Public health, innovation, intellectual property and trade

Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG)

The Fifty-ninth World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 59.24 1on Public health, innovation, essential health research and intellectual property rights: towards a global strategy and plan of action. Among other proposals, the Resolution requested the Director-General of WHO to establish an inter-governmental working group open to all interested Member States to develop a global strategy and plan of action aimed at, inter alia, securing an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, proposing clear objectives and priorities for research and development, and estimating funding needs in this area.

Over the course of 18 months, WHO Member States from more than 100 countries and other key stakeholders on public health, innovation and intellectual property met in three meetings of the IGWG (December 2006, November 2007, and May 2008) to discuss ways to foster innovation, build capacity and improve access to health products to achieve better health outcomes in developing countries. They also met in regional and subregional consultations and other multilateral meetings linked to the IGWG. Their work was enhanced by written submissions from Member States on various negotiating texts, as well as inputs from a wide range of stakeholders through two web-based public hearings. Additionally, a pool of experts and concerned entities were invited by the Director-General to attend sessions of the Working Group. Stakeholders also included including representatives from other international organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

In May 2008, the World Health Assembly adopted the global strategy and the agreed parts of the plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property in resolution WHA61.21. This outcome was the product of extensive consultations with and among Member States, both in sessional and intersessional work.

To this end, the global strategy proposes that WHO should play a strategic and central role in the relationship between public health and innovation and intellectual property within its mandate. To achieve this principle, Member States endorsed by consensus a strategy designed to promote new thinking in innovation and access to medicines, which would encourage needs-driven research rather than purely market-driven research to target diseases which disproportionately affect people in developing countries.

The global strategy is comprised of eight elements, the development of which was guided by a set of principles established and agreed upon by Member States. In particular, the elements of the global strategy are designed to promote innovation, build capacity, improve access and mobilize resources.

More information on IGWG:

1 The global strategy was approved. The plan of action was approved except for a small number of actions, which remained open until the adoption of Resolution 62.16 in May 2009.



Public health, innovation, intellectual property and trade

Dr Suzanne Hill
Director, EMP
Essential Medicines and Health Products (EMP)

Dr Marie-Paule Kieny
Assistant Director-General, HIS
Health Systems and Innovation (HIS)