The Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to enhance their support to members battling COVID-19 by collaborating on a series of workshops to augment the flow of information on the pandemic and by implementing a joint platform for tripartite technical assistance to member governments relating to their needs for medical technologies.
As a result of their meeting on June 15, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WIPO Director-General Daren Tang and WTO Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala issued a statement, highlighting that they have agreed on intensified cooperation in support of access to medical technologies worldwide to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, a press release stated.
In the statement, the directors-general said they met in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity to map out further collaboration to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing global challenges at the intersection of public health, intellectual property (IP) and trade.
“Acutely conscious of our shared responsibility to communities across the world as they confront a health crisis of unprecedented severity and scale, we pledged to bring the full extent of the expertise and resources of our institutions to bear in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the health and well-being of all people, everywhere around the globe,” they said.
They also underscored their 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, the statement notes that they agreed to enhance and focus their support in the context of the pandemic through two specific initiatives.
“First, our three agencies will collaborate on the organisation 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.”
It was shared that 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.”
For the second initiative, the Directors-General said, “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 organisations, and other partners, in a coordinated and systematic manner.”
The statement explained that the platform for technical assistance will, in particular: support countries to assess and prioritise 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,” added the directors-general.