Open letter

"You are jeopardizing the containment of Covid-19."

02/16/2021   Read time: 11 min

"Germany is obstructing and opposing the proposal to remove intellectual property monopolies so that production of COVID-19 medical products may be expanded and diversified globally", 200 organizations from the Global South claim.

Honourable Chancellor Angela Merkel,

The undersigned represent more than 200 non-governmental organizations and trade unions from developing countries struggling to secure COVID-19 vaccines as the pandemic devastates our communities and economies. We are writing to urge your government to support the proposal currently on the table at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive certain TRIPS[1] obligations for the prevention, treatment, and containment of COVID-19.

The proposal was presented by India and South Africa on October 2, 2020. This proposal has gained the support and co-sponsorship of developing countries from around the world.  The vast majority of developing countries as well as international organizations including the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNITAID, and representatives of civil society, trade unions, human rights experts and academia have expressed their support for the proposed waiver.[2]

Since the start of the pandemic, the EU and its members have promised international solidarity, global equitable access, and stressed the importance of creating global public goods. We recall you saying "This is a global public good to produce this vaccine and then to also distribute it to all parts of the world” as well as “We will have to go new ways, on one side regarding research and development and on the other side in parallel the building of production capacity for such a vaccine, in as many places in the world as possible”.[3]And yet Germany, through the European Commission speaking on behalf of the EU, is obstructing and opposing the waiver proposal which seeks to remove relevant intellectual property monopolies so that production of COVID-19 medical products may be expanded and diversified globally.

More than a year into the pandemic, severe shortages of medical products including test kits, protective equipment, ventilators, therapeutics and medical devices persist in many countries, hampering prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19.

The disparity in access to vaccines is especially shocking. High-income countries, which constitute just 16% of the world population have claimed 4.2 billion doses, compared to 2.5 billion doses by 84% of the world population. Many of these rich countries have purchased enough doses to vaccinate their population several times. According to WHO, more than three quarters of the vaccinations are in just 10 countries.[4] The Africa Union Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has pointed out the “painful irony” of clinical trials being conducted on the continent, which is now struggling to gain access to supply.

Global vaccine supply is presently dependent on a few pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, yet they are unable to meet global demand, even for rich countries. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable. In a global health emergency in which substantial amounts of public funding have driven the research and development, it is simply unconscionable that these few pharmaceutical companies will benefit from their intellectual property monopolies while the world is suffering. We also stress that the COVAX facility will only make 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021, representing a mere fraction of the needs of 6.4 billion people in developing countries.

There is an urgent need to expand and diversify supply options and engage manufacturers from across the world in ramping up vaccine production. For this to happen, intellectual property barriers must be removed. The TRIPS Waiver is the best way to do this, allowing manufacturers and governments the freedom to act to meet the global need for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.   

The EU’s opposition to the adoption of the waiver is simply indefensible. It is contributing to deepening the global crises of inequality. This opposition is also “self-defeating”.The recent emergence of new variants has shown that so long as large parts of the world’s population, especially vulnerable communities remain unprotected, new and more resistant virus mutations are likely to occur, threatening to prolong the pandemic, and continuing to further devastate livelihoods, communities and economies, worldwide including in EU countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis; it is an economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and a human rights crisis that requires compassion and global solidarity. We need urgent unprecedented action to be taken to contain the spread globally. We need manufacturers from every continent, in developing countries, wherever possible, engaged in production, if we are to overcome this pandemic.

We strongly urge Germany to demand that the European Commission unconditionally supports the proposal to waive certain TRIPS obligations for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19 and immediately stops obstructing its adoption.

We look forward to your support.


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

[1] The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights


[3] Press-statement at the WHO Covid-19 video donor-conference on 24. April 2020:

[4] As of 10 February 2021

Press release

200 organizations from 40 countries of the Global South are calling for an end to the blockade of the proposal to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid-19 medical products. We support their call.

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