Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 areas separately.


  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 countries.

  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 the agreement.

  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


January 2001

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