AB Jurkovič: access to medicines must be guaranteed

(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva spoke on Wednesday at the World Trade Organization (WTO) during a discussion on intellectual property rights.

The Vatican diplomat said access to health care must always be assured when discussing intellectual property.

“As we are all aware, health is a fundamental human right, essential for the exercise of  many other rights, and it is necessary for living a life in dignity,” – Archbishop Jurkovič said – “The realization of the right to health should be a fundamental goal of national policies and programmes, regardless of respective economic, social, cultural, religious or political  contexts. However, for millions of people around the world, the full enjoyment of the right to health remains an elusive goal, due, inter alia, to obstacles in access to high quality, affordable, and acceptable medicines. 

The full text of the statement is below

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Council, Geneva, 9 November 2016

Mr. President,

Since this is the first time  my  Delegation is taking  the floor during  the current session  of  the  TRIPs  Council,  allow  me  to  begin  by  congratulating  you  on  your assumption  of  the  Chair  and  by  assuring  you  of  the  full  support  of  the  Holy  See Delegation. The initiative of the UN Secretary General echoes the concern expressed by the Holy See  regarding  agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care.  The achievement of a stronger balance between the  protection of  the right of  inventors, international human rights  law and public health objectives is clearly foreseen in Sustainable Development Goal  3:  to  Achieve Universal Health Coverage  (UHC).  This  is  a  unique  moment  in  history.  Ensuring  the  success  of  the SDGs,  including  an  end  to  the  epidemics  of  AIDS,  tuberculosis,  malaria  and neglected  tropical  diseases  and  combating  hepatitis,  water-borne  and  other communicable  diseases  will  require  global  solidarity  and  partnership,  especially  in times of diverse and demanding global challenges.

As  the  UN  Secretary-General  has  stated,  in  spite  of  all  the  efforts  and  the promising results from the Millennium Development Goals, millions have been left behind; consequently,  Member States have agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals targeting the year 2030. In the Encyclical Letter  Laudato sii  Pope Francis  recalls the troubling extent of exclusion in our world  “(…) there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which  especially  affect  the  excluded.  Yet,  they  are  the  majority  of  the  planet’s population, billions of people (…)”. [49, 51]

 2. Our focus must  thus  remain strong and  we must remain unwavering  in our commitment to leave no one behind and to build a more sustainable world by 2030. Access  to  affordable  medicines  no  longer  represents  a  challenge  just  for  the Least Developed  and other developing  countries; it  has  also  become  an  increasingly urgent issue for developed  countries.  In particular,  States  find themselves unable to combat antimicrobial resistance. Moreover, developing countries are confronted with a  serious  lack  of  new  medicines,  even  as  public  health  budgets  are  constrained worldwide.

As  we  are  all  aware,  health  is  a  fundamental  human  right,  essential  for  the exercise  of  many  other  rights,  and  it  is  necessary  for  living  a  life  in  dignity.  The realization  of  the  right  to  health  should  be  a  fundamental  goal  of  national  policies and  programmes,  regardless  of  respective  economic,  social,  cultural,  religious  or political  contexts.  However,  for  millions  of  people  around  the  world,  the  full enjoyment of the right to health remains an elusive goal, due, inter alia, to obstacles in access  to  high  quality,  affordable,  and  acceptable  medicines.  This  constitutes  a challenge  to  the  flourishing  of  human  dignity,  which  represents  the  basis  of  all human  rights,  including  the  right  to  life,  health  and  integral  development  of  the human person.

Access to essential medicines, which  satisfy the priority health care needs of the population, is a key component of the right to health  (WHO definition available at:  www.who.int/medicines/services/essmedicines_def/en…).  Since  essential medicines must  be selected with due regard to  disease prevalence and public health relevance,  evidence  of  clinical  efficacy  and  safety,  and  comparative  costs  and  cost effectiveness,  they  should  be  available  at  prices  that  are  affordable  both  to individuals and local communities. Thus, if we are to put in place policies that reflect human dignity and a human rights approach we must  confront  and remove barriers, address  questions  of  affordability,  and  particularly,  temper  a  disproportionate  and exaggerated demand for profits.  Through  dialogue, which represents the best  way to confront the problems of our world and to seek solutions that are truly effective,  we can contribute towards the building of  a better  world and a better future for coming generations.  Three  helpful  principles  for  such  dialogue  are:  solidarity,  subsidiarity, and concern for the common good. Solidarity means we care about the concerns of others  as  much  as  our  own.  Subsidiarity  means  we  accept  others  as  equals,  allows them to speak for themselves, we listen, and we help them to participate if they need such help.

3. The  Report  of  the  High-Level  Panel  represents  a  point  of  departure  from which  we  could start to discuss remedies and  correct the misalignments and policy incoherencies between the individual and corporate rights of inventors, innovators or manufacturers  and  broader  human  rights.  This  will  facilitate  a  discussion  of  trade and health in the context of  the common good  and  emphasize  access to technologies as a right linked to health and life. Indeed, “underlying the principle of the  common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights  ordered  to  his  or  her  integral  development”  (Pope  Francis,  Encyclical  Letter, Laudato si par. 157).

As stated by Pope Francis: “Interdependence and the integration of economies should  not  bear  the  least  detriment  to  existing  systems  of  health  care  and  social security; instead, they should promote their creation and good functioning. Certain health  issues…require  urgent  political  attention,  above  and  beyond  all  other commercial or political interests.”(  Address of Pope Francis at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, 26 November 2015.)

Thank you, Mr. President.

(from Vatican Radio)

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