Science has delivered, will the WTO deliver? TRIPS waiver proposal from India, South Africa, other members
#WTO; #IntellectualPropertyRights; #TRIPS; #IMF; #Covid19Pandemic;
India, South Africa and eight other countries have been calling the World Trade Organization (WTO) with a proposal to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, and other Intellectual Property (IP) rights under the organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known as TRIPS, for a limited period of time to ensure Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) to facilitate rapid scaling- up of manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, said Brajendra Navnit, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to WTO.
WTO. Image credit: weform.org
The proposal has been backed by various international organizations, multilateral agencies and global civil society and supported by a large proportion of the WTO membership, while only a few members have raised concerns about the proposal.
The proposal has been backed by various international organizations, multilateral agencies, and global civil society and supported by a large proportion of the WTO membership, while only a few members have raised concerns about the proposal.
Unprecedented times call for unorthodox measures. We saw this in the efficacy of strict lockdowns for a limited period, as a policy intervention, in curtailing the spread of the pandemic.
“…However, the risk of worse growth outcomes than projected remains sizable. If the virus resurges, progress on treatments and vaccines is slower than anticipated, or countries’ access to them remains unequal, economic activity could be lower than expected, with renewed social distancing and tighter lockdowns”, International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its October 2020 edition of World Economic Outlook states.
But the situation appears to be grimmer than predicted, said Navnit as already there has been a loss of 7 percent of economic output from the baseline scenario projected in 2019 which translates to a loss of more than USD 6 trillion of global GDP.
Navnit added that even a 1 percent improvement in global GDP from the baseline scenario will add more than USD 800 billion in global output.
Timely and affordable access to the emergence of successful vaccines and treatments will be a big confidence booster for demand revival in the economy but the fundamental question is whether there will be enough Covid-19 vaccines to go around.
“As things stand, even the most optimistic scenarios today cannot assure access to Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics for the majority of the population, in rich as well as poor countries, by the end of 2021. All the members of the WTO have agreed on one account that there is an urgent need to scale-up the manufacturing capacity for vaccines and therapeutics to meet the massive global needs. The TRIPS Waiver Proposal seeks to fulfill this need by ensuring that IP barriers do not come in the way of such scaling up of manufacturing capacity,” said Navnit.
Why existing flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement are not enough
The inadequacy of the existing flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement is due to the fact that these were not designed keeping pandemics in mind. The practice of issuing of compulsory on a country by country, case by case and product by product basis, where every jurisdiction with an IP regime would have to issue separate compulsory licenses, results in the collaboration among countries to be extremely onerous.
“While we encourage the use of TRIPS flexibilities, the same is time-consuming and cumbersome to implement. Hence, only their use cannot ensure timely access to affordable vaccines and treatments. Similarly, we have not seen very encouraging progress on WHO’s Covidl9-Technology Access Pool or the C-TAP initiative, which encourages the voluntary contribution of IP, technology, and data to support the global sharing and scale-up of the manufacturing of COVID19 medical products. Voluntary Licenses, even where they exist, are shrouded in secrecy. Their terms and conditions are not transparent. Their scope is limited to specific amounts or for a limited subset of countries, thereby encouraging nationalism rather than true international collaboration,” said Navnit.
Why is there a need to go beyond existing global cooperation initiatives?
There is a need to go beyond existing global cooperation initiatives such as the COVAX Mechanism and the ACT-Accelerator are inadequate to meet the massive global needs of 7.8 billion people. The ACT-A initiative aims to procure 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of next year and distribute them fairly around the world. With a two-dose regime, however, this will only cover I, billion people. That means that even if ACT-A is fully financed and successful, which is not the case presently, there would not be enough vaccines for the majority of the global population.
The initial few months of the current pandemic has witnessed emptying of shelves by those who had access to masks, PPEs, sanitizers, gloves, and other essential Covid-19 items even without their immediate need.
Navnit says that the same should not happen to vaccines. Although the world was able to ramp up manufacturing of Covid-19 essentials without IP barriers hindering that, we need the same pooling of IP rights and know-how for scaling up the manufacturing of vaccines and treatments necessitating the need for the Waiver.
“It is the pandemic — an extraordinary, once in a lifetime event — that has mobilized the collaboration of multiple stakeholders. It is knowledge and skills held by scientists, researchers, public health experts and universities that have enabled the cross-country collaborations and enormous public funding that has facilitated the development of vaccines in record time — and not alone IP”
The TRIPS waiver proposal, well-within the provisions of Article IX of the Marrakesh Agreement which established the WTO, is a targeted and proportionate response to the exceptional public health emergency that the world faces today to ensure that human lives are not lost for want of timely and affordable access to vaccines.
The adoption of the Waiver will also re-establish WTO’s credibility and show the credibility of the multilateral trading system to deliver in times of a crisis and save lives and help in getting the economy back on the revival path quickly.
“While making the vaccines available was a test of science, making them accessible and affordable is going to be a test of humanity. History should remember us for the “AAA rating” i.e. for Availability, Accessibility and Affordability of Covid 19 vaccines and treatments and not for a single “A rating” for Availability only. Our future generations deserve nothing less” said Navnit in his concluding remarks.
