As member states of the World Health Organization gather Monday May 17, 2020 in Geneva for the
World Health Assembly, a global coalition of 31 think tanks has called on governments to commit to open
trade, collaboration and innovation in the fight against Covid-19.
The united declaration calls for a range of measures to safeguard supplies of essential medical goods and
support innovation for future Covid-19 treatments and cures. Import tariffs are applied by many countries
on medical supplies and personal protective equipment, driving up prices and reducing availability. These
should be abolished permanently.
Governments should also commit to avoiding export bans, which are exacerbating global shortages of
essential medical goods by disrupting global manufacturing supply chains. Customs red tape should be
reviewed to keep goods crossing borders as quickly as possible, the declaration urges.
Innovation is crucial to finding a long-term solution to a newly identified disease like Covid-19. That includes
the invention of new therapeutics and vaccines, but also their mass manufacture and rapid distribution
throughout the world. The think tanks call on governments to support needed innovation by facilitating
the cross-border flow of epidemiological and clinical data related to Covid-19.
They should also avoid pre-emptively removing intellectual property rights from any new vaccines or
treatments that emerge.
The world needs more companies to join the quest for new treatments and
vaccines, not policies that send a strong signal to stay away. Intellectual property rights are vital to support
coordinated mass manufacturing scale-up and global distribution.
“We are concerned that many countries are looking to the failed ideas of the past to address the crisis.
Barriers are being erected that are deepening shortages of medical supplies, undermining innovation and
hampering efforts to beat the disease. The situation is compounded in relatively poor and poor countries,
where health patients are being failed by the lack of investment in domestic health care infrastructure”
says Franklin Cudjoe, founding president of IMANI Africa.
“Now is not the time for countries to look inwards. The crisis will only be resolved, and economies will only
recover, if countries are allowed to trade and collaborate freely with each other” Cudjoe concluded.