Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr16/02)
6 April 2016
Third World Network
launches campaign against UNHLP
Published in SUNS #8215 dated 6 April 2016
Geneva, 5 Apr (D. Ravi Kanth) -- After scuttling globally-beneficial
obligations for sharing the latest technologies to combat climate
change in the recent Paris agreement, the powerful US industry and
business lobbies have now launched another major campaign to undermine
the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicines (UNHLP),
according to a letter accessed by the SUNS.
In a letter addressed to Senator Orrin Hatch, the chair for the US
Senate Committee on Finance, a fortnight ago, six leading American
industry and business lobbies demanded an "effective inter-agency
approach" which was adopted by the US delegation in the Paris
climate talks to other UN initiatives, particularly the UN High Level
Panel on Access to Medicines.
The UNHLP was formed by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in November
The six American lobbies include the Biotechnology Innovation Organization
(BIO), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), National Foreign
Trade Council (NFTC), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers
of America (PhRMA), the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber),
and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB).
They cited the "effective inter-agency approach" under the
leadership of the US State Department to "secure a final UNFCCC
(UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) text that does not mention
IP (intellectual property) and thus removes uncertainty that could
have discouraged investments by the US companies in clean technology."
Under the dubious argument of safeguarding innovation and "maintaining
the ability of US innovators to develop and disseminate solutions
to society's great challenges," which is a euphemism for ensuring
the most burdensome and onerous intellectual property commitments,
the US lobbies maintained that "significant challenges to IP
still remain in the Paris Agreement's implementation and subsequent
negotiations - especially those related to the technology development
and transfer chapter."
In the face of proliferating challenges to the IP protection within
the UN system, the American lobbies want the administration to continue
to adopt the inter-agency approach to jettison the UN High Level Panel
on Access to Medicines (UNHLP).
The UNHLP is tasked to "remedy the policy incoherence between
justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade
rules and public health in the context of health technologies."
Coming at a time when the disease burden is multiplying in developing
and poorest countries, which are unable to combat the most deadly
cancer-related and other diseases because of the IP provisions, the
UNHLP has its task cut out.
It is jointly chaired by the former Swiss President Ms Ruth Dreifuss
and the former President of Botswana Mr Fetus Gontebanye Mogae.
Ms Dreifuss is respected all over the world for her sustained campaign
against Novartis which refused to accept India's first compulsory
licence for Glivec cancer drug on public health grounds. Mr Mogae
provided the leadership in tackling the HIV problem by ensuring anti-retroviral
treatment to its citizens in Botswana.
Along with these two eminent chairs, the UNHLP also includes several
panel members drawn from the government, industry, public health institutions,
and non-governmental groups.
The members include Mr Andrew Witty, the former chief executive officer
of GlaxoSmithKline, Ms Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a development economist,
Mr Awn Al-Khasawneh, the former prime minister of Jordan, Mr Celso
Amorim, the former foreign minister of Brazil, Ms Winnie Byanyima,
the executive director of Oxfam, Mr Shiba Phurailatpam, a living HIV
patient and activist, Ms Malebona Precious Matsoso, the director-general
in the Health Department of the Government of South Africa, Mr Yusuf
Hamied, the executive chairman of the leading generic drug company
Cipla, Mr Michael Kiry, a retired Australian judge, Ms Ruth Okediji,
a law professor at Minnesota University Law School, Mr Gorge Bermudez,
a former head of UNITAID, Ms Kinga Goncz, a law professor from Hungary,
Ms Maria C. Freire, the executive director of the US Foundation for
the National Institutes of Health, and Mr Stephen Lewis, an official
of the advocacy organization AIDS-Free World.
The American business lobbies are on a warpath because the panel includes
a range of people with different backgrounds and experiences and it
might adopt a genuine inquiry into the policy incoherence that is
responsible for denying humanitarian remedies.
"We are concerned, however, that the UNHLP process will not provide
for an informed, balanced, and inclusive dialogue that adequately
incorporates the perspectives of innovators," the six US business
Casting aspersions on the selection process of the panel, the business
lobbies raised vicious charges that the panel will not be able to
assess "the complex issues impacting the development and deployment
of health-related technologies."
"Based on the lack of balance evident in the background and views
of Panel and advisory group members, as well as the lack of important
context about the value of intellectual property in the Panel's supporting
documents, it is unfortunately likely that the result of this process,
while perhaps well-intentioned, will be ill-informed," the US
business lobbies vehemently maintained.
The American lobbies also downgraded work done by the World Health
Organization, the UN specialized agency on health, with its Framework
for Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) as well as in the UN's
global Technology Facilitation Mechanism.
In short, "inter-governmental organizations that are discriminatory
towards business, or that focus on a limited range of factors potentially
inhibiting innovation deployment, undermine evidence-based policy-making
and hobble the delivery of solutions to healthcare and other sustainability
challenges," the US business lobbies claimed.
The continued crusade against "inter-governmental organizations"
by the US lobbies is not something new.
Whenever any panel is formed at an inter-governmental organization,
the US business lobbies go into the overkill to ensure that the panel
members are tainted if they adopt genuinely people-, development-centered
Time and time again the American negotiators ensured that their heavily-subsidized
innovators continued to reap monopoly profits at the cost of worsening
global epidemics and climate change problems.
The US administration also adopted similar tactics in the global trade
negotiations in which it has aggressively ensured that the developmental
concerns of the developing countries are trumped by the concerns of
their egregiously subsidized farm groups.
The US led the efforts to try to dismantle the Doha Development Agenda
(DDA) trade negotiations in Nairobi over three months ago. It is an
open secret that the DDA negotiations stood in the way of Washington's
pursuit of perpetuating inequities and distortions stemming from the
previous Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.
Unless the developing and poorest countries adopt common positions
to secure credible and developmental outcomes for addressing global
challenges, they will continue to face defeat after defeat in crafting
major international agreements. Invariably, it is a battle between
the profits-centered American positions on the one side, and life-and-death
survival concerns of poor countries on the other, according to several
developing country envoys. +