Ahead of critical talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO) civil society and trade unions from the Global South are calling on rich countries’ leaders to stop blocking a proposal to waive certain intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products.
This landmark proposal to temporarily suspend the application and enforcement of certain intellectual property obligations under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), or the “TRIPS waiver” is to facilitate the effective prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19.
Developing countries have stressed that the “TRIPSwaiver” is an essential starting point for countries to ramp upand diversify the production of therapeutics, vaccines and other medical products needed to address the global pandemic.
However, a handful of countries —mostly those who have a stake in theprotection of monopoly-based pharmaceutical industry —including the European Union, the United States, Japan, Switzerland, and Canada, have been blocking the waiver.
Over 200 organizations from three continents and more than 40 countries across the Global South have written to the European Commission and leaders of rich countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and Australia urging them to unconditionally support the proposal.
“The pandemic has demanded extraordinary sacrifices from workers around the world. These political leaders are risking the lives of millions of workers simply to appease Big Pharma. These rules ensure big pharma has a monopoly over the production and supply, and can artificially limit supply and dictate high prices, which will consume public finances required for a healthy recovery. The only responsible thing to do is to make essential COVID-19 medical products especially vaccines accessible. We need the TRIPS waiver for this,” said Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International, a global union federation representing 30 million workers across the world, including healthcare workers.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom has stressed the need for massive scale-up in production and sharing of technology and data to ensure global equitable access. Intellectual property rules allow pharmaceutical companies to prevent other manufacturers from producing COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, impeding the scale up of much needed production and artificially limiting competition and creating supply constraints.
“It makes little sense that the United States, the European Union, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, are blocking the proposal at the World Trade Organization that would allow them, and the rest of the world, to getmore of the vaccines and treatments we all need,” says T Sundaraman, Global Coordinator of the People’s Health Movement, the international network of 2 grassroots health organisations and practitioners active in more than 80 countries. “Access to the COVID-19 medical products is critical to control the pandemic because nobody is safe until everybody is safe,” he stresses.
Rich countries have argued that they are facilitating access by supporting the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, but this mechanism itself is struggling to obtain sufficient amounts to vaccinate even just 3% of the population of low and middle-income countries. This meagre level of vaccination issimply not enough to break the chain of transmission. Current vaccine shortages in developing and least developed countries expose the crisis of limited supply —currently mostly in the hands of rich countries —and the need to diversify and expand the manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics.
“Developed countries by blocking the adoption of the waiver proposal at the WTO are failing in their human rights obligations”, says Chee Yoke Ling, Executive Director of the Third World Network, an internationalpolicy research and advocacy organisation. “COVID-19 medical products especially vaccines and medicines are the results of substantial public investments and contributionsof people who participated in clinical trials — the riskiest part of product development — and should be treated as global public goods, and any intellectual property requirements on them should be automatically waived.”
A series of WTO meetings are in the pipeline to discuss and hopefully finalise the wording of the waiver. The TRIPS waiver has the support of the vast majority of developing countries andis also supported by the World Health Organization, UN Human Rights Experts, UNITAID, UNAIDS. The opposition by a few high income countriesis undermining global efforts to control COVID-19 and endangering the lives of billions of people.
