Labour and Civil Society urge G20 to support more medicine accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic

February 22, 2021: The World Trade Organisation will finally vote on the suspension of intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1-2, 2021. The global advisory bodies for workers and civil society to the Group of 20 rich countries is urging it to call on the WTO to support the suspension.

On February 20, the joint statement said, “Patent ownerships on the vaccines platforms and IP restrictions on the novel technologies such as mRNA vaccines and monoclonal antibodies are already limiting manufacturing and price flexibility, in the face of 93 billions of public investment in R&D during 2020.

“Confronted with a global situation of around 110 million confirmed cases and a toll of over 2.4 million deaths, challenged by the emergence of new threatening variants of SARS-CoV-2, the G20 leaders have the moral and political obligation to take every measure that can put an end to this pandemic.

“World’s governments are dealing with an unprecedented economic and social crisis and their critical resources should not be now spent on sustaining the cumbersome legal intricacies of intellectual property disputes on COVID-19 technologies with patentholders. This means that G20 countries need to support the proposal put forward by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 goods and facilitate dissemination of existing medical knowledge. Supporting the TRIPS waiver means translating into actions the announced commitments aimed at making all COVID-19 vaccines and treatments “global public goods”.

Rich countries including the United States, the UK, European Union, Canada and Australia have been opposing the suspension of intellectual property rules since it was proposed in October 2020.

The G20 is the international forum that brings together the world's major economies. Its members account for more than 80 percent of world GDP, 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the population of the planet.

The Labour 20 - L20 - unites trade unions from G20 countries and Global Unions, and is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD. The Australian Council of Trade Unions in part of L20.

C20 includes Transparency International, Oxfam International, E-Civicus, Climate Action Network, Debt and Development and Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration.