The South Commission’s report “The Challenge to the South” was launched in 1990

3 August 1990: The Report recommended creating a South Secretariat that would provide the technical foundation (analysis, research and negotiation support) needed by the South for working collectively. The South Centre was established in November 1990 to follow-up the Report’s recommendations and became an intergovernmental organization established by treaty in 1995.

31 July 1995: The Agreement to Establish the South Centre entered into force

The South Centre was established as a permanent intergovernmental organization mandated to provide policy advice, undertake research and analysis, support coordinated actions by developing countries in negotiating processes, and promote South-South cooperation.

“As the premier source of research on issues affecting the South, and growing out of the work and experience of the South Commission, the (South) Centre plays a role whose value for the developing world cannot be underestimated”

Nelson Mandela, in his speech to the Second Meeting of the Council of Representatives of the South Centre held in New York, in 1998.

The South Conference reviews the challenges ahead

The annual South Conference of the South Centre has become a major event for developing countries to review the state of the world, their development prospects, and the continuing and emerging challenges that the South faces.

North-South Dialogue

The South Centre seeks to promote North-South dialogue on issues of common global concern on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Promoting the South at international events

The South Centre participates in major international conferences, particularly those supporting South-South cooperation such as summits of the G77 and China, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Asian-African Conference. In the organizations where the South Centre holds observer status (UN General Assembly, WHO, UNCTAD, UNFCCC, WTO, WIPO among many others) it promotes the views and perspectives of the South.

Providing analysis on global macroeconomic and financial issues

The South Centre carries out forward-thinking analyses of global macroeconomic and financial issues, highlighting the development implications and prospects for the South and providing recommendations for appropriate action.

Addressing the challenges of climate change

The South Centre is actively engaged in the climate change and sustainable development negotiations where it promotes the development rights and interests of developing countries.

Making the global trade system fairer and inclusive

Making the trade and investment systems fair and inclusive to the benefit of all its members has always been one of the main priorities of the South Centre. In this regard, the South Centre assists developing countries in understanding the development implications of WTO, free trade and investment agreements.

Innovation, health, and development of the South

Innovation, health and development are inter-linked issues that affect the peoples of the South. These are areas in which the South Centre continues to engage in to identify specific concerns  of developing countries (such as access to medicines, transfer of technology, antibiotic resistance, biodiversity protection, intellectual property rights).

Helping create future leaders of the South

Creating an informed South for the future depends on providing information and analyses to young future developing country policymakers.


The South Centre provides seminars and workshops to expose students, policymakers, and other professionals from the South to multilateral policy issues that affect the development of their countries.

South Unity in diversity, South Progress through cooperation

Promoting South-South cooperation through cooperation with the South’s other institutions such as the G77, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and regional organizations is an important part of the South Centre’s work.

South Unity in action

Promoting South-South cooperation in practice at multilateral policy negotiations is a key aspect of the South Centre’s work, as it seeks to build South unity and progress.

From the South Commission to the South Centre

The journey continues in strengthening the multilateral intergovernmental policy research institution of the South towards South Unity and South Progress.


Map shows South Centre Membership as of 2015.

The WHO “Red Book” on Access to Medicines and Intellectual Property – 20 Years Later

Bk_2015_WHO Red Book_EN_001

CHF 6.00CHF 12.00

Authors: Germán Velásquez and Pascale Boulet

Language: English

Publisher: South Centre

Publishing Place: Geneva

Publishing Year: 2015

ISBN 978-92-9162-045-6


No. of pages: 184

Category: .

About the Book:

The publication in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Essential Drugs Department of the document “Globalization and Access to Drugs: Implications of the WTO/TRIPS Agreement” marked a point in time in the movement to ensure access to essential medicines for all. It had been drafted to implement a 1996 World Health Assembly resolution that constituted the first mandate given by countries to WHO to work on intellectual property in relation to health. The publication, often referred to as ‘the WHO red book’, marked the beginning of an international policy process to address the issue of innovation and access to essential medicines.

The WHO publication triggered a series of reactions from the pharmaceutical industry, the US Government and the World Trade Organization, reproaching WHO for stepping out of its role. In light of these attacks, the then Director General of WHO, G.H. Brundtland, decided to send the document to be revised by three independent academics specializing in intellectual property. The letters and documents criticizing the WHO publication as well as the review by the three international experts are reproduced in this book.

People living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries were dying because they could not afford the life-saving new antiretroviral treatments priced between USD10,000 and USD12,000 a year. Today, an increasing number of new medicines are protected by patents in the developing world and remain priced out of reach of patients and governments, as illustrated by cancer drugs and the new, very effective drug against hepatitis C priced at USD1,000/pill in the US. The escalation of prices of new patented medicines is already leading to unjustifiable medical access restrictions even in developed countries.


About the Authors:

Germán Velásquez is Special Adviser for Health and Development at the South Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. Until May 2010, he was Director of the WHO Secretariat on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, at the Director General’s Office, in Geneva. He is a pioneer in the debate on health, intellectual property (IP) and access to medicines.

Pascale Boulet is a lawyer specializing in international public law with over 15 years’ experience in public health, international pharmaceutical and IP policies. She has worked with various public health organizations as IP and policy adviser, including the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines and the WHO Department on Essential Medicines. She now works as an independent consultant in medicines law and policy.


Table of Contents (.PDF)

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