watch the recorded Speakers’ Addresses


Tax Policy Options For Funding the Post-COVID Recovery in the Global South (Webinar Series on Development and COVID-19), 23 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected tax revenue collection globally, with the Global South especially hard-hit. The decline in economic activity has meant reduced corporate profits, declining consumption and increasing unemployment. This in turn implies declining revenue from corporate income taxes, goods and services taxes and personal income taxes. Resource-rich countries are especially being affected by the drop in global commodity prices and decline in international trade. This reduction in revenue collection is limiting developing countries’ ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It is therefore necessary to explore what are the concrete tax policy measures developing countries can take to raise revenue at this critical time. Measures pertaining to the digitalized economy are of particular importance given the increasing sales of tech companies and highly digitalized businesses during the lockdown.

The webinar will hence feature prominent voices of the Global South on the national and international tax policy options for funding the post-COVID-19 recovery. Speakers will also provide an overview of the multilateral discussions in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on taxing the digitalized economy, a topic of seminal importance as it is in effect a redistribution of taxing rights between source and residence jurisdictions. The speakers are a diverse mix representing tax administrations, academia and civil society from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Watch the recording of the webinar


Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures (Webinar Series on Development and COVID-19), 30 July 2020

Developing and least developed countries (LDCs), particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNCTAD, foreign direct investment flows will drop drastically up to 40% during 2020-2021. A number of developed and developing countries, including LDCs, have introduced a number of measures aimed at limiting the effects of the pandemic, protecting domestic industries for strategic sectors (e.g. health industry, energy sector, telecommunication, food production, etc.), and safeguarding the real economy, particularly by offering bonds or bailouts for companies and the public in general.

Law firms and risk managers are already advising foreign investors about the possibility of initiating investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) claims against host States on the grounds of the alleged breach of their investors’ rights, based on provisions such as : (i) full protection and security; (ii) fair and equitable treatment; (iii) national treatment and most-favoured nation treatment; and (iv) unlawful expropriation.

The webinar is designed as an open space to foster dialogue and share views among developing countries and other strategic partners for identifying and assessing the different mechanisms for States to face these challenges at the multilateral, regional and domestic level. With several calls being made for establishing a multilateral ISDS moratorium during the COVID-19 crisis and response, the webinar will consider these options and other possible regional and domestic responses based on the principles of dispute prevention. This webinar is part of a webinar series being organized by the South Centre with the objective of gathering experts, policy-makers, government officials, practitioners and other stakeholders to discuss the different measures adopted by States to tackle the different challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic in their efforts to achieve and sustain the progress towards sustainable development in developing countries.

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Meeting on Waiver to Certain Provisions of the WTO TRIPS Agreement to Support Effective COVID-19 Response, 9 November 2020

Discussion and clarification on the proposal under consideration by WTO TRIPS Council for a temporary waiver to certain TRIPS Agreement provisions.

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