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EFTA-Thailand negotiations: NGOs appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health

EFTA-Thailand negotiations. NGOs from Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health

Press Release from the Berne Declaration (Switzerland), 20 June, 2005

17 NGOs from Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein submitted today a request to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health*. They urge him to warn the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) not to restrict access to affordable generic medicines in Thailand.

Negotiations for an EFTA-Thailand free trade agreement will begin in mid-September. There is a risk that EFTA member states seek to include in that agreement intellectual property rules that undermine access to affordable generic medicines in Thailand. Such provisions that are going further than what is required under the WTO TRIPS agreement have been already included in previous free trade agreements from EFTA with third countries (e.g. FTAs with Chile in 2003, Lebanon in 2004 and Tunisia in 2004). Access to generic medicines, especially generic version of patented medicines, is essential in Thailand, in particular since the country is facing a serious HIV / AIDS epidemics. Today there are around 700’000 people living with HIV in the country. The HIV prevalence rate among the adult population is above 1%. According to WHO estimations 50’000 persons are receiving antiretroviral treatment while 114’000 people need it.

In their letter of 20th June 2005 to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Mr. Paul Hunt, the NGOs urge him to send an urgent appeal to ensure that EFTA member states take into account their human rights obligations in the forthcoming negotiations. They should not impose through the free trade agreement stricter intellectual property rules as these would undermine Thailand’s ability to provide affordable generic medicines for its population. This would undermine the right to health of the Thai population and would be contrary to the human rights obligations of EFTA member states. Also, the NGOs urged the special rapporteur to remind EFTA member states of their human rights obligation to ensure greater transparency and consultation with public interest civil society throughout all negotiations of free trade agreements which have an impact on human rights. At present the content of trade negotiations is known to the public only after the conclusion of the agreements.

Last Wednesday 15th June, a coalition of Thai NGOs made a similar request to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health to send an urgent appeal to the Thai government. They expressed their concerns about the human rights impacts - especially in relation to access to affordable medicines - of the trade agreements being negotiated by Thailand with several countries, including EFTA states.

For more information, please contact :

Julien Reinhard, Déclaration de Berne / Berne Declaration (Switzerland), +41 21 620 03 06

* The letter is available on

The following organizations are endorsing the letter:

Switzerland: Berne Declaration, Aids & Kind, Antenne Sida du Valais romand, Bethlehem Mission Immensee, Fédération Suisse des Personnes Vivant Avec (FSPVA), Groupe sida Genève, Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) - Suisse, Medicus Mundi Schweiz, SID’Action, SolidarMed, TearFund, terre des hommes schweiz, World Vision Schweiz

Liechtenstein: Liechtensteinische Gesellschaft für Umweltschutz LGU, Aktion: Wir teilen. Das alternative Fastenopfer, Verein Welt und Heimat

Norway: Leger Uten Grenser / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) - Norway

For more details on TRIPS-plus provisons in EFTA free trade agreements see the report on medicines .