NGOs, Industry Differ On WHO IP, Innovation, Public Health Project30/01/2007 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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen Non-governmental participants have different opinions about how a World Health Organization (WHO) working group set up to boost research and development into neglected diseases, should best move forward. While some argue that intellectual property rights play a major part, others say it has nothing to do with it.The Intergovernmental Working Group On Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (referred to as the “IGWG”) was discussed during a 22-30 January meeting of the 34-member WHO Executive Board. The group was formally launched when it met for the first time on 4-8 December 2006. (IPW, Public Health, 11 December 2006). But a number of parties apparently still have opinions about what route the group should take to reach its goal.The working group’s mandate – from a 2006 World Health Assembly resolution (WHA59.24) is to come up with a soft law-like global strategy and plan of action by May 2008, which will help boost research and development (R&D) into neglected diseases predominantly affecting developing countries.The resolution states that, “Such a strategy and plan of action aims at, inter alia, securing an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, proposing clear objectives and priorities for research and development, and estimating funding needs in the area.”“For the most part, this is a problem of money,” said James Love, head of the non-governmental Knowledge Ecology International. “It might be useful to have a smaller committee of the IGWG convened to look at the financing issues, as well as the priority setting issues.”Love added, “A fairly easy way to do this might be [to] look first at sustainable sources of funding for the private-public partnerships,” or go beyond the partnerships and support “various open source R&D projects.” He said both developed and developing countries should contribute to this, adding that if countries are not willing to talk about the financing of these partnerships, then they are not serious about the IGWG.“Talk about intellectual property rights without talk about the fiscal issues is not a very serious conversation,” he said. “[W]e are not asking that ‘hard’ obligations be a starting point for these discussions. Various types of ‘soft’ obligations and norms are probably more realistic confidence building steps.”A pharmaceutical industry source, however, told Intellectual Property Watch that the working group process should not be about IP, but rather the global plan should focus on practical ways to boost R&D processes that are already in place. One of these, the source said, was the collaboration between the industry and the WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.For example, the source said, the IGWG could agree to focus on a specific disease’s eradication within a certain time frame, and all could work together towards this goal, with mutual accountability.The source said that if the working group turns into a discussion of intellectual property rights, which has “no value in themselves,” the IGWG would not help the people the plan is trying to help. It would be better to bring together all the parties with their comparative advantages in a “constructive and non-confrontational way,” the source said.The industry source said that countries should be transparent about their agendas for building R&D of their own, should consider good R&D models already in place, and should call for more funding for existing as well as new models.No Time for NGOsThe agenda item on public health, innovation and intellectual property was moved up at the Executive Board meeting on 26 January at the request of Brazil, as a number of officials were scheduled to leave. But it was later stated that it had been agreed that the agenda item could be moved up if it did not take too long.This led the chair to say that NGOs would have to postpone their statements. The agenda item was, however, closed without NGOs getting a chance to share their view.This stirred reactions. Ellen ‘t Hoen of Médicins Sans Frontières said it was “not a very good signal from WHO” that NGOs did not get to speak, as often in cases of lack of time, they were asked to boil down their statements.Michelle Childs, head of European Affairs at Knowledge Ecology International, said, “We were surprised that NGOs could not participate, as we are invited to be involved in the original resolution. However, the critical issue is the process. Any process suggested by the WHO secretariat and member states must provide venues for serious discussion of research and development priorities and funding. If not, then the process will be a failure. The questions of what to focus on and how and who pays for R&D are the central points of this working group.”Korea Accepts TRIPS AmendmentSeparately, South Korea informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 24 January that it has become the fourth country to accept the amendment made to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in December 2005 (IPW, Public Health, 6 December 2005), according to the WTO website. It joins El Salvador, Switzerland and the United States in doing so, according to WTO.This means that 2.7 percent of WTO members have accepted the amendment, with the requirement of 67 percent, or two-thirds of the members, for it to come into force. In addition to accepting it, WTO member countries also have to implement the amendment into their national laws in order to use it, or export medicines under compulsory license to countries with inadequate production facilities. A larger number of countries have, or are working on, doing so, according to WTO.Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen may be reached at email@example.com.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"NGOs, Industry Differ On WHO IP, Innovation, Public Health Project" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.