Health equity in economic and trade policies

Updating economic partnership agreements to today’s global challenges: Essays on the future of economic partnership agreements
Jones E and Marti DF: GMF Economic Policy Programme, 19 November 2009

African and Pacific countries continue to negotiate the challenging Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union. These new agreements have the potential to help African countries accelerate their economic growth and develop more resilient economies. However, the presence of negotiating deadlocks or a sense of fatigue as well as the lack of real appetite for these agreements among many African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) negotiators, raise legitimate questions regarding their structure and content, as well as their ability to constitute instruments to leverage economic growth.

Updating the economic partnership agreements to match today’s global challenges

German Marshall Fund of the United States: 19 November 2009
This document is a collection of seventeen essays on economic partnership agreements (EPAs) authored by recognised trade experts and senior policy-makers. Their responses constitute a mix of positive and negative elements, reflecting the complexity of the EPA processes. The negative message here is that EPAs are not useful or, at least, that these agreements are not necessarily relevant in light of the challenges faced by poor and vulnerable states, such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The positive message is that all stakeholders continue to strongly believe that the EPAs should and can make a positive difference and that it is therefore possible to shape them for a truly positive outcome. The views expressed here reflect great convergence over the fact that there continues to be a huge trust gap in the negotiations. Whether perceived or observed, there is a persistent impression among ACP negotiators that EPAs are about European interests. Without trust among negotiating parties, chances are scant that negotiations will actually lead to genuine partnerships, as implied by the term ‘economic partnership agreement’.

Urban Health Initiative in Accra: Workshop on planning for climate action, improved air quality and health
Accra Metropolitan Assembly: Ghana, May 2019

The World Health Organisation, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Health Service, Environmental Protection Agency, UN-Habitat and ICLEI hosted a two-day workshop with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in May 2019 to support action towards healthier urban environments and to engage other municipalities to jointly act on air quality, public health and the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants. With representatives from several assemblies and municipalities, ministries and other relevant institutions, the workshop took participants through working sessions to discuss the health and economic impacts of sectoral policies, to inform the development of Accra’s Climate Action Plan and control of air pollution.

US AIDS Czar Undermines WHO Initiative
Sanjay Basu

In May 2003, at its annual World Health Assembly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a modest proposal: that it would provide the technical and organisational support to provide 3 million people in poor countries with antiretroviral treatment by the year 2005. This "3-by-5 initiative" was minor in one sense, in that it would provide treatment to only about 5 percent of those in need. But in another sense, it was a major step forward, particularly because the WHO proposed a novel manner of delivering the anti-HIV medicines: combining the drugs into a "fixed-dose regimen", a combination pill containing three drugs in one capsule, allowing an infected person to take only one pill twice per day for a complete HIV-treatment regimen. Fixed-dose combinations are cheaper and easier to take than the existing HIV treatment protocol; taking two fixed-dose combination pills a day for a year costs $140 per patient, compared to about $600 per year for the normal regimen of six pills per day.

Further details: /newsletter/id/30350
US free trade agreements block access to medicines
Oxfam International: 16 August 2006

At the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, US efforts to introduce stronger intellectual property rules in bilateral trade agreements were noted to undermine the fight against AIDS by limiting ability of developing countries to access affordable medicines. 'Under the name of free trade, the US is pushing for monopoly on new medicines, thus driving up the cost for some of the world’s poorest people,' said Rohit Malpani, policy advisor for Oxfam International. 'Neither patients nor governments will be able to afford the new antiretroviral medicines essential to address the pandemic.'

US, WIPO training programme on IP rights in Africa comes under fire
New W: Intellectual Property Watch, 12 February 2012

An intellectual property (IP) conference for government ministers, to be held in April 2012 in South Africa, has stirred controversy among civil society advocates. Entitled “Africa Intellectual Property Forum: Intellectual Property, Regional Integration and Economic Growth in Africa”, the event is being organised by the United States government, and is being touted as the first Africa-wide ministerial-level event of its kind. The authors observe that the focus of the conference appears however to be stricter enforcement of IP rights, as most panels are concerned with enforcement and protection, and most speakers originate in developed country governments and industry. Non-governmental organisations who have worked on intellectual property rights have expressed disappointment, as they expected the conference would consider the 2007 World Intellectual Property Organisation Development Agenda, which consisted of 45 agreed recommendations intended to more fully incorporate the development dimension into WIPO activities, including technical assistance. They critique the agenda and an apparent underlying motive of encouraging strong IP legislation in those countries, at the expense of development and universal access to affordable medicines.

