The Role of NGOs and Social Movements
Chapter 4: South Africa
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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