As trade officials prepare to gather for talks in Australia, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today issued a strong appeal for better access to AIDS drugs and other essential medicines in developing countries.
In a statement released by his spokesman ahead of the two-day informal Trade Ministers' Meeting, which opens tomorrow in Sydney, Mr. Annan voiced concern about the continuing difficulties faced by developing countries trying to compete in world markets.
He recalled that last year, World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers acknowledged that trading rules regulating intellectual property must not act as a barrier to the promotion and protection of public health.
The ministers, meeting in Doha, had instructed the WTO Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to find a solution before the end of the year that gives developing countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector real flexibility to confront their public health problems.
"That deadline is imminent," Mr. Annan said, strongly urging the Sydney meeting "to propose, without delay, a long-term solution that will deliver affordable medicines and vaccines to the millions of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other deadly diseases."
This goal, he added, is "both a moral imperative and an economic and social necessity."