The UN Economic and Social Council has alerted the international community to growing inequalities in health between the world's populations, particularly when confronting the Covid-19 pandemic1. Since May 2020 there have been numerous appeals and proposals calling for the 75th UN General Assembly to affirm that any future Covid-19 vaccine must be a common good, a global public good, free of charge, and that the right to health for all should prevail over the interest of financial profitability and “health security” of the wealthier populations in the richest countries3.
However, to date, the interests of the powerful seem to be dominating the responses in the fight against the pandemic (and against poverty). As long as these structural causes, which fuel the primacy of the strongest, are not eliminated, we cannot change this course.
In the field of global health, there are three root causes of inequalities to be eradicated as a priority:
- the right to private appropriation of living organisms for profit introduced in legislation on Intellectual Property (as early as 1980 by the United States and confirmed, in 1998, by an EU Directive);
- xenophobic nationalist tendencies in security matters prevailing over the principle of common and shared responsibility of peoples and states to safeguard, care for and promote the life of all the inhabitants on Earth;
- mechanisms of global finance that currently fuel growing wealth inequality between and within countries, privatization of savings and credit activities being among the most critical. This inequality has also been well documented in a recent UNCTAD report3.
In light of the above, and recognising your personal commitment to the right to life for all of the Earth’s inhabitants, we ask you, Mr. Secretary General, to bring to the attention of those responsible and to support at the 75th UN General Assembly the review and approval of the following three initiatives:
Abandoning the patentability of any Covid-19 vaccine for the years 2020 and 2021 by any private or for-profit entity, based upon rivalry of exclusive manufacture, and creating a UN's global task force to undertake a revision of the existent laws on intellectual property, so that they may be adapted to the current global requirement for this global pandemic. The objective is to instead favor the design and implementation at both regional and global levels, under the responsibility of public policy, of a more cooperative and mutual system for the pooling of knowledge and technology in the area of health, to bring about an effective realization of the right to universal and free access to therapies against Covid-19.
Promote the launch of a global program "Novel Finance for Universal Health". The aim of such program will be to promote a powerful autonomous, and self-generative capacity for the production and the accumulation of sustainable financial resources from the so-called "poor" nations, emphasizing the regeneration of public savings banks, public credit institutions, public insurance companies, and especially close international South-South cooperation agreements, while also incorporating a transformed World Bank, which will gradually become the world’s "deposit and consignment bank". Included in this must be a ban on derivatives and hedge funds activity in the area of health; the elimination of tax havens and a novel taxation on grand fortunes. The increase of local autonomous financial resources is fundamental, especially in those areas of other activities relating to common and public goods essential for life (such as water, food, energy, housing and, last but not least, education).
Forming a working group charged with evaluating and formulating proposals on the creation of a World Security Council for global Common and Public Goods (to start with: water, health, knowledge). The Council would have a three functions: alert / oversight (observation, anticipation, detection of emergencies, risk assessment); initiative (preparation of dossiers for the public authorities responsible for supervision, proposals for legislative interventions...); sanction (where there were to be a failure to respect the security of public health institutions).
Vaccines, finance and security, these are the three main axes of our proposals. We offer you a gracious thank you in advance, for your kind attention and your sympathetic consideration of these proposals as part of your commitment to a just common global public health policy.
We wish you a challenging and fruitful General Assembly.
Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth
The Open letter to the UN Secretary General is sent on the initiative of the Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth and is signed by 174 personalities from 33 countries.
1 Report published on 22nd of July 2020 by the ECOSOC High Level Segment: Multilateralism after COVID-19: What kind of UN do we need on its 75th anniversary?.
2 Here we cite the dozens of Heads of State and of Governments on who issued a statement on behalf of the President of South Africa and calls from hundreds of prestigious personalities from the world of science, economics and of culture, Pope Francis, Oxfam, Médecins sans Frontières and other NGOs, including our small organisation "Agora des Habitants de la Terre".
3 UNCTAD Trade and Development Proposals: South-South Cooperation at the time of Covid-19.