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 7: Emphasizing the Link between Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development: The Role of NGOs and Social Movements

Duncan Matthews


INTRODUCTION The link between intellectual property rights and human rights has been an important factor in the impact that NGOs have achieved in drawing attention to the potentially adverse effects of intellectual property rights on marginalized, poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society in developing countries. This human rights-based approach first came to prominence when international NGOs began to frame intellectual property-related issues by using the emotive language of human rights to underpin substantive arguments that public health, access to medicines, the right to health and the right to life were at risk due to the patent provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. International NGOs began to campaign for access to medicines through the full utilization of flexibilities contained in the TRIPS Agreement and framed the issue in terms of human rights. By so doing, the human rights frame ultimately added moral authority to the access to medicines campaign, which in turn contributed to a greater emphasis on the importance of using in-built flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement and the need to permanently amend the TRIPS Agreement provisions on compulsory licensing. Emphasizing framing strategies has become increasingly common in narratives of NGO engagement with intellectual property rights and development. In fact, the relationship between intellectual property rights, human rights and development is in some respects of narrower application. In other respects it goes much deeper than has been previously acknowledged. Framing the impact of intellectual property rights in terms of human rights is a strategy of relatively narrow application because attempts...

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