Health equity in economic and trade policies

BRICS Health Minister’s meeting in Beijing: Focusing on access to medicine
Ren M, Zhao C and Chen L: Health Diplomacy Monitor 2(4): 13-14, August 2011

At the BRIC Health Minister’s meeting, held on 11 July 2011 in Beijing, the theme was access to medicine, framed by the Beijing Declaration’s affirmation of the importance of technology transfer among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the critical role of generic medicines in expanding access to antiretroviral medicines for all. The Health Ministers agreed to establish and encourage a global health agenda to promote innovation and universal access to affordable medicines, vaccines and other health technologies with assured quality, in support of reaching the MDGs and meeting other public health challenges. A powerful alliance could be expected on increasing access to new and innovative antiretroviral therapies (ART) for HIV and AIDS, and developing additional diagnostic tools and treatment for tuberculosis (TB), malaria as well as the neglected diseases. While committed to supporting the TRIPs safeguards and the Doha declaration on TRIPs, the BRICS countries are also determined to ensure that international trade agreements do not undermine TRIPs flexibilities, so as to ensure the sustainable delivery of low-cost quality medicines to low- and middle-income countries.

BRICS increasingly pivotal role in the continent
South African Foreign Policy Initiative: Open Society Foundation for South Africa, 12 April 2012

The fourth annual BRICS summit, held in March 2012 under the theme of "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity", sought to strengthen ties between the five countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in order to heighten bargaining power. And while the global media is focused on China in Africa, the author of this article argues that they are missing out on the story of trade between Africa and remaining partners Russia, India and Brazil. Outside of China, these countries remain some of the largest players in South-South relations and on the African continent. Trade between Brazil and Africa tripled from 2004-2010, totaling over $20 billion, while Indian trade with Africa reached $60 billion in 2011, with both countries expecting increased trade with the continent. And while Russian activity on the African continent remains low - at $7.3 billion in 2008 - it is also expected to grow.

BRICS-Johannesburg simultaneously disappoints and threatens
Bond P: Pambazuka News, August 2018

The author asks whether the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc can rise to the talk in Johannesburg about counter-hegemonic prospects during the BRICS summit held in the last week of July. However he also notes that their ideological diversity means that an excellent opportunity for this was lost and that the unity came rather from a support for mercantilist-neoliberalism. This he notes points to progressive international reform being practically impossible at present. He noted that the BRICS further distorted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during its 2015 vote restructuring. Four of the five countries took much greater shares for themselves (aside from South Africa which lost 21 percent of its vote) at the expense mainly of poorer countries. He argues that the main site to consider antidote analysis and news is “brics from below,” a tradition of counter-summit critique begun in Durban five years ago, and also witnessed in Fortaleza in 2014, Goa in 2016 and Hong Kong in 2017. and as found in a protest led by four Goldman Environmental Prize winners and their organisations and allies: Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa, Bobby Peek of groundWork, Thuli Makama of OilChange International and Des D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. As one outcome the largest proposed mega-project made at prior BRICS summits in 2014 and 2015 on US $100 billion worth of nuclear energy reactors as a deal between former South African president Jacob Zuma and Putin, is now on indefinite hold.

BRICS: The strategic road map
Klomegah K: Pambuzuka News 735, July 2015

After three days of high-level summit deliberations, the BRICS group of emerging nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have laid out the strategic road map that will tackle development and infrastructure projects, and seek close economic cooperation under a 'Strategy of Economic Partnership' that will run till 2020. The Strategy identifies priority areas of BRICS cooperation - in power, manufacturing, mining, agribusiness, innovative technologies and other areas. It is aimed at expanding multilateral business cooperation with the goal of stepping up social and economic development, and increasing the competitiveness of BRICS countries in the global economy. The document refers to collaboration in developing technology and innovation in pharmaceuticals in 'mutually beneficial joint projects'.

Broad plan on intellectual property and innovation in developing countries approved at WHO
New W: Intellectual Property Watch, 22 May 2009

Applause broke out at the conclusion of the annual World Health Assembly as agreement was reached at the end of a five-year process to devise a plan for boosting research and development on and access to drugs needed by developing countries. Now with the full assembly’s approval, the focus turns to five-year implementation and as-yet unclear ways to pay for it. ‘This is a critical resolution, and we have come a long way to the place we are today,’ committee meeting Chair Stephen McKernan said. The approved global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property aims by 2015 to train over 500,000 research and development workers, improve research infrastructure, national capacity and technology transfer, and lead to numerous other outcomes such as creating 10 public access compound libraries and 35 new health products (vaccines, diagnostics and medicines).

Building blocks for equitable growth: lessons from the BRICS
Vandemoortele M, Bird K, Du Toit A, Liu M, Sen K and Veras Soares F: Overseas Development Institute Working Paper 365, January 2013

Five key emerging market economies, commonly termed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have been lauded for their stellar economic growth and resilience through the 2008/09 financial crisis. According to this paper, they are becoming models of development for development practitioners, researchers and other emerging economies. However, not all people in these countries have benefited equally from growth. Some countries have seen enormous increases in income inequality – specifically China, India and South Africa – while Brazil has enjoyed a reduction. What can be learnt, in terms of the challenges and successes of reconciling growth and equity, from the BRICS’ recent growth? The authors examine the experiences of four of the BRICS – Brazil, China, India and South Africa – and identify four key factors shaping the countries’ pattern of growth: access to assets, above all skills, to enable people to participate in activities that generate income, and ensuring access to land; investment in productive activities that generate jobs and opportunities for the majority; social transfers to guarantee minimum incomes to those who cannot work or cannot find work; and a political-economic context that has inclusion as a priority.

Building bridges out of poverty
Policy Brief (2), January 2008

With less than seven years to go before the attainment of the universal millennium development goals (MDGs), the southern Africa region is still battling with infrastructure issues which might stifle the region’s progression towards the achievement of the goals. In its January policy briefing Building Bridges Out of Poverty, the Southern Africa Trust examines how transport, energy and water infrastructure in the region can facilitate intra-regional trade and investment as well as sound management and development of water resources. This article discusses how infrastructure development can strengthen regional integration to overcome poverty in southern Africa.

Bush USTR head Bob Portman violates executive order that protects Africa from trade pressures on medicine patents
The Huffington Post: Love J: 1 March 2006

James Love, describes his "discussion with trade officials and public health groups from Southern Africa about the most recent round of negotiations involving the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Rob Portman, the head of the USTR, is violating a May 10, 2000 Presidential Executive Order, which prohibits the USTR from pressuring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to have rules for intellectual property rights on medicines that exceed the norms set out in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Business and human rights: States’ duties don’t end at the national borders A new UN General Comment
UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights: UN, Geneva, 2017

States should control corporations across national borders to protect communities from the negative impacts of their activities, UN human rights experts have said in an authoritative new guidance * on the Obligations of States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in the context of business activities. “States should regulate corporations that are domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction. This refers to corporations which have their statutory seat, central administration or principal place of business on their national territory,” the experts of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights say in the guidance*, officially termed the General Comment, published today. In practice, the Committee expects home States of transnational corporations to establish appropriate remedies, guaranteeing effective access to justice for victims of business-related human rights abuses when more than one country is involved. In light of the practices revealed by the Panama Papers and the Bahamas Leaks, the General Comment emphasizes that States should ensure corporate strategies do not undermine their efforts to fully realize the rights set out in the Covenant. The new General Comment sets out what States can and must do in order to ensure that companies do not violate rights such as the right to food, housing, health or work, which the States themselves are bound to respect: “Businesses cannot ignore that the expectations of society are changing. The first ones to change shall be rewarded by consumers, whose purchasing choices are increasingly driven by immaterial aspects — the reputation of the company, and the ethical and sustainability dimensions associated with its products.” The issue of business and human rights has been addressed recently in different forums, including the Human Rights Council and the International Labour Conference, and through a combination of tools — regulations, self-imposed codes of conduct, economic incentives and action plans. Zdzislaw Kedzia, the Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights noted that “It may be tempting for States to seek refuge behind the initiatives taken by the corporate sector, rather than adopting the appropriate regulatory and policy initiatives that they must adopt. Our General Comment seeks to recall their obligations under the Covenant and define the role they must assume in regulating corporate conduct.”

Calling for a New Global Economic Order
Peoples Health Movement; Medicus Mundi International; G2H2: Astana 2018

In 1978, the Alma-Ata International Conference on Primary Health Care stated, in its final declaration, that “economic and social development, based on a New International Economic Order, is of basic importance to the fullest attainment of health for all.” This video raises why this call is still relevant today and why it should be recalled and renewed now we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, on 25-26 October 2018.