ECOSOC Calls For Intensified Efforts On Public Health And Use Of TRIPS Flexibilities 16/07/2009 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)The United Nations Economic and Social Council, a key coordinating body meeting this summer in Geneva, is considering ways to move nations faster toward global public health goals, with a warning from developing countries that intellectual property rights should not interfere with access to medical products and innovation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month warned that the international community has been moving too slowly towards their development goals and called for investments in the health sector and for governments to strengthen national health systems. He spoke at the opening of ECOSOC’s annual ministerial review from 6 to 9 July. This year’s ministerial review focused on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health.” Children and maternal health were described by many speakers as a priority area for improvement, while some said that the socioeconomic situation of the least developed countries is an issue, seriously jeopardising the countries’ chances of reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals. ECOSOC coordinates economic, social, and related work of the 14 UN specialised agencies. The annual ministerial review is composed of three main elements: a global review of the UN development agenda; a thematic review, and a series of national voluntary presentations of both developing and developed countries on their progress in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to some country presentations at the 6-9 July ministerial meeting, panel discussions and informal roundtables were organised to evaluate progress made in the area of global public health, assess the remaining challenges, and discuss policy responses. A ministerial declaration was adopted on 9 July, at the conclusion of the high-level segment of the review, which included the annual ministerial review. Several other segments on regional commissions, coordination, operational activities, and humanitarian affairs are unfolding until the end of July. According to speakers during the meeting, serious health challenges have to be tackled such as disparities in healthcare between rural and urban area, scarcity of health infrastructure and trained health care providers. They also underlined the need to balance intellectual property rights of patent holders with the right to health. Nations: IP Rights should not Hinder Access to Health Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China said the international community should not let the patent holders deny the right to health. The group was established in June 1964 by 77 developing countries who signed the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries,” at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. According to their website, the group, among others, articulates and promotes their collective economic interests and promote South-South cooperation for development. In their statement to the substantive debate of the ECOSOC on 8 July, posted on the G-77 website, they said that patent holders should not “seek to restrain and unreasonably impose measures that affect the supply chain of medicines and transfer of technology relating to health products.” Mike Boyd, acting director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said during a special ECOSOC event on Africa and the least developed countries that there is a growing involvement of the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Africa, according to the meeting report. He asserted that pharmaceutical industry made a very significant contribution to helping achieve the health-related UN Millennium Development Goals, the report said. International cooperation should be improved in order to ensure access to affordable, good quality and effective medicines, said Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo of Brazil. Intellectual property rights play a determinant role in the access, affordability, innovation, local production, and trade, she said, adding that member states should resolve the intellectual property agenda. Access to low-cost medicines should be sought through a better adjustment of the provisions in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) said Gonzalo Gutierrez of Peru, while Esme Berkhout of Oxfam International said it is “critical to ensure access to medicine, and strict property rights hindered that free access,” according to the report. In the draft ministerial declaration adopted by ECOSOC, the Council reaffirmed its commitment to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in particular those related to health. The declaration recognised that poverty and health were interlinked, it emphasised the need for urgent and collective efforts to improve public health, further international cooperation and strengthening health information system. The Council also reaffirmed the right to use “to the full,” several dispositions in international agreements, such as the TRIPS and the Doha Declaration provisions, and “when formal acceptance procedures are completed, the amendment to Article 31 [of TRIPS], which provides flexibilities for the protection of public health, and in particular to promote access to medicine for all.” In the declaration, countries were encouraged to “strengthen institutional capacity to pursue longer-term health and development goals,” and the Council “encourages all states to apply measures and procedures for enforcing intellectual property rights in a manner so as to avoid the creation of barriers to the legitimate trade of medicines and to provide for safeguards against the abuse of such measures and procedures.” Meanwhile, to try to resolve the global health issues, countries are trying different approaches. Some think that research and innovation in the health sector could bring an answer. ECOSOC launched a new “M-health” initiative on 1 July to exploit the expanding mobile signal coverage, in particular in developing countries. According to the ECOSOC website, the project, called Texting4Health is a mobile health campaign. One of the objectives of the campaign is to access knowledge on crucial issues, such as disease prevention, transmission, and health awareness. Cooperation between countries can also provide relief. According to the unofficial meeting report, Preneet Kaur, minister of state for external affairs in India, said that India “had been privileged to share its development experience,” for example through a pan-African e-network project, according to the meeting unofficial report . According to the website, the project, launched in February, aims to help Africa build capacity and to provide telemedicine services, using online medical consultations with Indian medical specialists to the patient locations in Africa. Kaur pointed out that 95 percent of the World Health Organization drugs are generic drugs and India is the largest producer of generic drugs. India is calling on all countries to respect the concept of territoriality in the TRIPS, according to the meeting report. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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 Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."ECOSOC Calls For Intensified Efforts On Public Health And Use Of TRIPS Flexibilities" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.