1. Africa Coal Network 2. Africa Young Positives Network (AY+) 3. AIDS and Rights Alliance for southern Africa (ARASA), Southern and East Africa 4. Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) 5. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) 6. Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+) 7. Building and Wood Workers Asia Pacific, Asia Pacific 8. Caritas de América Latina y el Caribe 9. Centre de Recherches et d'Appui pour les Alternatives de développement - Océan Indien (CRAAD-OI) 10. Corresponsales Clave 11. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) 12. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi African Region 13. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi East Africa 14. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi Latin America 15. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi South Asia 16. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi South-East Asia 17. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi GARDP Southern Africa 18. East Africa Climate Change Network 19. Education International, Asia Pacific 20. GRAIN 21. Health Action International Asia Pacific 22. International Treatment Preparedness Coalition Latin America and The Caribbean 23. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) 24. Latin American Key Correspondent Team, Latin America 25. LDC Watch 26. Malaria Free Mekong, Greater Mekon 27. Mesa Vinculacion mecanismo regional de la sociedad civil de A. Latina y el Caribe 28. Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition 29. Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) 30. Pascal International Members Association (PIMA) 31. People’s Health Movement (PHM) 32. People's Vaccine Alliance 33. Plataforma de Personas que ejercen trabajo Sexual 34. Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) 35. Public Services International, Africa 36. Public Services International, Asia Pacific 37. Public Services International , Interamericas 38. Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (PLANT) 39. Red Juvenil de Asociación de Mujeres Gente Nueva (REDJUAMUGEN) 40. Red Latinoamericana por el Acceso a Medicamentos, Latin America 41. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) 42. The African Alliance 43. Third World Network (TWN) 44. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Latin America 45. Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (VARG) 46. Women Defend Commons Network, Pacific 47. Yolse, Santé Publique & Innovation 48. Access to Medicines Research Group, China 49. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador 50. Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS, Uganda 51. Africaine de Recherche et de Coopération pour l’Appui au Développement Endogène (ARCADE), Senegal 52. African Centre for Biodiversity, South Africa 53. Akbayan Citizens' Action Party, Philippines 54. All India Drug Action Network, India 55. Alliance of Health Workers, Philippines 56. Alternative Information & Development Centre, South Africa 57. Asociación TEDIC, Paraguay 58. Association des Agriculteurs Réunis pour le Développement du Cameroun 59. Association des Étudiants en Pharmacie du Sénégal 60. Association des Étudiants en Pharmacie du Togo 61. Association Malienne pour le Développement, la Protection de l'Environnement et la Lutte contre la Désertification (AMADE PELCODE), Mali 62. L’Association Sénégalaise des Producteurs de Semences Paysannes (ASPSP), Senegal 63. Azad Hind Building Workers Union, India 64. Badan Bertindak Selamatkan Industri Padi dan Beras (Padi Rescue), Malaysia 65. Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico 66. Baptist convention of South Africa 67. Black Sash, South Africa 68. Brazilian Interdisciplinary Aids Association (ABIA), Brazil 69. Brazilian Network of PWHA, Brazil 70. Budget Justice Coalition, South Africa 71. Cadire Cameroon Association, Cameroon 72. Cancer Alliance, South Africa 73. Cancer Patients Aid Association, India 74. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development, Uganda 75. Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Malawi 76. Centre for Health and Resource Management, India 77. Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Philippines 78. Centro de Información de Medicamentos de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia 79. Citizens Network for Community Development Zambia 80. Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner, South Africa 81. Coalición de Tendencia Clasista (CTC-VZLA), Venezuela 82. Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda), Uganda 83. Coalition of women living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA), Malawi 84. Comité de Veeduría y Cooperación en Salud, Colombia 85. Comité Ouest Africain de Semences Paysannes (COASP), Senegal 86. Community Health Care Initiative, Uganda 87. Community-led Initiatives for Holistic Social Advancement (CHISA), Malawi 88. Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia 89. Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre, South Africa 90. Corporación Innovarte, Chile 91. Country Minders for People's Development, Malawi 92. Development for Peace Education, Lesotho 93. Discipline of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 94. Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji 95. Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative DNDi, Democratic Republic of the Congo 96. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Egypt 97. Electricity Employees’ Union, Sierra Leone 98. EMPOWER INDIA 99. Enlace-Centre de Desarrollo Humano, Paraguay 100. Federação dos Orgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional (FASE), Brazil 101. Federación Médica Colombiana, Colombia 102. Federasi Serikat Buruh Kerakyatan Indonesia 103. Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Nepal 104. Feministas en Acción, Argentina 105. FIAN Indonesia 106. Fiji Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Fiji 107. Food Sovereignty Ghana 108. Foro de Mujeres por la Igualdad de Oportunidades, Argentina 109. Forum of HIV/Aids NGOs from São Paulo (FOAESP), Brazil 110. Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philipines 111. Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo, Argentina 112. Fundación IFARMA, Colombia 113. Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar (MEXFAM), Mexico 114. Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer, Argentina 115. Gandhi Development Trust, South Africa 116. Gauteng Together, South Africa 117. Ges Asociación Civil, Argentina 118. GESTOS, Brazil 119. GIRL INSPIRATION GROUP, Zambia 120. Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association, Ghana 121. Grupo de Incentivo à Vida, Brazil 122. Grupo de Resistência Asa Branca, Brazil 123. Health and Rights Education Programme (HREP Malawi), Malawi 124. Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria 125. Health, Ethics and Law Institute of Forum for Medical Ethics Society, Mumbai, India 126. Health Equity Initiatives, Malaysia 127. Hope for Rural Women's Assembly, Lesotho 128. Human Rights Research Documentation Center (HURIC), Uganda 129. Human Touch Foundation (Goa), India 130. Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences, India 131. INCITEGov, Philippines 132. IDRIS Association, Malaysia 133. Indonesia for Global Justice, Indonesia 134. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, India 135. Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, South Africa 136. Instituto para el Desarrollo Humano, Bolivia 137. International Community Woman VIH/SIDA, Argentina Chapter 138. International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS, Kenya Chapter 139. International Labour, Research & Information Group (ILRIG), South Africa 140. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia 141. Kamara Organic Promoter Rwanda 142. Kamukunji Paralegal Trust (KAPLET), Kenya 143. Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS, Kenya 144. Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations, Kenya 145. KILELE Challenge, Kenya 146. Konfederasi Serikat Buruh Seluruh Indonesia (KSBSI), Indonesia 147. Ladder for rural development organization (LAFORD), Malawi 148. Life Concern, Malawi 149. Malawi Network of Community Health Workers, Malawi 150. Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), Malawi 151. Malay Economic Action Council, (MTEM) Malaysia 152. Malaysian Movement Against TPPA (BANTAH TPPA), Malaysia 153. Médicos sin Marca Colombia 154. Misión Salud, Colombia 155. Mouvement de Réflexion sur les Opportunités de Développement au Burkina Faso (MROD-BF), Burkina Faso 156. National Education Health & Allied Workers' Union, South Africa 157. National Fisheries Solidarity, Sri Lanka 158. National Labour and Economic Development Institute, South Africa 159. National Trade Union Federation, Sri Lanka 160. National Health Workers' Union of Liberia (NAHWUL), Liberia 161. NGO 350, Côte d’Ivoire 162. NGO Gender Coordination Network, Malawi 163. New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS), Nigeria 164. Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association, Nigeria 165. Observatorio del Medicamento de la Federación Médica Colombiana, Colombia 166. Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN), Bangladesh 167. Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia 168. Patient and Community Welfare Foundation of Malawi (PAWEM), Malawi 169. People's Health Movement Uganda 170. Pertubuhan Persaudaraan Pesawah Malaysia (PeSAWAH), Malaysia 171. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines 172. Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, South Africa 173. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), Malaysia 174. PT Foundation, Malaysia 175. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia 176. Sam Tambani Research Institute, South Africa 177. People’s Health Movement Zambia 178. Serikat Pekerja Nasional, Indonesia 179. Seriti Institute, South Africa 180. Sikkim Drug Users' Forum, India 181. Small Scale Farmers Forum of Lesotho, Lesotho 182. Society for Community Health Awareness, Research and Action (SOCHARA), India 183. Society for Rural Education and Development, India 184. Society of Development and Care, Kenya 185. Sophiatown Community Psychological Services, South Africa 186. South African Food Sovereignty Campaign, South Africa 187. South African Non-communicable Diseases Alliance, South Africa 188. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute, Uganda 189. Sukaar Welfare Organization, Pakistan 190. Sustaining the Wild Coast, South Africa 191. Swasthya Adhikar Manch, India 192. Take Charge Community Initiative, Uganda 193. Tarangini Mahila Adhikar Prashikshyen Kendra (Tarangini Foundation), Nepal 194. TB Proof, South Africa 195. The Garden Basket, South Africa 196. The Noordhoek Environmental Action Group, South Africa 197. The Prakarsa, Indonesia 198. Timber Employees Union Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysia 199. Tunisian Association for Defending the Right to Health, Tunisia 200. Uganda Women's Cancer Support Organisation, Uganda 201. United Front for Rural Plantation and Construction Workers (UNIFRONT), India 202. United Congregational Church, South Africa 203. University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa 204. Women's Coalition Against Cancer (WOCACA), Malawi 205. Womenplus Against TB and HIV in Kenya 206. Women's Probono Initiative, Uganda 207. Working Group on Intellectual Property of the Brazilian Network for Integration of Peoples (GTPI), Brazil 208. Yayasan prama, Indonesia 209. Youth and Small Holder Farmers Association, Nigeria 210. Young Hearts for Palestine, South Africa 211. Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity, Zambia 212. Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF), Zimbabwe
Germany, through the European Commission, is obstructing and opposing the proposal which seeks to remove relevant intellectual property monopolies so that production of COVID-19 medical products may be expanded and diversified globally. Open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel.