The Holy See
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Friday, 20 December 2002


Mr Chairman,

The Observer Delegation of the Holy See to the World Trade Organization (WTO) wishes to address the question of TRIPS and public health, from its humanitarian and ethical dimensions.

The Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, at the time of its adoption, was considered a significant breakthrough in attempting to reconcile two important values for our world community:

- Permitting governments to respond rapidly to urgent public health needs of their people, though assuring access to essential medicines at affordable prices;

- Respecting the creativity and innovative possibilities offered by a rules-based international system for the protection of intellectual property.

The Declaration was, at the time of its adoption, recognised as a victory for all the Member-States of the WTO. It was hoped above all that it would constitute a victory for the poorest and those most vulnerable to health risks and suffering, especially in Africa.

My Delegation is thus concerned at the fact that it has not been possible - even after eleven months of negotiation - to arrive, within the deadline set, at a consensus application of the Declaration for those countries that do not have the domestic capacity to produce their own medicines. In these days the Holy See had made its own representation to interested governments in the hope that an adequate agreement might be reached.

In his Message for the World Day of Peace 2003 (8), Pope John Paul II emphasised that, in the search for a new international moral order, it is important that commitments of political summits be honoured by each party. The Pope warned: "promises made to the poor should be particularly binding" and "the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question".

The protection of private property - including intellectual property - is an important value, which we must respect. There is however a social mortgage on all property, including intellectual property.

The very creative and innovative impetus which the intellectual property rights system offers - especially in the health sector - is there primarily to serve the common good of the human community.

A positive decision on this question would have been an important sign from the World Trade Organization especially in this Christmas season. My delegation hopes that a sense of common responsibility will urge us all to ensure that what has been achieved in these days will not be lost, and that we can arrive at a positive decision for the good of our human family as early as possible in the New Year.