Statement |

MSF at WHO's Open-Ended Meeting on CEWG - Agenda Item 5 (l)

MSF at WHO's Open-Ended Meeting on CEWG - Agenda Item 5 (l): Discussion “on the remaining issues in relation to monitoring, coordination and financing for health research and development”

Speaker:  Rohit Malpani

At the 68th World Health Assembly, resolution 66.22 requested the Director-General to convene an open-ended meeting of Member States prior to the 69th World Health Assembly, in order to assess progress and continue discussions of the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on the remaining issues in relation to monitoring, coordination and financing for health research and development. The three-day meeting takes place from 2nd to 4th May 2016 at WHO Headquarters.

For more than two decades, MSF has been involved in discussions of reforming the current innovation model because it fails our patients’ needs. We have invested in this process by sharing our experience as a medical humanitarian organization and made specific recommendations. Yet non-state actors can and should only do so much.  

Three years ago when resolution WHA66.22 was negotiated by Member States, the words ‘remaining issues’ were short-hand for the central recommendation of the CEWG report that: ‘ ‘the time had now come for considering a coherent & comprehensive international framework or convention under the auspices of WHO for supporting priority medical R&D aimed at diseases that are prevalent in developing countries…’  

Some Member States pushed to start a political process to move towards agreeing the contours of this framework. No consensus was possible in 2012, but there was a consensus that this central recommendation must be dealt with ‘prior to the 69th WHA in May 2016’. Perhaps the bland language of ‘remaining issues’ has distracted us from the importance of this point. It is the overarching recommendation without which the other recommendations will struggle to succeed. And, as discussed over the course of this meeting, fragmenting the recommendations into discreet projects has not been a successful strategy for ensuring they are fully financed and operating well.  

2016 could be different. The warnings and call to action of the CEWG report are more relevant now than ever. Yet, as the UN Secretary General has signaled in constituting a High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, these failings affect everyone. Access to medicines is a global challenge – now also a rising political priority for electorates in the EU, US and perhaps every country.  

For MSF it is of increasing concern in our operations. Every day, we confront significant innovation gaps when addressing the health needs of the people we aim to care for in affected communities. These gaps contribute to preventable deaths and exacerbate ongoing humanitarian and medical crises. This is a structural problem that cannot be addressed by national action alone. It necessitates global coordination and agreement.

We call on Member States to give this ‘remaining issue’ the attention it deserves, and to agree to a process that takes forward discussions on the scope of an overarching Agreement that advances R&D to meet needs of people world-wide. Otherwise people will continue bearing the consequences if you fail to act.