Civil Society Joint letter on 132nd session WHO Executive Board

Joint letter on the occasion of the 132nd session of the WHO Executive Board: Agenda item 10.2-Follow-up of the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination

25 January 2013

Distinguished delegate,

We are writing to express our deep concern at the lack of ambition and
apparent inaction of the WHO and Member States in taking forward the
work of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and
Development: Financing and Coordination(CEWG). This inaction is
costing lives.

At the open-ended meeting (26-28 November 2012) on the follow-up of
the report of the CEWG, an outcome document (EB132/21) containing a
draft report and draft resolution was produced. The draft report and
draft resolution are now before the Executive Board for consideration
under Agenda item 10.2.

The open-ended meeting was convened to provide Member States with the
opportunity to develop a work plan for taking forward the
recommendations of the CEWG report. This report was part of the
implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public
Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA). The objective of
which is to secure “an enhanced and sustainable basis for
needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to
diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries”. The
CEWG identified the concept of de-linkage as the over-arching
principle in which to secure this objective by de-coupling the cost of
R&D from the price of health technologies including medicines,
vaccines and diagnostic tools. The central recommendation of the CEWG
report that Member States were asked to consider was the development
of a legally binding global convention to address the unmet R&D needs
of developing countries.

Such a global framework is needed to establish a process for
identifying R&D needs, setting priorities, monitoring R&D flows,
coordinating R&D efforts, securing sustainable financing, promoting
new incentives and managing research outputs in a way that ensures
both innovation and access. Given the WHO’s role[1] as the directing
and co-ordinating authority in global public health, it is uniquely
placed to be the forum for such an instrument.

Despite the clear roadmap set out by the Expert Group, the outcome
document produced at the open-ended meeting postpones discussion of an
R&D Convention at the WHO, and does not provide a clear agenda for
addressing these pressing unmet R&D needs. The commitments that are
made are unclear and too limted. For example, the establishment of an
R&D Observatory could be a positive first step, but only if the scope
of its tasks includes the definition of R&D priorities in consultation
with Member States in addition to simply monitoring what little is
currently being done. The question of whether this R&D observatory
will receive adequate financing to operate effectively is also an
unanswered question.

Moreover, we are seriously concerned that the draft report’s
recommends, “the adoption of the resolution by the WHA without
re-opening it”. The report and the draft resolution were adopted after
2AM, when many lead negotiators had to fly back to their respective
capitals and interpretation in the World Health Organization’s
official languages had long stopped.  The number of Member States
present at the time of finalizing the draft report was less than 25
out of a membership of 194. A draft resolution negotiated by a small
number of Member States under less than ideal conditions should not
include such a far-reaching recommendation to the Executive Board.
This undermines the rights of Member States to have a full discussion
at the WHA.

Against this background we ask the distinguished EB Members and other
WHO Member States to reject the recommendation against the reopening
of the draft report and the resolution.

Further, we request WHO Member States to consider the CEWG
recommendations holistically including the central recommendation of
the CEWG report which recommended to Member States that “formal
intergovernmental negotiations should begin for a binding global
instrument for R&D and innovation for health”.


Health Action International
Knowledge Ecology International
Médecins Sans Frontières- Access Campaign
Peoples’ Health Movement
Stop AIDS Campaign
Third World Network

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