Substantive progress eluded the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Interregional Negotiating Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), which met from 18-21 September in Montreal, Canada. This third attempt at finding consensus on key aspects of the text was unsuccessful and negotiations were postponed to October 2010. At stake is a binding instrument aimed at protecting against extraction of biological resources without proper access to or benefits from products arising from them. Outstanding issues include what genetic resources may be excluded from the text, such as human genetic resources, or human pathogens, and the benefits to indigenous peoples and local communities who are often the most affected by biopiracy.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
British firms are reported to have acquired more land in Africa for controversial biofuel plantations than companies from any other country, a Guardian investigation has revealed. Half of the 3.2m hectares (ha) of biofuel land identified in countries from Mozambique to Senegal is linked to 11 British companies, more than any other country. There are no central records of land acquisitions in Africa, but research by the Guardian revealed 100 biofuel projects in sub-Saharan Africa by 50 companies in more than 20 countries. The authors note that the revelation of the central role of UK companies in biofuels coincides with a report from Oxfam forecasting that the price of staple foods will more than double in the next 20 years. The report identifies biofuels as a factor and demands that western governments end biofuel policies that divert food to fuel for cars.
This book presents a detailed account of South-South collaboration in the health biotechnology sector. In particular, it casts light on the factors that guide effective scientific partnerships and exchanges. The authors explore these issues by combining a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including co-publications analyses, in-depth surveys of biotechnology firms and interviews with around 350 researchers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers in developing countries. The key findings indicate that the level of South-South collaboration among researchers in health biotechnology remains low but is slowly increasing and that entrepreneurial collaboration seems to be more prevalent. Collaboration has helped to extend capacity in health biotechnology research, manufacturing and innovation to an increasing number of developing countries and thereby lessened the divide between them. Such collaboration has strongly focused on shared health needs and has helped to increase the availability of more affordable health products and services. Governments and non-governmental organisations have also been able to foster closer ties between researchers by establishing programmes and extending funding for collaboration. Nevertheless there is still a lack of dedicated resources.
A bipartisan group of Senators today introduced the African Health Capacity Investment Act of 2007, a comprehensive bill to help sub-Saharan African nations confront the alarming shortage of health workers; thirteen countries on the continent have fewer than 5 physicians per 100,000 people. The United States has 549 physicians per 100,000 people. "Increased funding from governments and private donors to expand health services holds the promise of saving millions of lives in Africa. But, a severe shortage of health workers on the ground represents a tight bottleneck slowing the flow of resources to patients who need them," said Dr Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and a founder of Partners In Health. "Sub-Saharan Africa faces a shortage of more than 800,000 doctors, nurses, and midwives and an overall shortage of 1.5 million healthcare workers. The bill introduced, particularly with its focus on harnessing the power of paid community health workers, is a much needed step toward closing this gap."
The mining industry in South Africa is argued by the authors to contribute significantly to the hardship experienced by black women in rural areas of South Africa. For decades, mining houses have drawn in young black men for labour. Those who have contracted the preventable but incurable lung disease, silicosis, come home to die a slow and painful death. It is then the women in rural communities who are left to provide support and care under the most adverse conditions. As part of its efforts to support pending litigation against the mining industry to secure long overdue compensation to mineworkers who contracted silicosis and for the women who took care of them, Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) has been conducting research in the rural Eastern Cape. The research is making visible how the gold mining industry’s failure to prevent silicosis has forced rural black women further into the margins of society. There are several ongoing cases on this. The Legal Resources Centre, Richard Spoor Attorneys and Abrahams Kiewitz are representing 56 applicants in a class action lawsuit where current and former mineworkers and surviving dependants of mineworkers who died from the disease are demanding their right to compensation for silicosis and TB contracted in mines. The case will be heard in the South Gauteng High court in October 2015.
This synthesis paper offers a broad framing of the issues to consider in implementing the proposed African Agenda 2063. In doing so, it re-interprets the African historical experience to underscore the point that the core pillar and contribution of Agenda 2063 must be to help translate centuries of efforts to regain freedom, and to rebuild the self-reliance and dignity of Africans. The paper also identifies some of the possible challenges to which the Agenda must respond if it is to be effective and relevant, the existing policy and institutional pillars into which it fits and on which it must build, and a broad menu of issues which would need to be further reflected upon towards its full-fledged articulation. A set of background papers annexed to the synthesis offer a more in-depth assessment of some of these issues, as a foretaste of the kind of additional technical work required in the course of articulating a robust 2063 Agenda for the continent.
African Heads of States and Governments convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 23-30 January 2012 to launch a continent-wide free trade agreement (CFTA). The Summit focused on solutions to the numerous impediments that hinder intra-African trade including: trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure and trade policy. In this article, the author calls for greater regional integration given African countries smaller markets. Africa’s regional economic communities are adopting uniform policies among their members but they are expected to trade with the rest of the world under various international trade regimes, which is argued to undermine regional integration and trade diversification. The author observes that trade preferences should be viewed only as a temporary arrangement – what is needed is to extend the period of the current trade regimes (say until 2020) and consolidate their conditions in a manner that supports manufacturing and consolidates regional markets. International partners and African countries should adopt a policy that revolves around access to high-income and emerging market countries linked to progress in integration with neighbouring countries.
Big Pharma could land billions of dollars in annual sales that it would have lost to generic competitors thanks to a Food and Drug Administration backlog of applications for generic drugs. The article dissects the potential advantages and disadvantages, including it being bad news for generic drug makers like the industry leader Teva Pharmaceuticals, but great news for Big Pharma companies which can continue to sell their branded drugs after their patents have expired without any generic competition.
Amid news that the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, today will announce Brazil’s intention to issue a compulsory license for Merck’s HIV/AIDS drug Efavirenz, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest US provider of HIV/AIDS healthcare, education and prevention and operator of free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, hailed the move as a victory for global AIDS activism and AIDS patients worldwide.
The Brazilian Patent Office has rejected a patent application by Gilead on the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), in a move that could increase access to a key HIV/AIDS medicine across the developing world. The decision means that the medicine can now be produced by Brazilian generic companies or imported from other generic sources from abroad. This is the first time that a patent related to an antiretroviral (ARV) medicine has been rejected as a result of a pre-grant opposition in Brazil. The patent office in Brazil rejected it on the grounds that it lacks inventiveness – one of the key requirements for a patent in Brazilian and international patent law. The consequences extend far beyond Brazil’s borders and may set a precedent for other developing nations.