Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development
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Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development

The Role of NGOs and Social Movements

Duncan Matthews

This insightful and important new book explores the role played by non-governmental-organizations (NGOs) in articulating concerns at the TRIPS Council, the WIPO, the WHO, the CBD-COP and the FAO that intellectual property rights can have negative consequences for developing countries. Duncan Matthews describes how coalitions of international NGOs have influenced the way that the relationship between intellectual property rights and development is understood, often framing the message as a human rights issue to emphasize these concerns and ensure that access to medicines, food security and the rights of indigenous peoples over their traditional knowledge are protected.
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Chapter 4: South Africa

Duncan Matthews


INTRODUCTION In 1994 South Africa emerged from the traumatic period of apartheid (separateness) that had been in force since 1948. Under apartheid, the rights of the majority non-white inhabitants had been curtailed and minority white rule maintained on racial grounds. Following the end of apartheid, events in South Africa proved crucial in highlighting the complex relationship between intellectual property rights and development. South African NGOs played a particularly significant role in this process in two respects. First, NGOs campaigned to improve access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The activities of NGOs, based on a strategy of building coalitions, framing the issue in terms of human rights, and utilizing litigation strategies developed during the apartheid era, have had an immense impact on the debate about the relationship between intellectual property rights and public health and access to medicines. This impact has been felt not only in South Africa but also internationally, highlighting to the world’s media, governments and public how and why intellectual property rights can become a barrier to access to medicines for disadvantaged people living in developing countries. Second, South African NGOs intervened with significant effect to address the relationship between intellectual property rights and genetic resources and traditional knowledge. They did so by negotiating an agreement on the sharing of benefits derived from the commercial use of the succulent Hoodia gordonii. The beneficial properties of Hoodia gordonii as an appetite suppressant have been known to the indigenous San peoples of the...

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