Intellectual Property and Human Rights from a Cosmopolitan Liberal Perspective
The issue of access to medicines, be it in respect of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis or any of a multitude of tropical diseases, is a constant refrain in international fora dealing with health, development and the global economy. At the 2009 G8 meeting in l’Aquila, Italy, world leaders promised, for example, to ‘implement further efforts towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care and support by 2010’. Similar sentiments have been expressed at the G20, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization and at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Never before has there been such broad and sustained political support for the principle of global access to medicines. Yet, these same leaders have continually failed to deliver on their statements or to provide the aid they promised. At the same time, particularly after the 2008–2009 economic crisis, critics point to the world’s poor record on humanitarian assistance. Some, such as Dambisa Moyo, go so far as to say that current Western aid programmes have increased corruption and dependence, deepening rather than alleviating the plight of the world’s poor. Beyond that, Western countries routinely make pledges of aid that they never fulfill. As with the access to medicines debate, there is an increasing disparity between what countries say they are doing and the effects of their actions. Debates over access to medicines and humanitarian assistance are deeply interconnected and oppositional. The failure to deliver needed medicines is taken as evidence that intellectual property rules, and patents in particular, contradict...