The Role of NGOs and Social Movements
Chapter 2: Public Health and Access to Medicines
INTRODUCTION Nowhere has the role played by NGOs in the debate about intellectual property rights been more profound than in relation to public and health access to medicines. These are critical issues in developing countries where many pharmaceutical products that could save or extend lives have been unavailable, inaccessible, or unaffordable to those who need them most. There is a pressing need for measures to ensure access to existing pharmaceutical products and to provide appropriate incentives for the development of new medicines that effectively address the global disease burden. This chapter outlines the ways in which NGOs have raised concerns that intellectual property rights (and patents in particular) can have a significant and adverse effect on public health and access to medicines. It explains how NGOs defined their goals and sought to achieve particular policy outcomes by employing a range of strategies, including coalition-building and framing, to get their message across. It also shows how NGOs provided support for developing country delegations to multilateral institutions, particularly the WTO TRIPS Council and the WHO, to assist delegates in their capacity to negotiate and to utilize in-built flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement in order to ameliorate the impact of higher standards of intellectual property protection and enforcement in the developing country context. THE TRIPS AGREEMENT When the WTO TRIPS Agreement was concluded at the end of the Uruguay Round of GATT multilateral trade negotiations in 1994, the unbalanced negotiating process was characterized by the disproportionate influence of the global, patent-reliant, R&D-based...
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