Global civil society demands access to vaccines and broader reforms ahead of the WTO Ministerial Conference

29 September 2021: As the COVID pandemic continues to devastate low-income countries, 206 major civil society groups have called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to change WTO rules for monopolies on vaccines that result in “vaccine apartheid”, and to work towards “a new vision of multilateralism which will result in ecological stability and shared prosperity”. The WTO is preparing for a Ministerial meeting in November.

The demand for change comes following Trade Minister Dan Tehan’s statements in support of WTO rule changes to ensure the equitable distribution of COVID vaccines. Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club ahead of his international trade trip, Tehan said: “We want to see action at the WTO but as importantly we want to see reform.”

Australian advocacy organisations have welcomed this statement and called on the Minister to listen to the calls from global civil society outlined in the joint policy statement, entitled “Turnaround: New Multilateral Trade Rules for People-Centered Shared Prosperity and Sustainable Development”, which is one of the most comprehensive and detailed trade policy statements issued from such a large group of organisations.

Dr Patricia Ranald, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) convener, said:

“The COVID pandemic is a test for the WTO, and the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference will be a test of Trade Minister Tehan’s recent comments in support of WTO reform. We urge the Minister to listen to the call from 206 civil society organisations for a more sustainable and equitable global trade system.”

“Australia must demonstrate its commitment to WTO reform by coming good on its commitment to support fairer rules on intellectual property to share vaccines and other COVID-related products with low-income countries. By supporting a TRIPS waiver, we can help ensure access to vaccines, treatments, and tests for all.”

The signatories of the policy statement include national organisations like AFTINET and global union federations, development advocates, women’s groups, consumer organisations, and environmental groups.

The full list of 206 organisations endorsing the statement can be read here.

The statement was coordinated by the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) global network and is available in English, French, and Spanish.

Contact Dr Patricia Ranald 0419 695 841