#UN; #EconomicDevelopment; #Poverty; #Covid19
UN/Canadian-Media: More than 32 million of the world’s poorest people face being pulled back into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, leading UN economists said on Thursday, highlighting data showing that the pandemic is likely to cause the worst economic crisis in decades among least developed countries (LDCs).
An over-reliance on traditional activities such as farming has left all but a handful of least developed countries (LDCs) extremely vulnerable to the economic shock caused by COVID-19. Pictured here, a family farmer in Chad. (file photo). Image credit: UNICEF/Asselin
In a call for urgent investment and support from the wider international community, the UN trade and development agency, UNCTAD, warned that the new coronavirus risked reversing years of “painstaking progress” in poverty reduction, nutrition and education.
“The COVID crisis is leading LDCs to their worst economic crisis in 30 years, with per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the group expected to fall by 2.6 per cent this year ,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, during a virtual press conference.
“We project that absolute poverty indices will be expand by 32 million, and extreme poverty rates in these countries will rise from 32.5 per cent to 35.7 in the current year.”
An estimated 1.06 billion people live in the 47 LDCs, which account for less than 1.3 per cent of global economic turnover, orGDP.
Extreme poverty is defined as having an income lower than $1.90 per day.
In 2019, average earnings per capita in these countries – which are mainly in Africa - was $1,088 compared with the world average of $11,371, the UN agency said, highlighting their weak infrastructure and reduced financial means to withstand economic shocks.
Disastrous fallout The potentially disastrous fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic could be reversed with urgent investment and support from the international community to help overcome LDCs’ vulnerabilities and improve their manufacturing capacity, Mr. Kituyi insisted.
Turning to concerns about how COVID-19 threatens to push back moves to implement much-needed transformative economic changes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNCTAD chief said that those which had invested most in boosting production capacity were the ones that were likely to weather the global downturn.
“The LDCs that have been most active and innovative in combating the pandemic have been those with the most productive capacity or institutional capacity,” Mr. Kituyi said. “Countries like Senegal, which produced cheap and rapid COVID testing kits, Bangladesh and others like Ethiopia, repurposing garment factories to produce PPEs (personal protective equipment).”
The development of productive capacity had been “too small” in most LDCs which have now “fallen behind” other developing countries, Mr Kituyi explained.
“Structural transformation in the LDCs has been restricted to just a handful of countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Rwanda. Only in these small handful of LDCs have we experienced sufficient industrial growth and an expansion of modern services sectors, leading to stronger labour productivity gains.”
By contrast, most African LDCs and Haiti have seen much smaller structural change, where agriculture and other traditional activities were likely to see continuing low levels of economic growth and lead to little improvement in people’s living standards.
The report, which assesses the economic potential and capacity of least developed countries, also highlights what key measures will help them recover better after the pandemic.
As an example of sustainable industrial change, it cited Uganda’s Kayoola Bus initiative, which has established the domestic production of buses powered mainly by renewable energy, to tackle the environmental and health problems of transport-related air pollution.
COVID-19 could see over 200 million more pushed into extreme poverty, new UN development report finds
#UN; #Poverty; Covid19; #UNDP
UN/Canadian-Media: An additional 207 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030, due to the severe long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total number to more than a billion, a new study from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has found.
A man, carrying a load on his back, in what is generally a busy business district in Kathmandu, Nepal. COVID-19 and the associated lockdown has hit people hard, with many daily-wage earners losing their only source of income. Image credit: UN News\Vibhu Mishra
According to the study, released on Thursday, such a “high damage” scenario would mean a protracted recovery from COVID-19, anticipating that 80 per cent of the pandemic-induced economic crisis would continue over a decade.
Not a foregone conclusion The gloomy scenario, is however, “not a foregone conclusion”.
A tight focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), could slow the rise of extreme poverty – lifting 146 million from its grip – and even exceed the development trajectory the world was on before the pandemic, UNDP said.
Such an ambitious but feasible “SDG push” scenario would also narrow the gender poverty gap, and reduce the female poverty headcount, even taking into account the current impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency added.
A “Baseline COVID” scenario, based on current mortality rates and the most recent growth projections by the International Monetary Fund, would result in 44 million more people living in extreme poverty by 2030 compared to the development trajectory the world was on before the pandemic.
COVID-19 ‘a tipping point’ Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “tipping point” and the future would depend on decisions made today.
“As this new poverty research highlights, the COVID-19 pandemic is a tipping point, and the choices leaders take now could take the world in very different directions. We have an opportunity to invest in a decade of action that not only helps people recover from COVID-19, but that re-sets the development path of people and planet towards a fairer, resilient and green future.”
The concerted SDG interventions suggested by the study combine behavioural changes through nudges for both governments and citizens, such as improved effectiveness and efficiency in governance and changes in consumption patterns of food, energy and water.
The proposed interventions also focus on global collaboration for climate action, additional investments in COVID-19 recovery, and the need for improved broadband access and technology innovation.
The study was jointly prepared by UNDP and the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver. It assesses the impact of different COVID-19 recovery scenarios on sustainable development, and evaluates multidimensional effects of the pandemic over the next ten years.