July 16, 2012
On 4 July 2012, the European Parliament (EP) rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a multinational treaty for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. The EP’s refusal to ratify the ACTA has been warmly welcomed by many health and development agencies.
The ACTA aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods and copyright infringement on the Internet. Since October 2011, the ACTA has been signed by numerous countries as well as the European Commission and 22 of its members. Health and human rights organizations have expressed concerns that the ACTA may be used to limit the import of cheap, generic medicines needed for the treatment of diseases of the world’s poor. The strict enforcement of ACTA will thus endanger access to essential medicines in developing countries.
According to the British Medical Journal, this is the first time that the European Parliament has voted against an international trade agreement that had been approved by the European Commission. After massive lobbying by campaigners, which included a petition signed by over 2.8 million people worldwide, the ACTA was defeated by an overwhelming majority, with 478 votes against and only 39 in favour. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, hailed the Parliament’s rejection of the ACTA as a step in the right direction in ensuring continued access to affordable and essential drugs and medication essential for the fulfilment of the right to health.
Sources: BMJ, Wikipedia, www.unric.org