MSF: Update on debates at World Health Assembly on a possible R&D convention, 23 May 2012

One of the items of discussion at 65th World Health Assembly (WHA), Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (agenda item 13.14), is discussing the outcomes of the Consultative Expert Working Group’s (CEWG) report including the recommendation for a binding international convention on R&D to set global R&D priorities and provide sustainable funding for medical innovation. Discussions started this morning, Wednesday 23 May, in Committee A. After noting the CEWG report, the Chair of Committee A noted there were four proposed Resolutions; sponsored respectively by Kenya, by UNASUR (Latin American group of countries), by Switzerland, and by Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco and United States. The text of the four proposed Resolutions can be seen here.

In summary:

Kenya – welcomes the CEWG report and its recommendation to immediately convene a negotiating body and urges Member States to start negotiating the terms of a binding treaty on R&D finance and priority setting

UNASUR – strongly agrees with the CEWG findings that there are currently barriers to R&D for developing countries, but suggests that there should be an open-ended, country-driven process for a more detailed examination of the CEWG’s recommendations, to submit a progress report on these activities to the 132nd Executive Board (January 2013) and subsequently to the 66th World Health Assembly (May 2013).

Switzerland – recognises the importance of the CEWG’s work, their report and its recommendations, but suggests there needs to be more time for countries to consult and consider the feasibility of proposals, with the timeframe to report back to the WHO Executive Board meeting in January 2013.

Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco and United States – stresses countries need to thoroughly analyse the feasibility of the recommendations and consider them along with other potential investment opportunities of R&D for developing countries – along with the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions.

In contrast to the other three proposed Resolutions, makes no reference at all to taking forward a convention now or in future. During the time allocated for discussion this morning, most Member States expressed support of the CEWG’s work and report.

However, many felt that the one month since the release of the report was not enough time to properly consult with the broader range of stakeholders – particularly governmental counterparts in ministries of finance, given that the CEWG report recommendation on the convention includes a financial commitment of 0.01% of GDP – before they could commit to starting negotiations on a treaty.

Others – notably the US – were uncomfortable with the notion of a treaty being binding for financing R&D at all. The US also does not agree with the establishment of an intergovernmental working group on developing the CEWG’s proposals. Although the European Union has not officially signed the US resolution, their intervention in Committee A stated they supported the US position.

Member States will now convene a Drafting Group from 6.30pm to 8.30pm tonight to try to reach consensus on one proposed Resolution all countries can agree on. Should this process not be completed tonight, the Drafting Group will reconvene tomorrow and until such time that consensus on one Resolution is reached.

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