Washington, D.C., 25 Jul 2006
An intergovernmental working group on public health and intellectual property, which the World Health Assembly said in May should be set up "immediately," is scheduled to meet for the first time in December in Geneva, according to informed sources. But apparently it is no easy task for the World Health Organization (WHO) to coordinate the matter.
A senior WHO official told Intellectual Property Watch that the meeting would "probably" take place on 4 December, but there are apparently still quite a few pieces up in the air about the group.
The official said that the six regional WHO committees now will discuss "how to go about" setting up the group, both in terms of who will be part of it and what the substance will be. They are meeting in sequence from 22 August to 29 September, starting with Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, Western Pacific, and the Americas.
Each regional committee would choose two or three governments that would designate representatives for a smaller group, which would be discussed at the December meeting, he said. The smaller group could meet before December, but this is still to be decided, the official said.
The official admitted that there are "some very difficult negotiations going on," adding that the work was very "complicated" as there are "different interests" involved. The official would not specify what the interests are, but referred to the history of the resolution upon which the working group is based and its many "angles and issues."
While the annual assembly mandated the WHO to manage the group, it also said that other stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations should be involved, and the pharmaceutical industry also has showed a strong interest in the WHO's work on IP.
Within the WHO, discussions and speculations about who will head the group also have been intense, sources said, amidst larger staff concerns such as replacing the late Director General Lee Jong-wook (IPW, United Nations, 31 May 2006).
The WHO Executive Board will meet on 6-8 November to nominate a candidate for director general who will be proposed to a first-ever special session of the World Health Assembly on 9 November. Member countries may propose candidates for the director general post from 1 June to 5 September, and these will be forwarded by the secretariat to all member states by 5 October, the WHO said.
The next full WHO Executive Board meeting is scheduled for January 2007.