[Ip-health] 10 years ago: NGO views on WTO Doha Declaration agreement, the day before it was made official

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Mon Nov 14 02:44:41 PST 2011

The following are quotes from eleven persons on NGO delegations who
attended the November 2001 WTO ministerial in Doha Qatar which
produced the November 14, 2001 Doha Declaration.  The quotes were the
unfiltered and unedited views of each of the participant, right before
the Doha Declaration was made official.  Jamie


Views on the Draft Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health
4:30 pm, November 13, 2001, Doha

Michael Bailey OXFAM
Doha is a big step forward in the battle for affordable medicines. The
huge profile given to the issue changes the political climate, building
on the victories in the South Africa and Brazil cases. It will now be
much harder for the US and the drug companies to bully poor countries
over their patent policies. We would have liked to see a stronger
declaration but there is a clear political statement that the agreement
must be implemented in a way that promotes access to medicines. The
next step is to ensure that next year’s scheduled review of the TRIPS
agreement takes a hard look at the length and scope of pharmaceutical
patents in developing countries, which remains the heart of the

Cecilia Oh, Third World Network
The declaration (as it stands) is a good first step. The developed
countries, in agreeing to the declaration, have committed themselves to
this process. We want to see a commitment on their part, and their
pharmaceutical lobbies, to stop pressures on developing countries. The
developing countries can get down to the work of implementing and
enacting domestic measures, with the guarantee that there will not be
pressures or legal threats. ..

Zafar Mirza, Health Action International and TheNetwork for Consumer
Protection in Pakistan.
It is a definite step forward though it could be stronger. The
declaration explicitly recognizes the issues as well as sovereignty of
the governments to take appropriate measures to get around to the
issues. A lot depends upon the countries now how they live up to the
expectations of the poor patients. The declaration also recognizes the
problems of countries with insufficient or no pharmaceutical
manufacturing capacity and also the limitation of the compulsory
license as solution to these problems. We hope General Counsel come up
with a clear solution to this issue next year. Our challenge now is to
get this declaration translated into action, which can save lives.

James Love, Consumer Project on Technology
The Doha declaration on TRIPS is the strongest and most important
international statement yet on the need to refashion national patent
laws to protect public health interests.  It is a road map for using
the flexibility of the TRIPS to protect the public health, and sets a
standard to measure any new bilateral or regional trade agreement.  The
declaration is a political statement that did not modify in any way the
TRIPS agreement, and the decision to settle for a political statement
was controversial in the negotiations.  The developing countries had
asked for legally binding interpretations of the agreement, including a
solution to the single most obvious problem with the TRIPS, the Article
31.f limitations on exports of medicines manufactured under a
compulsory license.   We were disappointed the European and American
negotiators blocked agreement to use Article 30 of the TRIPS to export
medicines to countries that do not have domestic capacity for
manufacturing, but pleased this issue will be examined by the TRIPS
council in 2002.  The negotiation over the export of medicines
provisions in the TRIPS will be the next battleground in term of trade

Daniel Berman, MSF
Since Seattle there has been a seismic shift. Two years ago many
developing countries felt they were powerless against the will of the
wealthy countries and their drug companies. Here in Doha more than 80
countries came together and negotiated in mass. It was this solidarity
that led to a strong affirmation that TRIPS “can and should be
interpreted and implemented in a manner …to protect public health.” In
practical terms it means that countries are not at the mercy of
multinationals when they practice price gouging. The threat of punitive
action against a country that attempts to address its health needs has
been dramatically reduced. With this declaration it is doubtful that a
wealthy country would dare file a dispute against a developing country
for using one of the safeguards such as compulsory licensing. Now
patent holders either offer prices that make their drugs accessible or
risk losing their monopoly rights. The victory in Doha is really for
people who need or will need access to life-saving or extending

