NGO coalition pens open letter to Taoiseach calling for urgent waiver to allow Covid-19 technology-sharing

NGO coalition pens open letter to Taoiseach calling for urgent waiver to allow Covid-19 technology-sharing

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” For our politicians, that time is right now.

24 February 2021

The pandemic is still raging across the world – and without strong moral leadership, people in developing countries will suffer the most.

Given the limited global supply, many people in low- and middle-income countries won’t have access to vaccines until at least next year, while it’s been reported that if current trends continue, the world’s poorest countries could have to wait until 2024 for mass immunisation.

Not only is this level of inequity a catastrophic moral failure that will lead to needless suffering and loss of life, ongoing outbreaks could lead to new vaccine-resistant variants developing. Without urgent united action to achieve herd immunity in developing nations, the health crisis and resulting economic crisis here and worldwide will continue.

That’s why today, a coalition of Irish organisations, networks and unions, wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin urgently requesting Ireland’s support for proposals to allow Covid-19 vaccine technology to be shared openly through an emergency waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This emergency waiver would allow more vaccines and treatments to be produced on a global scale.

The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires WTO members to provide long-term monopoly protections for medicines, tests and the technologies used to produce them.

But after a global campaign by public health and development groups, in 2001 the WTO issued a binding declaration about better balancing TRIPS intellectual property protections and public health needs.

With the EU currently blocking the waiver, the letter – coordinated by Oxfam Ireland and signed by Access to Medicine Ireland, ActionAid, Amnesty International Ireland, Comhlámh, Concern, Dóchas, Goal, the Irish Global Health Network, INMO, MSF, Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire – details how the EU’s current position threatens the prospects of ending the pandemic, despite the waiver being supported by more than 100 nations at the WTO.

The Coalition writes:

Ireland has a well-deserved reputation of supporting the human rights of the world’s poorest people. We are respected for our constructive engagement, acknowledging the importance of collective efforts amongst states for the problems that pay no heed to borders, such as the coronavirus pandemic. With so many of the world’s poorer nations supporting this emergency waiver already, you can help maintain Ireland’s moral and public health leadership in the world by siding with the majority to prioritise saving lives. Indeed, not doing so is self-defeating, as it is clear that the sooner the world’s population is vaccinated, the sooner EU citizens are safe.

While the signatories acknowledge that the waiver will not completely solve the problem, it will allow for a temporary space within the WTO rules to empower governments to move quicker when accessing intellectual property-protected technologies needed to protect public health.

Thus, we respectfully request that you break with the unconscionable policies the EU has supported before the next WTO General Council meeting of March 1-2 and announce that Ireland will no longer support opposition to the temporary, emergency Covid-19 WTO waiver of certain TRIPS provisions.

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