Wednesday, 23 March 2016

South Africa hosts UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines

Judge Cameron 
On the 16th - 17th March 2016, the UN's High Level Panel on Access to Medicines (HLP) convened hearings, a thought-leaders' forum and a dialogue in Sandton, Johannesburg (see the program here). This follows similar engagements in London on the 9th - 10th March. The Johannesburg hearings were held on the 16th. They were private and entailed an audience with the Panel for some of those who had submitted written comments to the panel. On the evening of the 16th, the thought leaders' forum was chaired by the Director-General of South Africa's Department of Health and HLP member, Precious Matsoso. Judge Edwin Cameron and Dr Sikhumbuzo Ngozwana addressed the gathering. Their talks were followed by lively discussions prompted by questions from the floor.

participants at the Joburg Dialogue
On the 17th, a five-hour global dialogue was conducted with remote participation from Bangkok. The entire proceedings were recorded and may be viewed from the HLP's website.  IP-Watch has posted a comprehensive account of the day's deliberations here and many participants were live-tweeting using the hashtags #JoburgDialogue and #UNSGAccessMeds, so I will only comment on two highlights of the day. The first was the consistent and constructive engagement by patients in the dialogue. This gave a much-needed human face to discussions and impressed the plight of patients on the HLP members. The second highlight was the TAC's picket which was staged outside the dialogue venue. Panel members went outside during the tea-break to receive a petition (the Johannesburg Declaration) from the picketers.

The HLP will now deliberate on written submissions and the oral interventions made at its hearings and dialogues held in London and Johannesburg. According to its timeline, the HLP will present its final report to the UN Secretary-General in June 2016. Whatever position this report takes and however the UN chooses to take its recommendations forward, the global dialogues presented a very welcome opportunity for most stakeholders to express their views and propose solutions to enhance access to medicines. 

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