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UN Human Rights Council Adopts Access To Medicines Resolution

06/26/2017 | Source: IP Watch.Org - Author:

The United Nations Human Rights Council today adopted a resolution on the right to health in relation to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including a call for medicines and vaccines access for all. The resolution also requested the UN human rights commissioner to report on the right to health.

The resolution (A/HRC/35/L.18/Rev.1) on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was adopted without a vote, according to sources.

In the resolution, the Council “calls upon the international community to continue to assist developing countries in promoting the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including through access to medicines, in particular essential medicines and vaccines; and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report which presents contributions of the right to health framework to the effective implementation and achievement of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, identifying best practices, challenges and obstacles thereto, and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session,” the sources said.

The resolution notes that at least a third of the world’s population lacks regular access to medicines, and that the problem cuts across developing and developed countries.

It also restates SDG Goal 3 (public health) target 3.b, which states:

Target 3.b:   Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all;

US Opposition to Medicines Access

The United States accepted the overall resolution but issued statements (here and here) opposing the request for a UNHCR report on grounds that it does not fall within UNHCR’s mandate and disagreeing with framing the SDGs in a “right to health framework.”

It also opposed what it viewed as a threat to intellectual property rights.

“The United States objects to statements on technology transfer found in resolutions adopted by this body and reaffirms that this language will have no standing in future negotiations. The United States continues to oppose language that we believe undermines intellectual property rights.”

The US declared that resolution paragraph 9 will have “no standing” in negotiations.

Paragraph 9 states:

  1. Calls upon the international community to continue to assist developing countries in promoting the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including through access to medicines, in particular essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices that are affordable, safe, efficacious and of quality; financial and technical support and training of personnel, while recognizing that the primary responsibility for promoting and protecting all human rights rests with States; and recognizes the fundamental relevant importance of the transfer of environmentally sound technologies on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed;

The US further urged that the Council not follow the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which found, among other things, that countries like the US may be violating World Trade Organization rules when they pressure other countries not to use flexibilities embedded in the TRIPS agreement.

NGO Knowledge Ecology International reported on this Human Rights Council debate here.

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