Draft Ministerial Decision on intellectual property woefully inadequate for a pandemic
The People's Vaccine Alliance, Oxfam, Section27 of South Africa, MSF, and more than 150 CSOs called on Trade Ministers at the WTO not to accept the current draft of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement and demand a real Waiver
Geneva, 15 June 2022
The People's Vaccine Alliance, Oxfam, Section27 of South Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and more than 150 CSOs have just sent a letter to the Trade Minsters currently negotiating the draft Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement at the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, urging them not to accept the current negotiating text, which represents backsliding that could set a negative precedent for access to medicines and medical tools. The groups will implore governments to adopt a real TRIPS Waiver that will adequately address intellectual property on all essential COVID-19 medical technologies, including treatments, tests, and vaccines during the ongoing pandemic that has claimed more than 15 million lives.
Christos Christou, International President of MSF:
"During the pandemic, MSF has repeatedly spoken out about the glaring gap in access to COVID-19 medical tools that we have witnessed first-hand in the places where we work. It is disheartening that calls for a global solution to overcome intellectual property barriers that was supported by frontline health workers, community networks, academics, civil society groups and millions of people across the globe went largely ignored. We are concerned that the alternative text that is under negotiation now is inadequate and does not offer a meaningful response to the current pandemic or any future health crisis. We urge all negotiating governments to not accept this text that prioritises protecting corporate and political interests over saving lives.”
Felipe de Carvalho, MSF Access Campaign’s Advocacy Advisor for Brazil:
“The draft Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement being discussed at the WTO right now is unacceptable. Around the world, many people died from COVID-19 without access to life-saving treatments, making it indefensible that the draft Ministerial Decision does not immediately apply to all COVID-19 medical tools, including treatments and tests, and does not apply to all countries. Trade Ministers must walk away from the current proposed COVID-19 decision on the TRIPS Agreement, and must instead demand a real and effective TRIPS Waiver, as originally proposed over 20 months ago, delivered via democratic, transparent and accountable negotiations.”
Winnie Byanyima, UN Undersecretary-General, UNAIDS executive director, and Co-Chair of the People's Vaccine Alliance:
“A handful of countries are refusing to make concessions. They are blocking a consensus among most of the world for a simple, full waiver. This is a historic mistake. It is dividing the world at a moment we need global unity.
It is creating billions of losers for the gain of a handful of billionaires. It is widening inequalities–creating global pandemic haves and have-nots. And, as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found, it is “replicating colonial-era racial hierarchies.
We have supported developing countries as they voice their real needs– they have articulated how we get the world out of this crisis of inequitable access. To them I say– persist, persist, persist. Together, we must stand up for the right to health for every person in the world. Unity is our strength.”
Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager, Oxfam GB:
“The text under negotiation is no longer a TRIPS Waiver in any meaningful sense. It largely restates the compulsory licensing rights that are already in the TRIPS Agreement, but adds burdensome new obligations that could make it even harder for developing countries to produce and supply vaccines. The UK, EU, and Switzerland have been major blockers of the TRIPS Waiver for twenty months while millions have died without access to COVID-19 vaccines. They have repeatedly disrupted negotiations using the amendment process to ensure that any text is difficult to use or implement. It would be totally false for rich countries to shift the blame for the current state of TRIPS negotiations onto anybody else."
Baone Twala, Legal Researcher, Section27:
"It is absurd that the compromised text being discussed at the WTO Ministerial fails the people who need an effective TRIPS Waiver during this pandemic. This ineffective text will only succeed in perpetuating the infringement on people's socio-economic rights and the dependence of low- and middle- countries on a system not meant to serve them. We are disappointed that countries like the US, Switzerland, the UK and the EU failed to heed the call of a TRIPS Waiver that is in the interest of marginalised groups historically subjected to discrimination and exclusion from access to quality public health. It is time for countries to reject the current text and call for a text that reflects a real TRIPS Waiver, proposed by South Africa and India 20 months ago and supported by more than 100 governments.”