During 2014 I had the opportunity to chair the TRIPS Council. And obviously, I was one amongst the list of chair persons who have watched with disappointment the delay in the accession to the Protocol which would have effectively amended the TRIPS agreement. So it’s a momentous occasion in my view that the Protocol has now achieved the necessary two-thirds threshold and that we can then amend the TRIPS agreement accordingly. Now it is momentous, in my view, in the sense that for the system it’s been many years since we made the political decision that we should be able to make provision for public health within the work that we do here at the WTO. So I think it’s just about time that we translate that into proper legal effect. So I think as a system it also brings credibility that we are able to put to effect what we promise.
It’s absolutely important that we don’t miss the significance of this which is that as a system we can translate our political decisions into very practical things. Because it has been years since we made the decision to actually amend the TRIPS agreement. Let me also move on to say that for those of us who are burdened with HIV/AIDS and other related diseases, it’s a very important development because it allows us the opportunity to be able to either access medicines from those who have capacity or also develop it ourselves, so that we can then meet the heavy demands that we have. Botswana, for instance, carries a heavy burden financially to meet its obligations and, therefore, the system should be very helpful to us. And then in the bigger context of the SDGs with the goal to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 the pandemic, there is no question of a mind that without a system like this, which can then make access to medicines much more broadly, we are unlikely, very unlikely, to meet the goal as contained in the SDGs. So in total I think it’s a momentous occasion. I think we should all be happy that we did it but I think it’s about time we put into practice. So that we also know what effect it has the access we intended or what it may require certain adjustments for it to benefit the system.
Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai is the Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN and other International organisations in Geneva