US-sponsored risky research may affect global flu virus framework
Hammond E: Third World Network, 17 January 2012

The fallout from United States-sponsored experiments with pandemic influenza strains has raised strong biosafety concerns and raised dilemmas for implementing the World Health Organization's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework. Scientists in the United States (US) have created a new, potent virus, and as a result of outbreak fears, US officials have imposed a de facto moratorium on publication of the studies and are debating proposals to censor public versions of the papers, while restricting access to the scientific details to laboratories that have a "legitimate" need to know. The situation raises significant issues for the PIP Framework, which emphasises that significant research results with pandemic implications should be reported to the international laboratory system, and that novel potentially pandemic strains should be provided to the WHO System for characterisation by its laboratory network. In this case, however, it appears that the US will not be willing to share its viruses and research results with WHO Member States, contradicting its pro-sharing position taken in the negotiation of the PIP Framework.

Using law to accelerate treatment access in South Africa: An analysis of patent, competition and medicines law
Park C, Prabhala A and Berger J: United Nations Development Programme, October 2013

This study aims to contribute to the implementation of South Africa’s National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, STIs and TB 2012–2016 by making specific recommendations on law and policy reforms to achieve an enabling and accessible legal framework in three key areas: patent, competition, and medicines law. The South African Patents Act, as it currently stands, does not take full advantage of the flexibilities available in respect of limitations to patent rights. The study recommends that the Patents Act make use of the full range of express exclusions from patentability available under TRIPS, and proposes that the process for issuing compulsory licenses be significantly streamlined, with clear legislative guidelines for determining the grounds upon which compulsory licenses can be granted, as well as their terms and conditions to prevent unnecessary delays. The study concludes by emphasising that its recommendations are aimed at achieving mutually reinforcing goals: promoting access to essential medicines and developing and supporting policies conducive to the growth and development of the domestic generic pharmaceutical industry. The process of reforming South Africa’s laws could benefit from a policymaking approach that is consultative, coherent and developed with the input of all relevant actors, governmental and non-governmental alike.

Veil of secrecy on anti-counterfeit bill
Mpaka C: Malawi News, 12 June 2010

Health activists in Malawi have expressed concern at what they call government’s ‘secret conduct’ on the proposed anti-counterfeit law, which they fear could legislate against the generic drugs on which Malawi’s health care system heavily relies. In keeping with World Trade Organisation (WTO) and international trade agreement terms, countries in East and Southern Africa are introducing laws reportedly to crack down on infringement of trademark and intellectual property rights. According to this article, Malawi’s proposed law to that effect has already been examined by Cabinet on its way to becoming law. However, health activists have expressed concern that the law may cause drug stock-outs if generic medicines are treated as counterfeits, as has been raised in East African versions of counterfeit law. Government is allegedly denying health civil society access to the document, saying it is not for public consumption. Executive Director for the umbrella body Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), Martha Kwataine, said enacting a law against generic medical products will reverse Malawi’s efforts in improving health care and worsen drug stock outs in hospitals. ‘Once we have the new laws, it means we will be forced to buy the most expensive brand-name drugs,’ she added. ‘The big companies that are owners of the patents will be making huge profits at the expense of the lives of poor people in Malawi.’

Victims of HIV/AIDS Should Not Suffer From Trade Rules

Botswana was warned last month by a UN Committee that trade agreements should not undermine Botswana’s ability to ensure access to affordable treatment for children or other people with HIV/AIDS. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in a document made public, strongly recommended that Botswana ensure that “regional and other free trade agreements do not have a negative impact on the implementation of children’s rights.” Most importantly, it warned Botswana that trade agreements should not “affect the possibility of providing children and other victims of HIV/AIDS with effective medicines for free or at the lowest price possible.”

Further details: /newsletter/id/30677