On Wednesday, 9 November 2016, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) delivered the following statement at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS Council’s discussions of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel Report on Access to Medicines. UNCTAD informed WTO members that the agency had recently recommended to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to consider endorsement of the Report of the High Level Panel.
The Report of the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicine
Comments by the UNCTAD Secretariat at the Council for TRIPS
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
UNCTAD recently recommended to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to consider endorsement of the Report of the High Level Panel.
As a member of the Expert Advisory Group to the High Level Panel, UNCTAD was involved in the expert discussions that fed into the High Level Panel’s Report. UNCTAD also provided comments on the first draft of the Report.
The Report makes recommendations in three separate, but inter-related areas:
- Intellectual property laws and access to health technologies;
- New incentives for research and development of health technologies; and
- Governance, accountability and transparency.
Within the context of its mandate, UNCTAD’s technical expertise resides mainly within the first of these areas. The bulk of UNCTAD’s contributions during the technical discussions with the Expert Advisory Group and the High Level Panel related to intellectual property (IP) laws and access issues.
On Intellectual property laws and access to health technologies
The High Level Panel Report recommends the full use of flexibilities inherent in the WTO TRIPS Agreement as reiterated in the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. UNCTAD’s advisory and capacity building work over the past ten years shows that these flexibilities, such as the recourse to strict patenting requirements, certain exceptions to patent rights and the availability of compulsory licenses play an important role in promoting generic competition and thus decreasing drug prices. According to our research many of those countries that now enjoy a fully developed pharmaceutical sector in the past relied on many of those flexibilities that the High Level Panel Report recommends in order to strike a balance between inventors’ rights and the realization of certain development objectives. The High Level Panel ‘s recommendations underline the United Nations’ commitment to the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 3, which in its targets expressly refers to the goal of providing “access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all”.
On New incentives for research and development of health technologies
The High Level Panel Report recommends increased investment by governments in health technology innovation to address unmet needs, such as neglected tropical diseases and antimicrobial resistance. The Report refers to various ongoing initiatives in this regard and underlines the need to develop new and innovative sources of financing public R&D, in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. The Report is not limited to public funding, but underlines the untapped opportunities for increasing private sector funding. The recommendations provide important support to efforts that seek to identify innovative opportunities for both public and private sector funding of health R&D. UNCTAD is willing to contribute its vast experience in investment policy making and technology issues in this regard.
Finally, on Governance, accountability and transparency
The High Level Panel Report calls for increased collaboration among UN agencies to improve coherence in technical cooperation activities related to public health as well as to monitor the implementation of the High Level Panel’s recommendations. UNCTAD in the delivery of its technical cooperation activities on investment and intellectual property rights as it relates to trade and development already cooperates to a large extent with other agencies such as UNAIDS, UNDP, WIPO, WHO and WTO. UNCTAD welcomes the High Level Panel Report’s recommendation to increase inter-agency coordination.
Thank you for your attention.”