WHO IP Working Group To Address Conflicting Interests Before December Meeting25/07/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now.An intergovernmental working group on public health and intellectual property, which the World Health Assembly said in May should be set up “immediately,” is scheduled to meet for the first time in December in Geneva, according to informed sources. But apparently it is no easy task for the World Health Organization (WHO) to coordinate the matter.A senior WHO official told Intellectual Property Watch that the meeting would “probably” take place on 4 December, but there are apparently still quite a few pieces up in the air about the group.The official said that the six regional WHO committees now will discuss “how to go about” setting up the group, both in terms of who will be part of it and what the substance will be. They are meeting in sequence from 22 August to 29 September, starting with Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, Western Pacific, and the Americas.Each regional committee would choose two or three governments that would designate representatives for a smaller group, which would be discussed at the December meeting, he said. The smaller group could meet before December, but this is still to be decided, the official said.The official admitted that there are “some very difficult negotiations going on,” adding that the work was very “complicated” as there are “different interests” involved. The official would not specify what the interests are, but referred to the history of the resolution upon which the working group is based and its many “angles and issues.”While the annual assembly mandated the WHO to manage the group, it also said that other stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations should be involved, and the pharmaceutical industry also has showed a strong interest in the WHO’s work on IP.Within the WHO, discussions and speculations about who will head the group also have been intense, sources said, amidst larger staff concerns such as replacing the late Director General Lee Jong-wook (IPW, United Nations, 31 May 2006).The WHO Executive Board will meet on 6-8 November to nominate a candidate for director general who will be proposed to a first-ever special session of the World Health Assembly on 9 November. Member countries may propose candidates for the director general post from 1 June to 5 September, and these will be forwarded by the secretariat to all member states by 5 October, the WHO said.The next full WHO Executive Board meeting is scheduled for January 2007.The May resolution mandating the intergovernmental group is entitled: “Public health, innovation, essential health research and intellectual property rights: towards a global strategy and plan of action” (WHA59.24, Agenda item 11.11).The May agreement merges one resolution based on the recommendations of the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH), and another resolution calling for a new global framework for research and development put forward by Brazil and Kenya.Both earlier resolutions leading to the current one were debated. There were major disagreements among the 10 experts forming the CIPIH, on which the first resolution is based, with some being concerned that there were industry-backed views in the report (IPW, Public Health, 23 January 2005). Five of the 10 experts, from both sides of the issues, expressed reservations about the report outcome.The Brazil and Kenya-sponsored resolution was forwarded to the World Health Assembly with a number of undecided sections (IPW, Public Health, 17 January 2006). A compromise was found at the World Health Assembly, which many attributed in part to the support of the United States and the Swiss chair of the working group (IPW, Public Health, 27 May 2006).The Art and Politics of Setting Up a New UN CommitteeMeetings with stakeholders, whom the WHO official did not specify, were scheduled for 21 July and 24 July. Industry representatives were not available for comment for this story.The WHO is in the process of putting together the secretariat, and “most of it is in place,” the official said, declining to comment further.All member states will be able to attend the December meeting, but it is still to be decided whether other stakeholders, such as NGOs, will be able to attend despite being specified in the resolution, the official said.“I think I am satisfied with progress being made,” Tom Boya, first chancellor at the Kenyan mission told Intellectual Property Watch. Kenya was a cosponsor with Brazil of one of the two resolutions that led to the group’s creation.Boya said he had recently met with senior WHO officials, including Acting Director General Anders Nordström, to discuss the matter as in late June he was getting eager to learn more about what was happening. At that point there was no news about the group, other than that the WHO said that it should be ready “in the next few days” (IPW, Public Health, 23 June 2006).The resolution mandated the establishment of an “intergovernmental working group open to all interested member states to draw up a global strategy and plan of action in order to provide a medium-term framework” based on the recommendations in the April report of the CIPIH.The idea is that the plan will secure research and development of medicines, as well as estimates for what kind of funding would be needed, for diseases that “disproportionately affect developing countries” or that are neglected.At the moment the six regional WHO committees would discuss the group, Boya said, adding that the African regional group would meet in August and the working group would be on the agenda.He said each regional group could, for example, propose two member countries each to form a “management group,” which would have to be approved at the 4 December meeting when “weight and endorsement” would be given to a smaller group.Boya said the issue needs broader involvement, and he praised the WHO’s handling of it, calling the process “open, transparent and inclusive.” Earlier, the process of setting up the working group appeared to be focused on who within the WHO should be in charge, with some names being mentioned. Boya said that the group would not be linked to one particular department at the WHO. The WHO declined to comment on this point.Boya said the WHO had tried not to “dictate” the group, leaving it up to the regional groups and members to decide the composition of the final working group. He noted that the inter-governmental working group was a subgroup of the World Health Assembly and that one “needs a small group to guide its agenda.”The 4 December meeting is open to all member states, Boya said, adding that the WHO would not choose who would be able to attend this meeting. The mandate for the working group is that it: “shall report to the Sixtieth World Health Assembly [May 2007] through the Executive Board on the progress made, giving particular attention to needs-driven research and other potential areas for early implementation action. (4) that the working group shall submit the final global strategy and plan of action to the Sixty-first World Health Assembly [May 2008] through the Executive Board.”While seven months hardly can be considered “immediately,” Boya said this was “reasonable” for the WHO, which at the moment also is in the process of appointing a new director general.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Related"WHO IP Working Group To Address Conflicting Interests Before December Meeting" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.