[Top] [All Lists]

AFRO-NETS> WTO's bias debate on essential drugs and TRIPS

WTO's bias debate on essential drugs and TRIPS


The following exchange between MSF (Nobel peace price winner medecins 
sans frontieres), Oxfam and the WTO (world trade organisation) is re-
produced with thanks from E-Drug. 

As the UNGASS (June 25th) approaches, I think it shows that not only 
NGOs but simple individuals have to act-up quickly as watch-dogs of 
the giant-policy makers such as the WTO.

The World Bank, the IMF (international monetary fund), the WTO and 
private consulting firms (e.g. McKinsey) are presents on these forums 
listening quietly (the academic term in online education is coined 
'lurking'), but we rarely receive dialectical answers to the issues 
they dominate.

By all means last year, they wasted times and funds by trying to push 
within the context of HIV/AIDS an agenda of globalised capitalism, 
free market, full TRIPS-ratification, etc., and in some respect abus-
ing the issue of HIV/AIDS. The TRIPS is bad news for poor countries: 
more constraint, less democracy and less revenues.

Rhetorical answers (as that provided below by the WTO to MSF) may be 
appropriate for face-to-face meetings in which body language, polite-
ness, etc. play a role. Here on asynchronous communication, the ques-
tion is plain dialectical. If the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO 
fail to launch into a discussion to explain their shortcomings, their 
bias in favour of globalisation, the outcome will be that they will 
loose all credibility in the eyes of simple unemployed young people.

The longer they delay to start explaining their motivation, their 
*emotions* (if that applies), the more the simple people will organ-
ise to circumvent the shortcomings of large powers. The Internet is 
here and solely sponsored by individuals who pay their access to ISP 
(Internet service providers); even attempts to switch off the Inter-
net between countries have proven to further spark collaboration us-
ing Unix-to-Unix phone lines communication (so called UU, or Linux). 
I would still have agreed to make use of satellite six months ago for 
OERT (online education research and training), but as time is pass-
ing, as even NGOs ignore the call for activating research in poor 
countries and promoting scientific knowledge, I am convinced that our 
efforts must go into "free software" (not even open source) to allow 
a full "home-based" OERT, requiring no servers, therefore no control 
(email-to-email online education). Young people aren't radicalised by 
poverty, they are empowered by Internet communication (e.g. Linux).

The communication of the XXth century was essentially passive, cen-
tralised and synchronous, thus favoured rhetoric, which gave place to 
the most horrendous century of violence (by hundreds of millions). 
The XXIst century's communication will hopefully be active, decen-
tralised and asynchronous thus allowing for reflection.

Unlike MSF, I believe it is no longer grounds to waste time with gi-
ants (I should coined them dinosaurs or titanics). For an unemployed, 
the TRIPS is dead, it did not bring anything but hardship. We need to 
open-up property so that individuals may reclaim knowledge and land. 

All the financial progress made in the XXth century was achieved by 
exchanging land against employment. The relation wasn't reversed in 
case of unemployment: no return of land. Some of my grand-grand-
parents were poor in French Burgundy working for wineries, but they 
had access to some land, animals and plants; they had some medicinal 
knowledge like all people had. Yes, education has achieved unbeliev-
able progress. But today unemployed young persons, WITH or WITHOUT 
higher education, are dispossessed of everything, and live in concen-
tration urban spaces, having only their soul or body to sell as if 
there were products.

Progress is never secured, unless all benefit and participate to it 
... even animals and plants.

Christian Labadie, M.S.

E-drug: WTO meeting on essential medicines - Where are the NGOs?

On July 6-7 The World Trade Organisation will hold a NGO conference. 
Part of this meeting will be devoted to essential medicines. See an-
nouncement at:

WHO is not invited to take part in the panel and when I contacted EDM 
they were not aware of this meeting. There are no health people or 
NGOs on the programme. The speakers on medicines are: Carlos Correa, 
Thomas Cottier and Jeff Kushan. All people with legal expertise - 
useful but not enough. Jeff Kushan, ex USTR [government agency of the 
United States related to trade] and a lawyer working for Pharma.

Now I think it is wonderful that WTO is interested in essential medi-
cines but can we take the WTO serious if they are not prepared to in-
volve NGOs and public health people in a panel on access to medicines 
other than allowing comments from the audience?

The WTO can hide behind official procedures when not allowing NGOs as 
observers at the TRIPS Council, but a meeting like this is an oppor-
tunity to involve NGOs particularly on an issue like access to medi-
cines where NGOs have been the main movers and shakers. NGOs have al-
ways involved WTO in their discussions on trade aspects of access to 

Ellen 't Hoen


E-drug: Re: WTO meeting on essential medicines - Where are the NGOs?


There seems to be some misunderstanding. The whole purpose of the 
meeting is to provide for the participation of NGOs. The discussants 
are there merely to kick the discussion off. The idea is that, out of 
a half-day session, they will have 10 minutes each for this purpose. 
Then there will be the opportunity for all interested NGOs to have 
their say. Rather than seek to make a choice between NGOs, we have 
sought to find discussants knowledgable in TRIPS matters who are 
close to NGO hinking and who would reflect the variety of views to be 
found in non-governmental circles. However, the main purpose of the 
session is not to listen to them but to the NGOs.


Adrian Otten


E-drug: Re: WTO meeting on essential medicines - Where are the NGOs?

 If the purpose of the WTO is to listen to the NGOs and try to "jump-
start" the discussion by presenting the different points of view in 
the NGO world, it defeats its own purpose by giving valuable space to 
the most powerful industry lobby in the US--which already commands 
undue access to and influence in the WTO. This simply reinforces the 
power imbalance in the WTO between NGOs and corporations.

I suggest that a better format would be to have Pharma respond from 
the floor in. If the concern is that industry will remain silent be-
fore NGO fora like this--which is what they've done in the past--
that's their choice and their loss. However, we all know they cer-
tainly have not been silent in pushing their agenda at the WTO where 
they are accorded the full weight of a powerful insider. It may be 
naive to think that the NGOs will ever be given equal opportunity of 
this sort. The proposed format of this panel certainly reinforces 
this skepticism. 

Severina Rivera
Oxfam America

Reply (2)

E-drug: Re: WTO meeting on essential medicines - Where are the NGOs?


I do not think that there is a misunderstanding. I understand that if 
you organise a meeting for NGOs that you invite NGOs to come to it. I 
do think however that if you want to listen to what NGOs have to say 
you need to invite them to prepare for it and speak at the meeting.

I also do not think it is correct that the WTO organises a panel on 
medicines without public health people participating in the panel. 
Imagine your response if WHO would do the same on trade.


Ellen 't Hoen, LL.M.
MSF- Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
8, rue Saint-Sabin, 75544 Paris Cedex 11
tel: + 33 (0) 1 40212836
fax: + 33 (0) 1 48066868

Send mail for the `AFRO-NETS' conference to `<>'.
Mail administrative requests to `<>'.
For additional assistance, send mail to:  `<>'.

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • AFRO-NETS> WTO's bias debate on essential drugs and TRIPS, Christian Labadie <=