'Universal access to medicines is moral obligation,' Vatican tells Human Rights Council

(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, who heads the Holy See delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, at a UN event on June 15, 2015.

While the world works to choose a new director general of the World Health Organization and U.S politicians are toiling feverishly on the health system, the U.N. Human Rights Council has heard from the Vatican about the "moral obligation" of universal access to medicines.

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Vatican representative to the United Nations in Geneva, on March 10 addressed the Human Rights Council saying that policy coherence is necessary to achieve the "moral obligation" of universal access to medicines.

He noted that working for "a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and of human labour is not mere philanthropy," it is a moral obligation.

"Access to affordable medicines no longer represents a challenge only for the least developed and other developing countries; it has also become an increasingly urgent issue for higher-income countries as well. States find themselves unable to combat antimicrobial resistance," for instance Jurkovič said.

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Speaking in Geneva he said, "In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all."

The archbishop said that to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach, "we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed."

Jurkovič said that in regarding the pursuit of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, "policy coherence is fundamental" for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all.

The adoption of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals has created an enabling framework for progress toward the achievement of both access and innovation.

SDG 3, in particular, includes the targets to support "the research and development of vaccines and medicine for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries."

It also seeks to provide "access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement and Public Health."

In this sense, said the archbishop, the Holy See appreciates the entry into force in January of the amendment to the TRIPs Agreement at the World Trade Organization.

"The amendment provides a secure and legal pathway to access affordable medicines and helps the most vulnerable access treatments that meet their needs, including those related to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, as well as other epidemics," he said.

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