CPTech-Essential Action Comments on World Health Assembly
May 18, 2001

The World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva is now winding down. Brazil introduced two controversial resolutions, on HIV/AIDS and on a revised drug strategy. Both of the resolutions emphasized the importance of generic drugs and local production of pharmaceuticals. The HIV/AIDS resolution also emphasized the importance of treatment in addressing the AIDS pandemic. We were strongly supportive of the thrust of both resolutions.

The rich countries were not supportive. The EU introduced an alternative HIV/AIDS resolution, which was eventually merged with the Brazil resolution. The revised drug strategy resolution was also revised to become a Brazil/EU resolution. In both cases, the revisions watered down dramatically the substance of the original Brazil proposals, weakening the language on conflicts between trade agreements and health and substantially watering down the operational language where the WHA provides specific action-oriented instructions for the WHO director general.

The US worked hard to undermine the stronger Brazilian language. In the case of the revised drug strategy, when a number of developing countries proposed amendments that would have strengthened the Brazil-EU resolution, the US moved to push the negotiations to a small group and away from the full committee discussion. In the process, all of the strengthening proposed amendments from developing countries were discarded.

Tomorrow, a resolution from the Non-Aligned Movement on health systems will be debated. It promises to again raise similar issues - and the US is likely to again play a counterproductive role.

Statement for the press: "With the world finally beginning to move in the direction of a proportionate response to the AIDS pandemic, the US has decided it is more important to defend commercial interests than the public health. It has been a disgraceful few days for the United States and its delegation led by Tommy Thompson," said Robert Weissman, co-director of Essential Action.

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"In the middle of this horrific public health catastrophe, the US government played a shameful role, protecting Big Pharma at the expense of the poorest and least powerful persons, millions of whom are going to die. Brazil was a real hero in this meeting," said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology.

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CPT Home IP and Healthcare WHA, May 2001