WTO Threatens Human Rights

MONTREAL –  September 11, 2003  –  Despite positive developments concerning access to cheaper generic drugs for poorer countries, human rights are still threatened by the inequity of global trade rules and the lack of recognition of economic and social rights for hundreds of million people.

In the case of cheaper generic drugs (Right to Health), it remains to be seen how soon these countries will see any tangible benefits. One third of the world’s people still lack access to essential medicines and only 1% of Africans living with HIV-AIDS are receiving the medicines that are common currency in wealthy developed countries such as Canada.

“The immediate need for these drugs is an international emergency and the many shortcomings associated with implementing this latest agreement are symptomatic of the of the WTO’s chronic inability to strike a just balance between the interests of wealthy countries and the needs of developing countries,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “Canada must try bridge this gap and ensure the WTO benefits developing countries in ways that are both effective and sustainable.”

In the case of agriculture (Right to Food), the stakes are high. An estimated 840 million people in the world are undernourished and 6 million children under the age of five will die this year as a result of hunger and malnutrition.

Rights & Democracy will join with other human rights advocates in Canc?n in promoting a human rights framework for trade negotiations. Specifically, Rights & Democracy advocates:

  • an end to subsidies for agricultural exports and formulation of defence mechanisms for vulnerable economies in the meantime
  • a broad interpretation of new rules for the delivery of essential medicines to those who need them.


Rights & Democracy will host two events in Cancun with several prominent speakers including Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.