WHO partners with other organisations to battle Covid-19

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The WorldHealth Organisation WHO, the World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO, and the World Trade Organization WTO have agreed to collaborate to improve the flow of information on the Covid-19 pandemic and to implement a joint platform for tripartite technical assistance to member governments in the fight against Covid-19.

The Directors General of the three organisations, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Daren Tang, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala respectively, made this known in a statement made available to newsmen on Thursday in Abuja after their meeting.

They also agreed to intensify collaboration in favour of global access to medicinal innovations.

The statement reads: “We, the Directors General of the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the World Trade Organization, met on June 15, 2021 in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity to map out future collaboration to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and other pressing global challenges at the intersection of public health, intellectual property, and trade.

“We vowed to bring the full scope of our respective institutions’ knowledge and resources to bear on behalf of communities around the world as they grapple with a health crisis of historic severity and size.

“We underscored our commitment to universal, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other health technologies – a commitment anchored in the understanding that this is an urgent moral imperative in need of immediate practical action.

“In this spirit, we agreed to build further on our long-standing commitment to WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Cooperation that aims to support and assist all countries as they seek to assess and implement sustainable and integrated solutions to public health challenges.  Within this existing cooperative framework, we agreed to enhance and focus our support in the context of the pandemic through two specific initiatives”.

The statement read further: “First, our three agencies will collaborate on the organization of practical, capacity-building workshops to enhance the flow of updated information on current developments in the pandemic and responses to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health technologies. The aim of these workshops is to strengthen the capacity of policymakers and experts in member governments to address the pandemic accordingly. 

“The first workshop in the series will be a workshop on technology transfer and licensing, scheduled for September. The workshop will help our members update their knowledge and understanding of how intellectual property, know-how and technology transfer work in actuality. This would be in the context of medical technologies and related products and services.

“This first workshop will be followed by others on related practical themes. Secondly, we will implement a joint platform for tripartite technical assistance to countries relating to their needs for COVID-19 medical technologies, providing a one-stop-shop that will make available the full range of expertise on access, IP and trade matters provided by our organizations, and other partners, in a coordinated and systematic manner. 

“The platform for technical assistance will, in particular; support countries to assess and prioritize unmet needs for COVID-19 vaccines, medicines and related technologies; and provide timely and tailored technical assistance in making full use of all available options to access vaccines, medicines and technologies, including through coordination between members facing similar challenges to facilitate collective responses.

“These initiatives will also be underpinned by our joint efforts to collect and make accessible robust and inclusive data needed to guide an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This will include a periodical update of the overview of COVID 19-related measures that are mapped in a key resource for trilateral cooperation, the WHO-WIPO-WTO publication ‘Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade’, published in 2020”.

They also said that this trilateral cooperation is intended to enhance the empirical and factual information basis for policy makers and to support them in addressing public health in relation to IP and trade.  It has entailed a series of practical technical assistance activities, at the national, regional and multilateral levels, a series of high-level Policy Symposia intended to track emerging issues and inform future policy, and the trilateral study, which provides a comprehensive overview of the full array of policy issues with bearing on innovation and access to medical technologies.

It would be recalled that the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have, since 2009, stepped up their cooperation and practical coordination on issues relating to public health, IP and trade.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu

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