[Ip-health] HRC35: Human Rights Council adopts Right to Health Resolution

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Jun 23 03:12:56 PDT 2017

23 June 2017


The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) convened its 35th session
from 6 June 2017 to 23 June 2017. During HRC35 (which takes places in Room
XX of the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva), a group of 21 countries tabled
a resolution on the right to health. The group of sponsors for the right to
health resolution include: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia,
Ecuador, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Luxembourg, Malta, Mozambique, Paraguay,
Peru, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Timor-Leste, Qatar, Thailand, and Turkey.
On Friday morning, 23 June 2017, the HRC passed resolution
A/HRC/35/L.18/Rev.1 on the right to health.

However, the United States of America, disassociated from operative
paragraph 9 of the resolution. Sources close to the negotiations have
informed KEI that for the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the
resolution's operative language on technology transfer breached the United
States' red lines (Note: USTR did not attend the deliberations of the Human
Rights Council but sent instructions from Washington, D.C.)

OP9 reads:

9. Calls upon the international community to continue to assist developing
countries in promoting the full realization of the right of everyone to the
enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,
including through access to medicines, in particular essential medicines,
vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices that are affordable, safe,
efficacious and of quality; financial and technical support and training of
personnel, while recognizing that the primary responsibility for promoting
and protecting all human rights rests with States; and recognizes the
fundamental relevant importance of the transfer of environmentally sound
technologies on favourable terms, including on concessional and
preferential terms, as mutually agreed;

In the United States' explanation of its position
the United States noted,

However, the United States disassociates from the reference to technology
transfer in operational paragraph 9. For the United States, this language
will have no standing in future negotiations. The United States continues
to oppose language that we believe undermines intellectual property rights

Clearly, for the Trump administration, language on technology transfer
(contained in a right to health resolution) was a bridge too far, so much
so that the delegation characterized it as undermining intellectual
property rights.

The United States also "expressed disappointment" with operative paragraph
13 with its focus on “contributions of the right to health framework to the
effective implementation and achievement of the health-related Sustainable
Development Goals.” The US felt it was inappropriate for the High
Commissioner on Human Rights (Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein) to endeavor to frame
the SDGs in a “right to health framework” asserting that there was no right
to health framework language in the SDGs themselves.

Furthermore, the United States took another salvo at the UN
Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Access to Medicines (not referenced
in the resolution):

Furthermore, we note that certain recent UN reports have put forward a
flawed understanding on issues of healthcare access, particularly with
respect to access to medicines, and have generated divisiveness among
Member States and the UN. We strongly urge the UN to consider a new
approach to analyzing healthcare that seeks to unite all of the parties
responsible for delivering critical healthcare solutions to patients around
the world. To this end, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on
Access to Medicines should not be used as a model for this new work.

For the full account, please see:


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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