Civil society slams G20 inaction on tackling vaccines monopolies

November 1: At the close of the G20 Rome Summit, global civil society has condemned the inertia of world leaders in tackling WTO rules on medicines monopolies which are preventing low-income countries from accessing COVID vaccines.

At the G20 Rome Summit, leaders of the world’s richest and most influential countries came together to discuss the global response to the COVID pandemic, among other issues. While the summit has no decision-making power, its leaders hold great influence within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where global trading rules can be changed to end the vaccine apartheid.

In the lead up to the summit, campaigners called on the heads of state to “put aside their differences and share the rights and the technology to vaccines” through a waiver on WTO medicines monopolies.

Photo: REUTERS/Yara Nardi

As the summit convened, activists from Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Emergency International staged a flash-mob calling on G20 leaders to end inequalities in access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

The G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration, however, failed to explicitly support the proposal to waive intellectual property rights on COVID vaccines at the WTO.

G20 leaders said that they recognise COVID19 immunisation as “a global public good”, and reaffirmed its support “to all collaborative efforts to ensure a timely and equitable access to safe, affordable, quality and effective vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and personal protective equipment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” but excluded any reference to the waiver on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Products Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID vaccines and treatments.

In the G20 Rome Declaration, the leaders maintained its commitment to vaccinating 70 percent of the world population by mid-2022, but campaigners at Oxfam International say that this goal is unlikely to be achieved without accelerated vaccine production and distribution:

“The G20 talks of helping to reach the 70% vaccination target but yet again produce absolutely no plan to achieve it.”

“Paltry and unfulfilled promises of donated doses will not end this pandemic, nor will pathetic hopes that greedy pharmaceutical corporations will at some point volunteer to do the right thing.”

“It is beyond time that the rights and the recipes for these lifesaving tools were shared as global public goods”

Reuters reported that the German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the G20 had not even discussed issue of patents on COVID vaccines.

Amnesty International blasted the lack of political will, saying that the Declaration was “woefully light on detail”:

These vague promises are an affront to those who have died, and to everyone still living in fear of Covid-19.”

With just two months left of this year, only a radical change in approach will close the shameful vaccine gap. If we continue down our current path, the end of the pandemic will remain a glimmer on the horizon.”

 

  • The full G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration can be read here.
  • The full Oxfam response can be read here.
  • The full Amnesty International response can be read here.