Health equity in economic and trade policies

UN biodiversity negotiators to work from single text on access, benefits
Mara K: Intellectual Property Watch, 24 November 2009

The recent successful renewal of the mandate of the World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) has inspired attempts to push discussion on biodiversity out of other fora. The World Trade Organization TRIPS discussions and the November 2009 meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity specifically dedicated to traditional knowledge heard proposal that all legal issues related to traditional knowledge should be dealt with by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

UN Special Rapporteur on right to culture recommends new IP regime for pharmaceuticals
Gopakumar KM: Third World Network (TWN) Info Service on Health Issues, October 2015

The United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of right to culture recommended a new intellectual property regime for pharmaceutical products stressing that there is no human right to patent protection. This recommendation was made in the report to the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly. The Special Rapporteur recommended that “the United Nations should convene a neutral, high-level body to review and assess proposals and recommend a new intellectual property regime for pharmaceutical products that is consistent with international human rights law and public health requirements, and simultaneously safeguards the justifiable”. This is drawn from the recommendation of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law appointed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The report also recommends that states have a positive obligation to provide for a robust and flexible system of patent exclusions, exceptions and flexibilities based on domestic circumstances, including through the establishment of compulsory and government use licences when needed. The report further argues that states have a human rights obligation not to support, adopt or accept intellectual property rules, such as TRIPS-Plus provisions, that would impede them from using exclusions, exceptions and flexibilities and thus from reconciling patent protection with human rights. International agreements that do not provide sufficient flexibility should be renounced or modified. The report highlights Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which ensure that measure be put in place to ensure affordability of and access to technologies essential to life and realisation of all human rights.

UnderMining Life: Activists threatened in South Africa
Mazibuko S: Earthlore, April 2016

Sphiwe Mazibuko's 9 minute documentary exposes the intimidation and violence facing anti-mining activists on the Wild Coast and Zululand, in South Africa. Xolobeni residents have fought for 10 years to prevent an Australian company from mining their titanium rich dunes. The film documents how an unwavering response of the Pondo people to protect their traditional Wild Coast lands, where they have lived for over 1500 years, has been met by increasing intimidation and violence with activist lives threatened and attacked.

Understanding the implications of Uganda’s IP reforms
Centre for Health Human Rights and Development: 11 August 2011

In this brief, the Centre for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) outlines the current legislative environment affecting intellectual property (IP) rights in Uganda. The brief also considers the implications of the Industrial Properties Bill on the right to access essential medicines, a proposed piece of legislation that CEHURD argues will undermine efforts to manufacture generics in Uganda. It unnecessarily requires Government to consult the patent owner before producing generics for the public sector. It further requires applicants for a “compulsory license” to go through the lengthy court processes, yet procedures for granting such a licence should be simple and expeditious. Due to a lack of sufficient knowledge at the population level as well as Uganda’s weak negotiating position vis-à-vis other countries and negotiating blocs, CEHURD argues that the current laws and draft laws are not taking advantage of the TRIPS flexibilities, which would allow Uganda to fast track the supply essential medicines to the public sector.

Understanding the links between agriculture and health
Hawkes C, Ruel MT: 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture and the Environment 13 (1), May 2006

Policymaking initiatives in agriculture and public health are often pursued in a parallel and unconnected fashion. Yet coherent, joint action in agriculture and health could have large potential benefits and substantially reduce risks for the poor. Among development professionals there is growing recognition that agriculture influences health, and health influences agriculture, and that both in turn have profound implications for poverty reduction. This recognition suggests that opportunities exist for agriculture to contribute to better health, and for health to contribute to agricultural productivity. The policy briefs presented here draw on a wide body of research conducted within and outside the CGIAR. They provide a historical context to the links between agriculture and health, deal with specific health conditions and agricultural systems, and examine the challenges to linking agriculture and health in policy.

