On Sunday, the Minister of International Development Anne
Kristin Sydnes will welcome experts from all over the world, who
will discuss how developing countries can gain access to essential
drugs on reasonable terms. The conference will be held at Høsbjør,
near Hamar, from 8 to 11 April 2001, and is being arranged by the
World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization
"The topic of the conference has
recently aroused great public interest. The main aim is to
investigate the factors which currently prevent developing
countries from gaining access to essential drugs on reasonable
terms", said the Minister of International Development. Various
types of solutions to the problems will be discussed. Access to
both patented and non-patented (so-called generic) drugs will be on
the agenda. The discussions will involve all types of essential
drugs and will not be confined to specific diseases.
"One of the reasons why Norway is
hosting this conference is because we wish to focus on combating
hiv/aids" says Ms. Sydnes. "In Africa alone, 25 million people are
infected with hiv/aids, and on a global level over five million
people became infected last year. Most of these new cases are
people in the poorest countries of the world. In many countries the
pandemic has become a human and social catastrophe."
The financing of essential drugs
will also be debated at the conference. The Harvard economist
Jeffery Sachs has estimated that in Africa alone NOK 90 billion is
needed annually to combat hiv/aids and other diseases. But if this
sum was divided between everyone who lives in the prosperous parts
of the world, it would amount to only NOK 90 per person. An
important task is to mobilize adequate resources for this struggle
– both economic and human. For this purpose, both international
donor countries and the countries which are affected need to work
The conference participants are
primarily experts, both from developed and developing countries.
These experts come from many different sectors, such as research
institutions, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, public
authorities and drug companies. They have expertise in many fields,
such as drugs, patents, international health and consumer rights,
financing issues and competition policy.
Much of the discussion will be
about the legal, economic and health policy framework that is
needed in order to maintain different prices in poor and wealthy
countries. But other more practical issues will also be discussed,
such as labelling, purchasing and distribution of drugs.
"Norway also wishes to ensure that
the ethical challenges are high on the agenda. Millions of people
living in poor countries today do not have access to essential
drugs on reasonable terms", said Ms. Sydnes.
The documents produced for the
conference will be published in May 2001, along with the WHO/WTO
report on the conference.
The WHO/WTO background documents
for the conference can already be found on the home pages of these
organizations. The web address of the WTO is
www.wto.org and the documents can
be found under the title TRIPS. The web address of the WHO is
A press release summarizing the
main points from the conference, will be available on these home
pages immediately after the conference.
A telephone conference for the
international and Norwegian media will be held on Wednesday 11
April at 15.30. Norwegian journalists can participate in the
telephone conference using a separate telephone line to the
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about the
telephone conference is available from Adviser Gry Haaheim, tel: 22
24 31 65.
The conference is not open to the
Head of Information Jon Mørland,
the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Tel: 22 24 39 11.