Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday 10 May 2022 – His Excellency Lansana Gberie, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, chaired his first formal meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in Geneva. At this meeting WTO members discussed the draft outcome document that has recently emerged from the informal process conducted with the Quad (the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States) for an intellectual property (IP) response to COVID-19 – an initiative led by WTO Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The draft outcome document offers a solid basis for text-based negotiations on practical ways of clarifying, streamlining and simplifying how governments can override patent rights to enable diversification of production of COVID vaccines, without the right holder’s consent.
In his address Ambassador Gberie remarked the draft outcome is the only viable initiative on the table that could lead to a long-awaited and urgently needed outcome on this critical issue by the 12th Ministerial Conference slated to take place from 12-15 June 2022. TRIPS Council discussions on the role of IP in a pandemic since October 2020 were not able to achieve convergence until now.
Member states welcomed the proposal as a positive and significant development that has the potential to unlock the impasse and land on a compromised outcome document.
Ambassador Gberie is consulting with delegations to ensure the draft text gets the best possible chance to succeed as a basis for an agreed outcome. "It will not be easy, and it is consensus that compromises are required on all sides and no one side will be entirely happy with the outcome. But an agreement by all members on a practical outcome on the role of IP in a pandemic will send a strong signal that despite all the differences, the WTO community can come together and highlight how the multilateral rules can help address this and future crises," said Ambassador Gberie.
Substantive negotiations on the draft outcome document are expected to commence in the coming week. Ambassador Gberie encouraged delegations to prepare for the upcoming discussions on the text with a constructive and pragmatic attitude, particularly given the few weeks remaining before the 12th Ministerial Conference.
Sierra Leone as part of the African Group is constructively engaging with members to agree on a mutually acceptable outcome on the TRIPS waiver and deliver on the promise of diversifying and ramping up capacity in manufacturing vaccines to be used on the continent.
Members also unanimously adopted Ambassador Gberie’s oral status report that provides a factual overview of discussions held at the TRIPS Council since October 2020 on TRIPS Waiver. His Excellency presented the report at the General Council meeting on 10 May 2022.
The appointment of Ambassador Dr. Gberie to chair the WTO’s TRIPS Council demonstrates acknowledgment of his competence and bestows trust and confidence in Sierra Leone’s ability to preside over the meetings and to coordinate the work of the WTO’s TRIPS Council. Ambassador Gberie assumed the chairmanship of the TRIPS Council on 10 March 2022.
Over the years, under Ambassador Gberie’s leadership, Sierra Leone has received several accolades from the international community in Geneva for its efforts in promoting human rights, rule of law and good governance, and sustainable and equitable trade relationships.
Ambassador Gberie was President of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) from August 2020 to August 2021 and is currently the First Vice Chairperson of the Governing Bureau of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Attesting to the high stake’s nature of the negotiation, the meeting proceedings were covered by the world’s largest international multimedia news providers, including Reuters.
Ambassador Lansana Gberie was accompanied by the new Minister Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Mr. Edward Kawa, in a bid to promote key priority areas of the government on this issue.
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