The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties
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 isbased 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXPswKuywvA
Coronavirus pandemic: the vaccine as exit strategy
A GLOBAL HURDLE RACE AGAINST TIME WITH A SPLIT JURY
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?
Lessons from COVID-19: Pharmaceutical Production as a Strategic Goal
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.
Examining antimicrobial resistance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic
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.
The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan
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.
Intellectual Property, Innovation and Access to Health Products for COVID-19: A Review of Measures Taken by Different Countries
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.
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.
Equitable Access to COVID-19 Related Health Technologies: A Global Priority
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.
Making Covid-19 Medical Products Affordable: Voluntary Patent Pool and TRIPS Flexibilities
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.
COVID-19 Crisis and Developing Countries: Digital Health Perspective
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.
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.
The 73rdWorld Health Assembly and Resolution on COVID-19: Quest of Global Solidarity for Equitable Access to Health Products
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.