Information Communication Technology (ICT) has revolutionized modern living, international business, global governance, communication, entertainment, transport, education, and health care. This has been driven by unprecedented high volumes of production and usage of consumer electronic products, in particular, personal computers, mobile phones, and television sets. Access to ICT has been identified as an indicator of a country’s economic and social development. The difference in access to ICT between developed and developing countries is commonly referred to as the “digital divide”. Africa has been undergoing rapid ICT transformation in recent years, attempting to bridge this divide by importing second-hand or used computers, mobile phones, and TV sets from developed countries. The countries of the region, however, lack the infrastructure and resources for the environmentally sound management (ESM) of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) arising when such imports reach their end-of-life. The report analyses the flows of electrical and electronic equipment and e-waste and makes recommendations for African countries to prevent the import of e-waste and near-end-of-life equipment without hampering the socio-economically valuable trade of EEE of good quality.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
At the World Health Assembly’s discussions on the patenting of viruses by drug companies, WHO admitted patents have been taken on the avian flu virus, and WHO collaborating centres have entered into Material Transfer Agreements with vaccine manufacturers. Various countries responded to the non compliance of the WHO’s 2005 Guidance on sharing viruses.
As countries rush to conclude bilateral and regional free trade agreements, there are growing concerns that these trade agreements could adversely affect the health policies of the developing countries. Against this backdrop, the WHO Executive Board has recommended that the next World Health assembly in May adopt a resolution on trade and health. Member States are asked to include health ministries in negotiations on trade agreements and the WHO Secretariat has been tasked to assist in this process.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board has agreed to propose to the May 2012 World Health Assembly the establishment of a mechanism for international collaboration on counterfeit and substandard medical products, but with the exclusion of trade and intellectual property issues. The Executive Board resolution would “establish a new Member State mechanism for international collaboration among Member States, from a public health perspective, excluding trade and intellectual property considerations, regarding substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products”. The next Assembly in May will decide on this resolution. The mechanism would be reviewed by the World Health Assembly after three years, and countries will submit a progress report after one year. A contentious issue around counterfeits has been the suspicion on the part of some developing countries that concerns about counterfeit and substandard medicines are being purposely confused with trade in legitimate generic medicines from those countries. Removing intellectual property and trade from WHO discussions is intended to minimise the possibility of confusion.
Finding financing to develop medicines for under-researched diseases, regulatory harmonisation and pandemic influenza preparedness topped the agenda at the World Health Organization's (WHO) Executive Board meeting, held from 18–23 January 2010. Its recommendations will be sent to the annual WHO member decision-making World Health Assembly, which meets in May 2010. Regulatory harmonisation, such as streamlining processes for ensuring drug safety, is one of the major recommendations of the Expert Working Group to increase efficiency in the research and development system. Strengthening regulation is also one of the activities the WHO secretariat has said it is undertaking as part of the implementation of its global strategy, which requires a 'strengthening of the WHO prequalification programme'. Drug regulation may become a key discussion point on public health and intellectual property this year, according to sources. And there is recent concern from several members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that the threat of pandemics, specifically the flu epidemics, may have been exaggerated 'in order to promote … patented drugs and vaccines'.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced it will be entering a new phase in its Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines (GAP), in which the organisation will be giving more attention to the local health and policy environment. WHO held its first review of phase 1 of GAP on 12-14 July 2011. WHO’s estimate of the seasonal flu vaccine manufacturing capacities is 800,000 million doses per year, compared to 350,000 in 2006. The estimate rises to 1.7 billion doses by 2015 if all the projects going on now are successful. There are currently 37 manufacturers of influenza vaccine in the world, either operating now or operational by 2015. According to WHO, 10 manufacturers are in Europe, 14 in the Western Pacific region, 6 in the South East Asia region, and 5 in the Americas region. Included in the 37 are 11 new manufacturers in 11 low or middle-income countries are part of the GAP programme, which have been working with WHO to acquire technologies to produce influenza vaccine.
Several developing-country members of the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation have expressed concern and frustration at the lack of progress and direction of a WHO group tasked with charting the organisation's future action on intellectual property, innovation and health. These concerns were voiced at the WHO's Executive Board meeting being held on 22-30 January. At the end of the discussion on the item, the frustration was even more palpable because the Board itself could not seem to make any progress on the issue.
This presentation was given at the second meeting of the African Civil Society Coalition on the Intergovernmental Working Group in Arusha, Tanzania, 3-4 April 2008. It provides basic information on the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH), regarding its mandate and the implementation of its recommendations. One of these recommendations was to establish an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) to draw up a global strategy and plan of action in order to provide a medium-term framework based on the recommendations of the Commission. The aims of the strategy and plan of action are to secure an enhanced and financially sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries.
At the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting, held from 17-25 January 2011, members raised strong concerns that a working group they mandated last May to address problems with WHO policy on counterfeit and substandard medicines has yet to be formed – with only four months remaining before it must report back to members. The Indian delegation called for a halt to WHO activities on anti-counterfeiting until the outcome of the working group is accepted by member states. Members agreed falsified medicines were a threat for global public health but some delegates argued the solution cannot be dominated by intellectual property rights enforcement concerns. The Indian delegate said that the working group was supposed to investigate the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT). IMPACT is a project with international police agency Interpol and other agencies, housed within WHO, and is meant to ‘halt the production, trading and selling of fake medicines around the globe’. It has been criticised in the past by some countries who claim IMPACT has not helped clarify the confusion between substandard, falsified or unsafe drugs and legal, reliable generic medicines.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) needs to get serious about high cost of new AIDS drugs. AIDS treatment will not be sustainable unless international institutions get serious about the high cost of newer medicines. This warning comes from Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) the medical humanitarian organisation. MSF says that the WHO has failed to outline a strategy to help countries access these drugs which remain largely inaccessible in developing countries. Thailand uses compulsory licence for cheaper AIDS drug. Thailand, however, has for the first time announced it will issue a compulsory licence for the domestic manufacture of a key AIDS drug. The following articles report on both these issues.