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No. 418, 2 August 2022

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Human Rights Council adopts Resolution calling for global, equitable access to medicines, vaccines and other medical technologies


On 7 July 2022, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted without a vote  Resolution A/HRC/50/L.13/Rev.1 (hereinafter ‘the Resolution’) on “Access to medicines, vaccines and other health products in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.[1] The Resolution was proposed by a group of developing countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand). It highlights the unequal access to vaccines and other medical technologies during COVID-19 and beyond, recalling the various resolutions and decisions on the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the 2022 decisions which stressed the “need for ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”.[2] Importantly, it recalls the various human rights implications resulting from the lack of affordable and equitable access to such products, particularly for the global South, women and girls, and other marginalized communities.
The Resolution also adopts a comprehensive view of the right to health, making reference to the detrimental implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the combat against other global health issues, including diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, as well as non-communicable diseases. It also acknowledges the developmental and socio-economic implications of the pandemic, with references to the Declaration on the Right to Development and States’ duties therein, the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Resolution reaffirms the importance of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, and recalls the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which reaffirmed countries’ policy space to make use of TRIPS flexibilities.[3]
The Resolution also innovates by referring to various emerging processes and issues which are at the core of current and future pandemic responses and of measures to ensure broader access to health technologies. These include the need for improvement in transparency in the pharmaceutical sector – including in research and development (R&D) and pricing –, manufacturing and regulatory capacity, technology transfer, and the need for more innovation for neglected diseases.
In its operative paragraphs, the Resolution addresses, among others, the following:
  1. Recognizes that timely, equitable and unhindered access to safe, affordable, effective and quality medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics and other health products and technologies are fundamental to the right to health and universal health coverage (both individual and collective dimensions);
  2. Stresses States’ responsibilities to that aim, including specific language on “access to immunization as a global public good”;
  3. Calls States to make full use of the TRIPS flexibilities[4] to improve access to all health technologies (and not exclusively vaccines), and also in the context of non-communicable diseases;
  4. Reiterates call for the delinkage of the costs of R&D from the prices of medical technologies, thereby enhancing access;
  5. Urges action on research and capacity-building initiatives for science and technology, measures to strengthen regional and local production, the fair and equitable sharing of data, the promotion of technology transfer and know-how, efforts to build capacity in developing countries, including mRNA vaccine technologies, exploration of approaches to equitable access and fair distribution of health products;
  6. Recognizes the importance of innovative funding mechanisms and arrangements such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Gavi Alliance, Unitaid, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative and the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), while also making reference to the need to avoid undue influence and conflict of interest by companies;
  7. Encourages new and improved frameworks to adequately reward innovation, pricing and the affordability of health products, while leveraging innovative technologies.
The Resolution thus advocates for alternative innovation models that overcome the shortcomings of the current model based on intellectual property protection, and explicitly makes a call for countries to actively use all existing mechanisms and all the TRIPS flexibilities.
It also requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to “enhance its work, within its mandate, in the field of the human rights dimension of access to medicines and vaccines”, and invites the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to continue to focus on human rights dimensions of access to medical technologies. Very concretely, it requests the Office of the High Commissioner to, in verbis:
“organize three expert workshops,  to provide technical assistance to States throughout the next three years on the human rights dimension of access to medicines and vaccines in the context of the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including with regard to good practices, key challenges and new developments, and to present to the Human Rights Council a compendium of good practices at its fifty-third session and an analytical study on key challenges at its fifty-sixth session, with a view to presenting a comprehensive report, including new developments, at its fifty-ninth session, and to prepare these submissions in an accessible and easy-to-read format” (highlights added).
The Resolution was warmly welcomed by civil society organizations working on access to health technologies and human rights. In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), and the People’s Vaccine Alliance noted that “this resolution sends another clear message that access to medicines and diagnostics, including COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, is a core component of the right to health and central to other fundamental human rights, including the right to life.” It also notes that governments must respond to its human rights obligations by “addressing the disproportionate impact of global health crises on marginalized groups, as well as fostering knowledge and technology transfer, and making full use of flexibilities in global intellectual property rules to adequately respond to and prepare for public health needs”.[5]
The strong language of the Resolution can be seen as even more pivotal given the fact that, as reported by KEI, developed countries such as the UK, the US and the European Union have made several proposals to water down language on equity and access. [6]
Given the content of the Resolution and the process for its timely approval, the importance of the Resolution cannot be understated. It reasserts the need to integrate equity concerns into the human rights agenda and to consider the implications of intellectual property (IP) rights. It equally calls for action and monitoring of critical developments, particularly as local production and manufacturing capacity issues continue to grow in importance in other fora, particularly in the WHO. In particular, the Resolution recalls how trade and health continue to be inter-related and intrinsic issues in global governance, as dramatically shown during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides concrete actions for future HRC meetings as to develop and provide new inputs to the topic.
Despite the importance of the Resolution, as adopted, a future resolution on the matter by the HRC should further elaborate on the obligations by all countries with respect to access to health technologies as a component of the right to health, including for example (i) a clearer reference to the impact of rising and unaffordable high prices of pharmaceuticals, and the need to address this issue; (ii) more emphasis on local production especially in developing countries as to avoid dependence on imported pharmaceuticals; (iii) specific references to the waiving of IP rights in times of pandemics, including all medical technologies; (iv) transparency requirements from R&D costs to manufacturing and final prices, as well as on contractual provisions.
The South Centre provides no-cost technical assistance to developing countries’ officials, including policymakers, patent and regulatory authorities, judicial authorities, and negotiators, to adopt a public health approach in designing and implementing IP policies. This also means monitoring that human rights implications are adequately taken into account in trade negotiations.  For more information and to submit a specific request, please see:
See the resolution here:
[2] As per the Resolution’s Preamble: “Recalling Human Rights Council resolution 41/10 of 11 July 2019 and all relevant previous resolutions and decisions on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health adopted by the Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, including resolutions 44/2 of 16 July 2020, 46/14 of 23 March 2021, 49/19 of 1 April 2022 and 49/25, also of 1 April 2022, in which the Council highlighted the need for ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and for promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights within the context of addressing inequalities in the recovery from the pandemic”.
[3] Also see, on the issue of TRIPS Flexibilities and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health: Nirmalya Syam, Viviana Munoz, Carlos M. Correa and Vitor Ido, The Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health on its Twentieth Anniversary”, South Centre Policy Brief 107, November 2021. Available from; Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India”, South Centre Research Paper 158, June 2022. Available from;  Kiyoshi Adachi, An Examination of Selected Public Health Exceptions in Asian Patent Laws”, South Centre Research Paper 152, April 2022. Available from; Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi, “Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed”, South Views 238, June 2022. Available from  
[4] The South Centre provides free technical assistance to developing countries on the implementation of TRIPS Flexibilities. For more information, see:
[6] and

Author: Vitor Ido is Programme Officer of the Health, Intellectual Property and Biodiversity Programme (HIPB) of the South Centre. 

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