The WTO, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), launched on May 3, 2021, its first Virtual Course on Trade and Public Health, which focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a five-week virtual course that will bring together government officials and technical experts from across the world. These are experts working on health, intellectual property (IP), and trade policy issues. Also, the course will expose participants to the diverse range of policy areas that influence public health. It will explore the role of IP in health system considerations and trade-related measures.
Moreover, the WTO designed the course in the spirit of the 2020 edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO study on Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation. The course will, therefore, focus on the intersections between public health, intellectual property, and trade.
Structure of the course
The WTO pointed out that this is the time that requires collaborative efforts more than ever before to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the activity aims to strengthen the foundation for coherent, coordinated, and informed policymaking.
Furthermore, the WTO indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a major global public health crisis. This, therefore, calls for the need for global cooperation. The Virtual Course on Trade and Public Health will address the need for coherent policy responses throughout its program. Besides, it will build on the experience of the series of workshops that the WTO Secretariat has organized since 2005.
The program consists of one introductory module, followed by five substantive modules. Selected participants will have one week to work through each module, at their own pace. They will have access to background materials and video lectures, with a quiz at the end of each module.
Also, as part of the requirements, participants will attend webinars with different stakeholders discussing a wide range of topical issues. The discussions will focus on innovation and access to health-related technologies. It will also cover the collaboration to address the COVID-19 pandemic and regulatory cooperation.
The 2020 edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO study
Meanwhile, the 2020 edition captured new developments in key areas since the launch of the first study in 2013. Among the new topics covered in that edition were antimicrobial resistance and cutting-edge health technologies.
Also, it provided an updated data on health, innovation trends in the pharmaceutical sector, and trade and tariffs relating to medical products. It included an updated overview of access to medical technologies globally and key provisions in regional trade agreements. The second edition also took account of developments in intellectual property legislation and jurisprudence.
However, since the study was completed before the COVID-19 outbreak, a standalone section on COVID-19 was added at the start of the publication. The publication mapped the multiple challenges that the pandemic poses concerning the integrated health, trade, and IP policy frameworks. It also provides a guide to the reader to the parts of the main text that are particularly relevant to the issues raised during the pandemic.
The publication was also the result of a collaborative effort by the WHO, WIPO, and the WTO, drawing together the three secretariats’ respective areas of expertise. It is intended to inform ongoing technical cooperation activities undertaken by the three organizations and to support policy discussions.