Memorandum submitted by VSO
VSO has 2000 volunteers working in 74 of the
poorest countries who see the positive and negative impacts of
globalisation every day. VSO welcomes the Government's second
White Paper on international development, Eliminating Poverty:
Making Globalisation Work for the Poor, and the continued
emphasis the Government is placing on addressing the needs of
poor people in developing countries.
We share the Government's belief that globalisation
and international trade should work in the interests of poor people
and encourage the Government to pursue its commitments to international
development across all departments.
We would like to take this opportunity to address
two specific areas covered in the White Paper which are priorities
for VSO: education and access to treatment for HIV/AIDS-related
illnesses. The rest of this memorandum will address each of these
VSO welcomes the Government's acknowledgement
that education is a necessary condition of developing countries'
full participation in the global economy, and the Government's
continuing commitment to improving access to and quality of primary
education in developing countries.
VSO further welcomes the Government's recognition
that increasing access to primary education will lead to increased
demand for secondary education, which must be met for developing
countries to reap the benefits of globalisation.
While VSO is supportive of the Government's
backing of sector-wide approaches to education and its support
to teacher training, we feel that the White Paper does not give
sufficient attention to the role of teachers as the foundation
for success in education at both primary and secondary levels.
VSO believes that in order to ensure improved
learning outcomes for the increasing numbers of children attending
school, the needs of teachers must be prioritised. VSO recommends
that the Government addresses these needs in its work to develop
education systems, for example by ensuring that pay and conditions
of service are satisfactory, that appropriate professional incentives
are in place, and that issues around teacher posting and housing
are addressed in sector-wide initiatives.
VSO welcomes the Government's commitment to
making intellectual property regimes work better for poor people
and considers the establishment of a Commission to look at intellectual
property rules as a positive step in that direction. VSO hopes
that the Commission will include representation that enables it
to reflect on the impact of TRIPs for health provision in developing
VSO further welcomes the Government's acknowledgement
that the TRIPs agreement contains specific provisions which allow
developing country governments to ensure their populations have
access to medicines from the cheapest possible sources and that
developing countries must be allowed greater flexibility in implementing
VSO would like to remind the Government that
while the TRIPs agreement does not prevent governments from using
safeguards or exceptions to increase poor people's
access to drugs, these are not mandated within the TRIPs agreement
and can be overridden (so-called TRIPs-plus). Furthermore, the
ability of developing country governments to use these safeguards
legitimately is tenuous at best due to both bi-lateral pressure
from other governments and the influence of pharmaceutical manufacturers,
as has been witnessed in South Africa and more recently Ghana.
VSO would like the Government to actively support developing countries,
both bilaterally and within the WTO, to use TRIPs safeguards to
provide medicines more cheaply for their populations.
VSO would also like to call attention to the
proposed extension of intellectual property protection as an incentive
to stimulating greater research and development of drugs for treating
diseases affecting impoverished people in developing countries,
referred to in paragraph 140.
VSO agrees that much work needs to be done to
stimulate research for neglected diseases, but believes that increasing
patent monopolies would decrease rather than increase access to
medicines for poor people over time. Evidence from Thailand and
India seems to indicate that greater access to cheaper medicines
is fostered by competition from generic copy drugs. VSO would
therefore recommend that competition through generic drugs production
is a key component of any effort to increase access to medicines,
as well as incentives to pharmaceutical manufacturers for producing
medicines for neglected diseases.
Ken Bluestone and Lucia Fry