South Centre Statement
WHO proposed instrument on pandemics: the Conceptual Zero Draft needs substantial improvement to address global public health needs
We welcome the discussions in the WHO on a new instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. While we appreciate the preparation and sharing with WHO members of the Conceptual Zero Draft (hereinafter ‘the Draft’), we note that more work is needed to address the insufficiency of the tools at the disposal of the WHO that became evident with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed?
By Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
The Doha Declaration’s twentieth anniversary in November 2021 has taken place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience of the past two years has demonstrated that the very factors that necessitated the Declaration—the problems of inequitable access to medicines and other health technologies for the world’s poor—continue to plague us.
Has the promise of the Doha Declaration been betrayed? In this contribution, we critically engage with this question, focusing our appraisal on whether the Doha Declaration has been successful in fulfilling its commitments to: (a) advancing access to health; (b) equity and fairness in the relations between WTO Members States; and (c) recognising perspectives from the developing world in formulating IP policy. Ultimately, we conclude that the promise of the Doha Declaration has failed to materialise.
There are many reasons for this. For instance, developed country governments have intentionally undermined the Declaration by their insistence on inserting more onerous TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, which decimate the limited flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement. And where countries have sought to use such flexibilities, they have been assailed by an over-litigious pharmaceutical industry, and threats by governments such as the US 301 Watch List. For these reasons, we argue for the need for alternative paradigms to challenge Western hegemony and norms regarding IP and other trade-related issues, and for effectively challenging this through the application of a “decoloniality” approach.
Mainstreaming Public Health Considerations in Adjudication of Intellectual Property Disputes: Implications of Specialized IP Courts and General Courts
By Justice (Retd.) Prabha Sridevan
How can the public interest dimension be considered in the adjudication of intellectual property (IP) disputes, in particular those concerning patents on health technologies such as medicines and vaccines? This is the main question addressed by Justice (Retd.) Prabha Sridevan, former Judge of the Madras High Court and former Chairperson of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) of India, as an expert facilitator, at the Asian Regional Course for Judges on Intellectual Property and Public Health organized by the South Centre in August 2021. Justice Sridevan addressed the pros and cons of adjudication through specialized courts vis-à-vis general courts.
Implementación de una exención de los ADPIC relacionados con tecnologías y productos sanitarios para la COVID-19: Evitar reclamaciones en virtud de acuerdos de libre comercio e inversión
Por Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam y Daniel Uribe
Aunque el creciente apoyo de los miembros de la OMC a una propuesta de exención de determinadas obligaciones en virtud del Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC con respecto a los productos sanitarios necesarios para responder a la COVID-19 ha hecho que sea inminente una decisión sobre la exención de los ADPIC, los miembros de la OMC tendrán que aplicar la exención a nivel nacional a través de medidas legislativas, administrativas o judiciales apropiadas, incluidas las órdenes ejecutivas que se han utilizado para aplicar medidas de emergencia en el contexto de la pandemia de la COVID-19. En este sentido, el alcance de la exención de los ADPIC, así como los términos aplicables en los acuerdos de libre comercio (ALC) y los acuerdos internacionales de inversión (AII) también influirán en el espacio de política disponible para que los países apliquen la exención. Será fundamental garantizar un amplio alcance de la exención, así como medidas complementarias para salvaguardar la aplicación de la exención de posibles impugnaciones en el marco de los ALC o los AII. Este documento de investigación analiza algunas opciones que podrían explorarse para permitir la aplicación de la exención de los ADPIC superando los posibles impedimentos que podrían surgir en el marco de dichos acuerdos.
Mise en œuvre d’une dérogation ADPIC pour les technologies et produits de santé pour la COVID-19: prévenir les réclamations dans le cadre des accords de libre-échange et d’investissement
Par Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam et Daniel Uribe
Bien que le soutien croissant des membres de l’OMC pour une proposition de dérogation à certaines obligations de l’Accord sur les ADPIC concernant les produits de santé nécessaires pour répondre à la pandémie COVID-19 ait rendu imminente une décision sur la dérogation ADPIC, celle-ci devra être mise en œuvre au niveau national par les membres de l’OMC par le biais de mesures législatives, administratives ou judiciaires appropriées, y compris par le biais de décrets qui ont été utilisés pour mettre en œuvre des mesures d’urgence dans le contexte de la pandémie COVID-19. À cet égard, la portée de la dérogation ADPIC, ainsi que les termes des accords de libre-échange (ALE) et des accords internationaux d’investissement (AII) applicables, auront également un impact sur la marge de manœuvre dont disposent les pays pour mettre en œuvre la dérogation. Il sera essentiel de garantir un large champ d’application de la dérogation, ainsi que des mesures complémentaires pour protéger la mise en œuvre de la dérogation contre d’éventuelles contestations dans le cadre des ALE ou des AII. Ce document de recherche examine certaines options qui pourraient être explorées pour permettre la mise en œuvre de la dérogation ADPIC en surmontant les obstacles qui pourraient survenir dans le cadre de tels accords.
Implementation of a TRIPS Waiver for Health Technologies and Products for COVID-19: Preventing Claims Under Free Trade and Investment Agreements
by Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam and Daniel Uribe
While increasing support from WTO members for a proposed waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement with regard to health products required for responding to COVID-19 has made a decision on the TRIPS waiver imminent, the waiver will have to be implemented domestically by WTO members through appropriate legislative, administrative or judicial measures, including through executive orders that have been utilized to implement emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the scope of the TRIPS waiver, as well as the terms of applicable free trade agreements (FTAs) and international investment agreements (IIAs) will also impact the policy space available to countries to implement the waiver. Ensuring a broad scope of the waiver, as well as complementary measures to safeguard the implementation of the waiver from potential challenges under FTAs or IIAs will be critical. This research paper discusses some options that could be explored to enable the implementation of the TRIPS waiver by overcoming possible impediments that could arise under such agreements.
The WTO TRIPS Waiver Should Help Build Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity in Africa
By Faizel Ismail
The current global health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has re-focused our attention on the inadequacy of the TRIPS agreement and the patent system to address global public health crises. This time, developing countries must ensure that the TRIPS waiver succeeds in creating the impetus for the building of manufacturing capacity in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, for vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. This is the only effective way in which African countries can reduce their dependence on imports of essential medicines and build their health security, contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, for the poorest countries.
The TRIPS waiver proposal: an urgent measure to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines
by Henrique Zeferino de Menezes
Despite multilateral commitments and political statements of solidarity and cooperation to guarantee the availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines (and other relevant technologies for control and treatment), the scenario after the beginning of vaccination is marked by the deepening of vaccine nationalism, the concentration of inputs and vaccines production, and the uneven distribution of options of vaccine doses already approved for use. This pattern of production restrictions and unequal access will lead to an increase in international inequalities, leaving a large part of the world to have access to vaccines not until 2024. While advanced purchase agreements (APAs) among pharmaceutical companies and some developed countries are multiplying, the proposed mechanisms for voluntary licensing of technologies and the COVAX Facility do not achieve their goal of democratizing access to vaccines. In this sense, the current TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal seems to be the political and institutional response with the greatest potential to guarantee the scaling of the production of pharmaceutical inputs, allowing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to ensure timely, sufficient, and affordable access to all technologies developed to fight COVID-19.
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.
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.