Whose opportunities ? (Colloque, oct. 2009, National Library of Portugal)

Flexible Opportunities for Health Protection

mardi 27 octobre 2009, par Ville Päivänsalo

Thèmes : Inégalités | Santé

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One of the main tasks of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its founding in 1995 has been to govern the implementation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This has caused problems to the firms located in the Global South, firms that usually concentrate on producing generic medicines. In order to realize their opportunities to function as viable companies, they should be able to make effective use of the so called TRIPS flexibilities highlighted in the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS from the year 2001 (the Declaration). In the current paper, I first identify some major reasons for the slight practical impacts of the flexible opportunities that TRIPS and the Declaration have granted for the developing countries. Here I mainly draw on Improving Access to HIV/AIDS Medicines in Africa : Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Flexibilities by Patrick L. Osowe et al. (2008) and The WTO and India’s Pharmaceuticals Industry : Patent Protection, TRIPS, and Developing Countries by Supid Chaudhuri (2005). Second, I point out that anyone who is interested in defending fair equality of opportunity to health protection in the context of essential medication in the developing countries, needs to take into account opportunities among three types of agents at least : individuals, states, and corporations. Development theorists have tended to focus on the opportunities (or capabilities) of individuals and the TRIPS flexibilities have basically provided special opportunities for states. I wish to emphasize, however, that the genuine opportunities of corporations matter as well. A less comprehensive understanding of fair opportunities is not likely to be effective in this case because of the steep inequalities that usually allow the stronger party to win any particular competition. Third, using GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as my example, I take up the possibility that the corporate responsibility (CR) programs of pharmaceutical giants could significantly improve individuals’ genuine opportunities for health in developing countries. While I recognize the impressiveness of GSK’s CR program in this respect, I call attention to the need to enhance fairness among companies.

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par Ville Päivänsalo

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