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On Human Rights Day, A Demand for Equity in Global Covid Response

Published by Ian Pinnell on

A view outside the United Nations in New York City. (Video still by Nina Peskanov / Partners In Health)

Today, on Human Rights Day, December 10, governments are convening at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to decide whether to suspend patents and other barriers on medical tools dedicated to the global COVID-19 response. International human rights law understands intellectual property to be a social construct that cannot interfere with health and other rights, and this understanding is key to increasing access to treatments and vaccines so people around the world can be protected from the virus. Unfortunately, Canada, the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, and Norway are all blocking this waiver.

Partners In Health Canada, alongside many other Canadian organizations, has called on the Canadian government to commit more to the global response to COVID-19, helping to make testing, therapeutics and vaccines accessible, and to strengthen health care systems. Partners In Health, together with Oxfam, Public Citizen, and other organizations, has also argued for a People’s Vaccine, which would be free and available to all. The decision taken on December 10th, and on December 17th before the WTO general council, will reveal national commitments to an international order based on universal human rights, which depends upon recognizing that our own humanity is bound up with that of others across the world. Along with groups such as the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research, the Canadian Society for International Health, and many others, we urge Canada to make the right decision in support of suspending patents and other barriers that would prevent an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Canadian government can demonstrate much-needed global leadership by mobilizing greater resources for expanding access to vaccines and therapeutics, share knowledge and technologies related to COVID response, and strengthening manufacturing and distribution of treatments and vaccines in the global south. 

These measures are imperative not just for specific vaccines or for this pandemic, but for future pandemics the world will inevitably face. These structural injustices systematically deprive people around the world of lives of dignity and are incompatible with the realization of universal human rights.


Join us on social media to call on the Canadian government to make the right decision to call on the WTO to suspend patents and other barriers that would prevent an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every person, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves the best health care we know how to offer.

Join us in building a more just and equitable world by making a gift today.

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