A Framework Convention on Global Health and the Need to reconcile the Global Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines Aspirations
By, James Zere
All governments have endorsed human rights including the right to health in national constitutions or international law. Yet governments fail to abide by their obligations. We need an international treaty that reinforces and enforces the right to health, builds capacities to realize it, sets up systems to monitor progress, and holds governments accountable. People everywhere need knowledge and support to claim their rights. A Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) can transform people’s health and well being by empowering people everywhere to claim their rights (JALI Manifesto, para. 7).
Lack of access to essential medicines is one of the most serious challenges inhibiting access to proper health care services in the Uganda. When medicines are not available, affordable, of assured quality and properly used, health is compromised and lives are lost.
Access to medicines in Uganda is primarily funded by the donor communities together with the Central Government yet the funds from the donors are usually channeled through the government. The government has on several occasions failed to come through on its obligation to provide medicines and this aggravates the loss of lives in a country where thousands of lives of are lost annually to easily manageable diseases like Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.
A lot of effort has been put into explaining the government’s right to health obligations as provided in the international instruments however the right still remains largely unimplemented across many states in Uganda.
JALI, an acronym for the Joint Action Learning Initiative, is leading efforts to mobilize for the creation of a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) whose purpose is envisaged to be to clarify the international standards on the right to health and to enable a universal level of health care coverage based on the needs of the people.
A FCGH should be able to clarify the obligations of the government as far as provision of basic commodities like essential medicines to the public and would propose accountability mechanisms for the government and other stakeholders to put in place through which the government would be held accountable where it failed to implement its international obligations.
The WTO’s Trips Agreement amongst its principles seeks to foster technology transfer and technical support for developing economies however without an enabling environment these provisions remain largely on paper to be strategically implemented by the member states depending on their national strategic objectives. Funding for procurement of medicines for example is usually conditional and usually involves an obligation to procure medicines from a manufacturer in the donor country and this effectively stifles local manufacturers.
A FCGH should be able create links between the international Intellectual Property aspirations and the Global Health aspirations and foster a reconciled position in which the provisions of both regimes would be fostered both at the national level and the international level to promote access to pharmaceutical products.