Developing Countries Blast WHO Report On IP, Demand “Credible” Approach

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A critical report on financing research and development of medicines for the world’s poorest was created without transparency, failed to live up to its mandate, and did not address the potential threat that intellectual property rights can pose to access to drugs, developing countries said today at the World Health Assembly. But a proposal by a group of Latin American countries for a new intergovernmental working group was not accepted by developed countries and others and quick informal consultations began to work out differences before the end of the assembly this week.

“The working group failed to fulfil the mandate it had been given,” said the Latin American countries in their draft resolution put forward today, available here [pdf].

“We are not prepared to accept or welcome a report with so many inadequacies,” said the delegate of Venezuela, in a view echoed by a number of delegations. “The [Expert Working Group on financing of neglected disease R&D] no longer has legitimacy,” Thailand followed.

Argentina’s delegate said the working group’s process was “not credible” and that it lacked in-depth analysis and did not deal with intellectual property in respect of commitments made in the global strategy on de-linking the costs of drugs from the cost of treatments, and was conducted without transparency.

Despite the criticisms, many countries, developed and developing, acknowledged the limited timeframe for the report to be completed, and the amount of work that went into it.

Unable to reach agreement on a way forward in committee, governments have moved to informal consultations to decide how to proceed on the report of the Expert Working Group (EWG) on research and development financing which was formed last year. The report was made under the auspices of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

At issue now is whether to continue the work via another expert working group, an ad hoc intergovernmental process, or in the eyes of the United States and others, just to allow some experts to look further at what the Expert Working Group came up with. There is disagreement over whether a next group, if agreed, should be limited to looking deeper at existing proposals or would be allowed to examine others, such as those taken out by the Expert Working Group in question.

A Swiss delegate raised the threat that no consensus this week could mean the end of the group’s efforts. Several speakers urged that the momentum of the group be carried forward. But one country said another group like the past one would be more harmful than no further work at all.

The United States raised a question of the cost of establishing an intergovernmental process, which WHO Director General Margaret Chan estimated would cost US$3 million. The Brazilian delegation pointed out that US$49 million remained unspent from the 2008-2009 budget line on technical and medical products. Switzerland then downplayed the budget question.

Precious Matsoso of the WHO secretariat described the reports and other work it has done in support of the process, and Chan reminded member states that the next steps are up to them. She agreed with members that this was a “first step” and generally defended the work of the Expert Working Group.

For Afflicted Countries, Group Did Not Fulfil Hopes

Developing countries had rested hope for solutions to the struggles they face achieving access to affordable medicines in the hands of this expert group, widely hailed as one of the key outcomes of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property when it was approved in May 2008 (IPW, WHO, 28 May 2008).

But the work of the group “did not conform to expectations, particularly those of developing countries,” said Bolivia, and it did not include consultations with the civil society organisations “with whom our governments usually work.” Bolivia added it could not support another expert working group that would only replicate problems from the past.

The group did “not abide by the mandate” because it does not establish or identify specific alternatives to funding to promote research and development, said Ecuador on behalf of the UNASUR countries.

Developed countries were more supportive of the group’s work, with the United States and Norway saying the mandate of the group could be interpreted in different ways, and the EWG’s interpretation of it was understandable.

India said the report should have proposed a mechanism or combination of mechanisms suitable for providing funding and to link that funding with partnerships that would deliver for health. But it “failed to do so.” It does not provide ideas or analysis of how to meet developing country needs. The report “leaves what should have been the most important part of the work of the EWG to future work,” the Indian delegate said.

The report “failed to capture the variety of problems that are linked to IP. The problems emanate from curbing” the flexibilities under the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, said the delegate of India. Worse, he added, “developed countries are not only making their IP laws TRIPS-plus but are also making developing countries accept” the same strengthened provisions through free trade agreements or aid. And, despite the increase of patents on drugs, drugs with new therapeutic value are not emerging. India’s statement is available here [pdf, note: truncated in original].

Several states expressed disappointment that delinking the cost of research and development from the cost of treatment was not discussed in more detail. Brazil said that the EWG had instead delinked its conclusions from the indicators contained in the global strategy.

Legitimacy, Transparency at Issue

There were “several issues” with the functioning of the EWG, said the delegate of Kenya, including potential conflicts of interest. Kenya called for a new expert working group to be constituted, with the selection process aided by the director general in a “transparent manner” with regional representation.

Transparency issues have dogged the group’s work since the beginning, with countries and other stakeholders receiving little information about the choosing of the experts, their process or their progress while it was ongoing. In this context, when a document was leaked to a pharmaceutical lobby group in October, the conclusion of many states and civil society groups was that the expert’s work had been unduly influenced.

The expert working group that created the report “has no longer legitimacy” said the delegate of Thailand, saying a new working group should be “free of direct or indirect industry influence.”

Cuba said they believed stakeholders had been “subjected to a little bit of disinformation” and had not had “access to all information we might have needed and wanted.”

Even the United States – generally supportive of the group’s work – said it was “regrettable” that information on process and manner of work was not included in the report itself when published, and that member states did not hear about it until last week’s informal meeting (IPW, WHO, 14 May 2010).

Chan did not answer transparency concerns expressed by member states during the committee meeting.

Kaitlin Mara may be reached at kmara@ip-watch.ch.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

Creative Commons License"Developing Countries Blast WHO Report On IP, Demand “Credible” Approach" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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  1. Paul Phillips says

    THE EQUAL RIGHTS OF A CHILD TO AN EDUCATION
    WITHIN A GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE BASED, INFORMATION SOCIETY
    IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR, or THEIR FAMILY’s
    SEX, COLOR, CREED, NATIONALITY OR SOCIAL/ FINANCIAL STANDING

    This paper argues the right of every child to have equal access to an education irrespective of his or her colour, creed, nationality, ethnicity or social & financial status so he or she may obtain gainful employment and contribute to the growth of his or her society in the 21st century. Within a knowledge based global society the basic tools of education must include educational & operational softwares.
    The interpretation of Intellectual Property Laws today is a morally unjust construal of the law and must be immediately revisited so as to allow the poor children of our global societies their human right to an equal education.
    This paper seeks to rally all those who seek equality for all the children of the world, irrespective of their sex, colour, creed, nationality, or financial standing, to join the fight against those who seek only riches, by economically coercing poor & developing nations to enforce their immoral interpretations of the Intellectual Property Laws.
    UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS
    Article 1.
    · All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    The Declaration of the Rights of the Child
    1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
    2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and secured.
    3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
    4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
    5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
    Surely ‘The United Nations Human Rights’ & ‘The Declaration of the Rights of the Child’ leave no doubt that it is the right of every child to have equal access to education, irrespective of his or her, colour, creed, nationality, ethnicity, age or financial status.
    Knowledge now forms a major component of all human activity, economic, social & cultural and has become the major creative force of all developed societies, hence creating new ‘Knowledge Based’ societies & economies. Knowledge is gained from access to education, hence both are essential elements for the development of all children, societies, countries, economies & humanity.
    Knowledge societies are not a new occurrence. Fishermen have long shared the knowledge of predicting the weather to their community and this knowledge gets added to the social capital of the community. What is new is that,
    · With current technologies, knowledge societies need not be constrained by geographic proximity
    · Current technology offers much more possibilities for sharing, archiving and retrieving knowledge
    · Knowledge has become the most important capital in the present age, and hence the success of any society lies in harnessing it.
    All governments & individuals who truly believe in Human & Child Rights & the equality of all, must surely also believe in providing equal access to all information & tools required for their education, irrespective of a child’s, colour, creed, nationality, religion, ethnicity, age or financial status. Hence the tools & information required for a child’s education should not be withheld for the monetary gain of a few. Humanity can never allow a global society to develop that promotes the haves & have nots of a basic education.
    In this high tech, computerised, interconnect world of the 21st century, both filled & reliant on high speed access to information no one country, state, city, community or village can hope to compete on equal footing with others unless their children have equal access to the programs & softwares that all others enjoy as part of their education & vocational training.
    All men & women, have but their labour to give, or trade in return for the basic necessities of life, of which education is one. A man or woman from a developing country is not a lesser man or woman than that of one from a developed country. Their labour has always afforded them the basic necessities of life within their own communities because their government ensures the cost of the basic necessities of life are commensurate with the average weekly income of their country. The advent of a ‘Global Economy’ has however strained this basic principle of human existence for the poorer nations & people..
    Software Piracy does not occur because the populations of poorer, or developing countries are inherently criminals. It occurs because the young people of these developing countries need to gain an education that their families can no longer afford, because of the exorbitant costs of ‘legal copies’ of these very necessary educational software programs.
    PUTTING THE PROBLEM IN CONTEXT
    2009 Average Salaries for Developed Nations
    Luxembourg 49,663 2  United States 49,483 3  Ireland 44,013 4  Switzerland 42,980 5  Netherlands 42,514 6  Australia 42,019 7  United Kingdom 40,825 8  Belgium 40,591 9  Norway 40,177 10  Denmark 39,143 11  Austria 38,682 12  France 35,430 13  Germany 35,292 14  Sweden 33,586 15  Japan 31,773 16  Finland 31,211 17  Italy 29,198 18  Spain 28,871 19  South Korea 27,587 20  Greece 26,929 21  Hungary 21,161 22  Czech Republic 18,922 23  Portugal 18,300 24  Poland
    In 2009 the average weekly wage of an American is approximately $950 / week or 49,483 /annum
    The cost of Microsoft Office is $499 (December 2009)
    This equates to a parent who is earning $23.70 / hour, paying the equivalent of 21 hours of their labour ( approx 3 days) to buy an essential educational tool for their child’s education .
    In Vietnam the average weekly wage is $25 / week ,or $1,300 / annum
    The cost of Microsoft Office is $499
    This equates to a parent who is earning $0.62 / hour paying the equivalent of 804 hours (approx 100 days) of their labour to buy an essential educational tool for their child’s education .
    We stated earlier that all workers have but their labour to give or trade for the necessities of life. So with that in mind if we were to reverse the situation for American workers, by developing a proportionate cost for Microsoft Office based upon their hours of labour, we would find that they would need to pay $19,050, (equivalent to 804 hours of labour,). If this was the retail price of Microsoft Office in America we would surely expect to see a Software Piracy Industry emerge in America similar to that of which we presently see in developing countries. Not because American children over night had suddenly become criminals, but because the cost of the tools needed for an education had suddenly exceeded their parent’s ability to buy.
    Intellectual Property Laws are meant to protect the rights of an author to his or her developed intellectual works from being copied. They should never be misinterpreted or misused to protect his or her rights to riches, by way of exploitation or disregard of the basic human rights of all.
    Equal rights must not be idle worlds of the rich, or already haves. The right of every child to shelter, food, safety & education are fundamental human rights, far outweighing economic or intellectual property rights which would not be considered fundamental Human Rights by any moral, thinking human being.
    INDEXING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
    Within a global, economic society the only way to achieve equal rights & access for all to an education & job, is to put in place a ‘Global Index System’ based upon the average salary of a country.
    A simple example of this would be to allot America the base index of ‘1’. Hence ‘1’ would equal the average annual wage of America.
    If in 2009 America’s average salary is $49,483.00 then this number will become the base (1) for all other index calculations.
    If Australia’s average salary is $42,019 then its index would be 0.84 (42,019 divided by 49,483 = 0.84)
    If Vietnam’s average salary is $1,300 then its index would be 0.0262. (1,300 divided by 49,483 = 0.0262)
    The Intellectual Property Rights of any Educational or Vocational software would then be valued, within any country, by taking the price the software is retailing for in America and multiplying it by that country’s index. (These indexes would be set by a reputable organisation such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or United Nations (UN) and would be updated each year.)
    Hence for equality of access by the children of Vietnam to Microsoft Office the price should be the price of Microsoft Office ($499) multiplied by Vietnam’s index of ( 0.0262) which means for equality of access the sale price for Microsoft Office should be $13.07.
    INTERUM ACTION
    Countries cannot disadvantage their young citizens to the right of an education by enforcing unjust & unequal global laws, when those laws do not take into account the differences between a developing and developed country. If developing countries enforce present interpretations of Intellectual Property Laws, they are ensuring that their countries will forever remain developing nations by dramatically impeding the young peoples of their countries from ever gaining the necessary education that will allow them to compete equally within the global economy, as computer literacy & skills in the 21st century are just as important as literacy itself.
    Until there is a decision reached regards this very important matter, companies & governments should restrain from prosecuting persons in developing countries for using educational & vocational pirated software.
    If companies do prosecute during this time of decision making, developing countries must rally behind each other and fight the case in the highest courts of their lands and in front of the Human Rights Tribunal.
    If developed governments, global organisations or software companies believe that a moratorium on prosecutions for the use of pirated software is wrong then maybe they need to start implementing an interim scheme which would see Microsoft Office retailing in the United States for $19,000. This would be another way of achieving equality for all the young of the world in the short term.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    MR PAUL LYNDON PHILLIPS
    Nationality – Australian
    Age – 54
    Residing – Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam
    Contact – paul@bobbybrewers.com
    Mob Phone – +84 918 025 548

    Mr Phillips was the founding Chairperson of Asia- Pacific Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) Framework of Cooperation (APICTA) from 1997-2002. This Framework consisted of 13 participating countries and was established to aid the development of ICT industries in the region.

    Mr Phillips has been retired from International ICT Committees for more than 5 years.

    Mr Phillips strongly believes that the digital divide, which is being brought about by financial pressures from ICT companies from developed countries, is unjust and to both the short & long term detriment of developing countries.

    Mr Phillips also adamantly believes in the rights & equality of all humans, especially the children of the world and since leaving the business world in 2003 he has established the Disabled & Disadvantaged Children’s Charity of Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam to try and help improve the future outlook of these innocent young children the world has chosen to forget.

    Mr Phillips is a strong advocate of the Law of Human & Children’s Rights above all those rights which immorally protect the wealth of a select few.

    He is happy to give presentations about the immorality of the present implementation & interpretation of Intellectual Property Laws as they apply to educational & vocational software. He is also more than happy on any media, in any country, to debate those who try to justify the immorality & greed of the present implementation of the Laws.

    In the past 5 years Mr Phillips has seen an ever increasing divide between the knowledge rich & knowledge poor countries which is being created by denying equal access to the tools of education by rich countries. This he attributes by-in-large to economic coercion being increasing utilised by rich countries & organisations against poorer ones.

    No longer constrained by his position as the Chairperson of the Asia-Pacific ICT Framework of Cooperation, Mr Phillips can spearhead a campaign to gain a fair and equable knowledge based education for all the children of the world.

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  1. [...] Three sets of proposals will be examined by the working group, Mirza said. This includes a set of proposals short-listed by the EWG, a set that was not short listed by the EWG, and a set composed of any new proposals that might be put forward. The first two categories include “improvement” on previous proposals, he said. Some countries had criticised the EWG for not including some of their proposals in the process, like Bolivia [pdf] (IPW, WHO, 18 May 2010). [...]

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