Press release |

Update on contentious negotiations for the UN High-level Meeting on Tuberculosis

3 min
Photograph by Matthias Steinbach
MSF TB-MDR patients and Green House photos in Mathare.

South Africa breaks the ‘silence’ period and negotiations are re-opened


For almost two months, countries have been engaged in protracted and heated negotiations in New York on the draft declaration of the United Nations’ High-level Meeting on TB, which will take place in September in New York. The near-final draft was submitted on 20 July to the President of the UN General Assembly and was under the ‘silence procedure’ until 24 July. Towards the end of negotiations on a resolution or declaration, the draft is declared to be ‘in silence procedure’ for a specified time. If no government puts forward an objection by the given deadline, the draft text is considered ‘agreed.’ When a country breaks the silence, the negotiations reopen.

On 24 July, South Africa raised their concern on the draft declaration, breaking the ‘silence.’

The current text of the draft declaration not only fails to incorporate public health safeguards that countries can exercise under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) to make the treatment affordable, but also includes problematic language that says ‘intellectual property rights are an important incentive in the development of new health products’ – which is not true for TB.

Read the 20 July draft declaration of the UNHLM on TB

"We ask countries negotiating the text to urgently provide political support for the inclusion of language on affordability"

Dr Els Torreele
Executive Director
MSF Access Campaign

Quote from Els Torreele, Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Access Campaign

"MSF applauds South Africa’s courageous decision to speak up and demand stronger commitments to ensure that existing and future TB diagnostics, treatments and vaccines reach the hands of the people who need them, leading to the reopening of negotiations on the draft declaration of the UN High-level Meeting on TB.

For almost two months, negotiators have been in heated talks that resulted in a draft declaration that widely diverged from language in previous UN declarations on health and access to medicines, which had recognized the need to promote public-interest-driven research and development (R&D) and ensure that resulting health products are affordable and available for people. This aggressive push by several countries backed by big pharma lobbies would severely undercut needed guarantees to protect access to vital tools and medicines for people living with TB.

We ask countries negotiating the text to urgently provide political support for the inclusion of language on affordability and ‘de-linkage’ in the draft, to reflect that investments in TB R&D must be separated from the expectation of financial returns through sales or high prices. Countries must also push to retain the full rights to use internationally agreed public health safeguards enshrined in Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for access to affordable, generic versions of all TB medicines, especially the newer all-oral treatments needed to scale up treatment of the disease.

It is critical that leaders remember this declaration won’t just live on paper; it will have real-world consequences for millions of people who need affordable lifesaving TB medicines.”