Opening remarks at the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for this opportunity to summarize some key developments since the previous Working Group adjourned in November.
Following that meeting, a status report was submitted to the Executive Board in January, and the Board expressed its satisfaction with the progress being made. In March, a sub-group of drafting group B met to work on the plan of action. This sub-group took work forward on the identification of lead stakeholders and the design of progress indicators.
Participants agreed that a limited number of meaningful performance indicators would best support monitoring and evaluation. Consensus was reached on several indicators.
I also understand that some of you have been meeting informally to discuss some issues and work towards a common understanding.
In view of the need to guide wise investment choices, WHO has reviewed methodologies that can be used to identify gaps in research and development and establish priorities. This can also help us move forward.
I interpret these various initiatives as a signal of the importance all of us attach to this process, and an expression of your desire to move forward quickly.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The draft global strategy and plan of action represents a unique opportunity for public health. An agreed framework can make the cycle of product discovery, development and delivery more efficient and more sensitive to health needs in the developing world. It can help make existing health-care products more accessible and affordable, especially in the developing world.
When you reach agreement, the international community will have a common tool, and an agreed way to tackle some of the most pressing problems in public health. In essence, you are forging ways to tackle the gaps in access to health care and, in so doing, to reduce the gaps in health outcomes. You are making the benefits of advances in medicine and science more inclusive. As your main task during this session, you will be working towards agreement on the draft global strategy and plan of action.
It is important that negotiations during this session move forward as rapidly and efficiently as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I think back on the difficult negotiations during the May Health Assembly, it is encouraging to see how often the word “consensus” appears in the current text.
All of the issues before you have implications for public health, but not all fall under the direct responsibility of the health sector. WHO needs to be alert to the public health implications of international agreements pertaining to trade and intellectual property rights. I am in dialogue with my counterparts at WTO and WIPO, and we are all clear about the responsibilities assigned by our mandates.
I have expressed my views about the importance of your work over the coming days. I hope the sense of urgency we have seen in recent months will continue, so that we can present a consensus document to the Assembly this May.
As a final comment, implementation of the agreed strategy may require WHO to undertake additional projects or assume a clear leadership role in a number of areas. I wish to assure you of our full commitment to take your proposals forward, and act on your decisions.