Khalil, Elouardighi, Paris Act Up!
Like at the Health Ministerial in May 2001, The EC and the EU again
fell into this apparently spontaneous good cop/bad cop mode, with the
US opposing everything and the EU claiming to have no position of its
own  on the issues and to only want to help the opposed parties find a
middle ground, while in truth intensively watering down the developing
countries’ proposals. Then the political need to come back from Doha
with some semblance of success made the Brazilian delegates cave in to
the rich countries' position and agree to forget legally binding
wording as well as clarification of exports for generic versions of
patented drugs.  India and the Africa group resisted a bit, but were
not imparted with enough political commitment to the issue to make this
a deal-breaker. The Africa group representative, and the African
delegates, did not realize the role and value of press work for
negotiation purposes, both in terms of contradicting rich countries'
propaganda and of holding North public opinions ransom for North
government's predictable efforts to renege on the spirit and/or letter
of the Doha Declaration. They waited until the last day to talk to the
press, instead of crying foul at the first immoral positions insisted
upon by developing countries. The chairman of the Africa Group did not
answer when asked in press  conference whether it should be expected
that the hard-won right to effectively use compulsory licensing
provisions would be exercised by African countries in the short term,
in the context of the health crises currently obtaining on the
continent, and after the US and Pharma had told the press in the
morning that the Declaration didn't mean anything in the sense that it
was purely political, and that it did not really say  anything about
how WTO would react should patents broken. Where relation with the
media is concerned, developing countries seem  to show surprising
naiveness about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over
richest country governments and their duplicity with regard to
international agreements. They should be briefed about negotiation
techniques and the role of the press therein.

Ellen ‘t Hoen, Medecins Sans Frontieres
This declaration is a major step forwards in the quest to ensure access
to medicines for all. The text that has been agreed upon now was
unthinkable 6 months, 6 weeks, even 6 days ago. It states clearly that
there are serious conflicts between the obligations under the TRIPS
Agreement  and countries need to protect public health including
providing access to medicines, it states that countries have the right
to take measures to overcome patent barriers to public health and the
statement outlines clearly how countries can do this.  It is a missed
opportunity that this ministerial conference did not offer a solution
for countries without production capacity that want to make use of
compulsory licensing . But we are confident that this issue will be
resolved in the next year in the TRIPS Council. Countries can ensure
access to medicines without fear of being dragged into a legal battle.
Now its up to governments to use this power to bring down the cost of
medicines and increase access to life-saving treatments.

Asia Russell, Health Gap Coalition and Act Up Philly
Developing countries came to Doha to extract a clear declaration that
public health and access to medicines are more important than
protecting the commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies.  At
the end of the day, opposition from rich countries crippled the legally
binding language sought by the majority of WTO countries.”

Gaelle Krikorian, ACT UP Paris
Wealthy countries and drug companies refuse to compromise patent
monopolies in poor countries that have no domestic capacity. The
declaration does nothing to remedy this barrier. The majority of people
with AIDS and other treatable diseases live in these countries, so a
solution is critical.  The Ministerial Declaration merely acknowledges
the problem of exporting drugs to poor countries—rich countries stood
in the way of taking the actions that are desperately needed.

Sharoann Lynch, Health Gap and Act Up NYC
Countries levying formal or informal pressure on poor countries that
are taking strides to increase drug access should face condemnation
from WTO members, because such pressure violates the spirit and terms
of this agreement.  Doha did not end the battle over poor country
access to drugs,” Lynch continued. “Against the pressure of rich
countries and drug companies, the fight must continue to complete the
unfinished work of this Ministerial—millions of lives are at stake. We
demand that the WTO clarify during the first meeting of the TRIPS
Council that nothing in the TRIPS Agreement should stand in the way of
countries exporting cheap drugs to poor countries.

The Doha declaration on TRIPS is a big step to Access to drugs for poor
countries. Now all African consumers are waiting to its real
application by our governments not only in term of access to HIV drugs
but in order to let their people have access to the others drugs
chiefly those which will be  discovered…..The struggle for LIFE and
Justice continues.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org, +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040,
Geneva Mobile: +41.76.413.6584, efax: +1.888.245.3140.  Sometimes I am
using my MaxRoam number: +447937390810

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