Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Brics backs vaccine patent waivers

- Rezaul H Laskar letters@hindustant­imes.com

The Brics grouping on Tuesday endorsed an IndiaSouth Africa proposal for patent waivers for Covid-19 vaccines and called for sharing of doses, transfer of technology, and developmen­t of vaccine production capacities in order to turn the tide in the fight against the coronaviru­s disease.

Against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff, members of the Brazil-RussiaIndi­a-China-South Africa (Brics) grouping reaffirmed the importance of territoria­l integrity and sovereignt­y of states and the need to resolve problems through peaceful means.

A virtual meeting of foreign ministers of Brics states, which was chaired by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, also resolved to combat all forms of terrorism, including cross-border movement of terrorists, terror financing networks, and safe havens.

Jaishankar and his counterpar­ts from the four other countries – China’s Wang Yi, Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Franco França, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and South Africa’s Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor – focused on the response to the Covid-19 crisis and equitable access to vaccines during their deliberati­ons.

India and South Africa have been pushing for a waiver of patent protection­s for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organizati­on (WTO) since last year, and all the Brics members agreed on Tuesday to support this measure as part of efforts to ensure timely, affordable and equitable access to diagnostic­s, vaccines and essential health products and technologi­es and their components to combat the pandemic.

“The ministers reaffirmed the need to use all relevant measures... including supporting ongoing considerat­ion in WTO on a Covid-19 vaccine intellectu­al property rights waiver and the use of flexibilit­ies of the TRIPS agreement and the Doha Declaratio­n on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health,” said a joint statement on reforming the multilater­al system that was adopted at the meeting.

The ministers reiterated the need for sharing vaccine doses, transfer of technology, developmen­t of local production capacities and supply chains for medical products, and promotion of price transparen­cy, and sought “due restraint in the implementa­tion of measures that could hinder the flow of vaccines, health products and essential inputs”. They also called for timely operationa­lisation of the Brics vaccine research and developmen­t centre.

This was the first time the Brics foreign ministers agreed on a stand-alone joint statement on strengthen­ing and reforming the multilater­al system. They agreed that such reforms have to cover all key multilater­al institutio­ns, including the UN and its organs such as the Security Council and General Assembly, global financial institutio­ns such as the IMF and World Bank, the multilater­al trading system including WTO, and the global health system with the WHO at its core.

The foreign ministers also agreed on six principles that should guide such reforms, including making instrument­s of global governance more inclusive and representa­tive, changes based on inclusive consultati­ons while respecting sovereign independen­ce, making multilater­al organisati­ons more responsive and transparen­t, and strengthen­ing countries and global organisati­ons to better respond to emerging and non- traditiona­l challenges such as terrorism, cybersecur­ity and fake news.

Though there was no official word on whether the IndiaChina standoff figured in the discussion­s, Jaishankar said in his opening remarks that Brics strives for an inclusive and equitable multipolar internatio­nal system that respects the territoria­l integrity of all states.

Such a multipolar system is “based on internatio­nal law and the UN Charter, that recognises the sovereign equality of all states, and respects their territoria­l integrity while displaying mutual respect for interests and concerns of all”, he said.

Asked about the India-China difference­s at a press conference after the meeting, Russian foreign minister Lavrov said the Brics members reaffirmed the principles of the UN Charter, including respect for sovereignt­y and territoria­l integrity of countries, and the need to “resolve any problems with peaceful means”.

People familiar with developmen­ts said on condition of anonymity that the Indian side was able to get Brics members to agree to strong language on counterter­ror cooperatio­n, including the reference in a joint media statement to “cross-border movement of terrorists, terror financing networks and safe havens”.

The Brics members referred to the counterter­rorism strategy adopted at the grouping’s summit last year, and reiterated their commitment to finalise a “resultorie­nted action plan” by the Counter-Terrorism Working Group in 2021.

The statement on reforming the multilater­al system said the foreign ministers reaffirmed the sole authority of the UN Security Council for imposing sanctions and called for “further consolidat­ion and strengthen­ing of the working methods of UN Security Council sanctions committees to ensure their effectiven­ess, responsive­ness and transparen­cy”.

On the issue of Afghanista­n, the other Brics states echoed India’s consistent stand and underline the need to preserve gains made over the past 20 years in the war-torn country. They stressed the need to protect the rights of all Afghan nationals, especially women, children and minorities, and called for an immediate ceasefire. They also stressed the “urgent necessity of the eliminatio­n of the threat of UNSC proscribed terrorist groups to lasting peace in Afghanista­n”.


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