Unequal partners: How EU–ACP Economic Partnership Agreements could harm the world’s poorest countries
Oxfam International: Oxfam Briefing note, 27 September 2006

The Doha ‘Development’ Round of trade talks has stalled, but the world’s poorest countries remain under pressure to open up their markets with potentially disastrous consequences. The EU wants to forge new free trade agreements with 74 of its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP). These imbalanced negotiations of ‘Economic Partnership Agreements’ (EPAs) between the two regions, pit some of the world’s most advanced industrial economies against some of the poorest nations on earth. The EU has an opportunity to develop fairer trading relations with ACP countries, but such extreme disparities in negotiating power could all too easily produce unfair results. The proposed EPAs are a serious threat to the future development prospects of ACP countries, and the forthcoming review of the EPA negotiations must be used to force a radical rethink.

UNITAID warns against measures to restrict access to medicines in EU-India FTA
UNITAID: 9 February 2012

In the lead-up to Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussions during the European Union-India Summit in New Delhi on 10 February 2012, UNITAID has urged both parties to ensure that access to medicines, and particularly AIDS medicines, is not hampered by trade interests via provisions that could undermine the production, registration and availability of generic medicines. The agreement coincides with a delicate time for access to treatment efforts - the suspension of grants by the Global Fund and diminishing resources for health and development, said UNITAID, calling on the European Union to safeguard the right of millions of people in developing countries to continue accessing affordable life-saving medicines produced by the Indian generic industry. AIDS treatment has experienced startling progress over recent years, with almost seven million people starting treatment between 2003 and 2011, largely due to India's ability to produce low-cost, quality-assured generic medicines and to healthy competition among India's producers. However, such provisions as data exclusivity, patent term extensions and border measures could severely legally restrict manufacturers' ability to produce recently developed medicines and patient adapted formulations at low cost and to export those medicines to other developing countries.

Unity in diversity: Governance adaptation in multilateral trade institutions through South-South coalition building
Yu VPB: South Centre, 2008

This paper from the South Centre is concerned with the widening development gap in the setting of new international policy regimes and a changing global economic environment. It discusses participation and developing country governance adaptation issues in the WTO and in the UN Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD). It concludes that developing country group action should be an essential component in global trade governance. Inclusive governance will require clear policy issue and agenda articulation from shared understanding, institutionalised coordination and group leadership mechanisms, good working relationships between individual country delegates and other developing country delegates, and full and continuous institutional support of high professional quality.

Unlocking the potential of migration for inclusive development
Börje EA: Migration Policy Practice III(1), February–March 2013

In this article, the author argues that migration has a role to play in inclusive development and addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for poverty, gender equity and health. Remittances sent to family back home usually help to cover the daily consumption needs, which helps to reduce poverty and hunger. Remittances are, in addition, often invested in health, education and accommodation. Such investments often come with important impacts on the MDGs linked to education and health, particularly where women decide on the use of remittances. Sectors with critical skills shortages can benefit from the transfer of skills through circular migration and return (so-called ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain circulation’). The migration experience can empower women, both as individuals and as a group, by helping them to enter the labour market and earn higher incomes. The transfer of values and ideas brought about by migration (so-called ‘social remittances’) may also facilitate the gender equity goals of the MDGs.

Untangling the web of Antiretroviral Price Reductions
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): July 2013

According to the latest edition of MSF’s report on HIV treatment price and access issues, the price of first- and second-line anti-retrovirals have declined due to increased generic competition, while third-line regimens remain “exorbitantly priced”. For newer HIV medicines, including integrase inhibitors, generic competition is mostly blocked because of patents, and these drugs are more expensive as a result. MSF finds that patents remain a barrier on newer drugs and in middle-income countries, but some countries are using World Trade Organisation-sanctioned flexibilities to issue compulsory licences to increase access to the medicines. Flexibilities are built in to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). MSF has proposed patent opposition (when applications do not meet a country’s patentability requirements) and the issue of compulsory licences in the interest of public health, as ways to bring prices down further. Additionally, MSF claims that free trade agreements continue to pose a threat to access, pointing to the European Union-India Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as examples of agreements with “harmful provisions”.