Friday, May 12, 2006

Libertarian think tank (IPN) throws drinks/canapes bash on eve of World Health Assembly

12 May 2006
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The libertarian think tank, International Policy Network (IPN) an active defender of GMO foods, water privatization and the tobacco industry, and a constant foe of of efforts to control global warming is hosting a drinks and canapés reception at the five-star Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva on the eve of the World Health Assembly (Sunday, 21 May 2006) from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

The swanky reception will be preceded by a panel moderated by Julian Morris, Executive Director of the International Policy Network. Panellists include: Bibek Debroy from PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (India), Barun Mitra from the Liberty Institute (India), Jasson Urbach, Africa Fighting Malaria (South Africa) and Philip Stevens, International Policy Network (UK). The IPN seminar will focus on "intellectual property, innovation and health" and the panellists wil "provide alternative perspectives on the intellectual property debate that members of the World Health Assembly will consider during its 59th annual meeting (22-27 May)". These "alternative perspectives" will no doubt parrot the findings of the Civil Society Report on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Health, a coalition of 16 libertarian NGOs. Although the title of this report mimics the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) the Civil Society report focuses on health systems, taxes and tariffs on medicines, price controls and drug registration.

Barun Mitra's Liberty Institute is a member of IPN. According to, Barun Mitra "lobbied hard for commercial approval for Monsanto's GM cotton, claiming there should be 'free access' to new technologies without any government interference". The Liberty Institute is a supporter of the tobacco industry as well. Mitra contended that the "anti-tobacco crusade from the West, like the environmental one as manifested at the WTO meeting Seattle last December, is the newest manifestation of the neo-imperialistic desires". Bibek Debroy has been a fellow of the Liberty Institute; he is a critic of compulsory licensing in developing countries. Jasson Urbach's outfit, Africa Fighting Malaria, is an NGO dedicated to promoting the use of DDT to combat malaria. It's director is Richard Tren who delivered a rather inelegant critique on the proposal to create an Essential Patent Pool for HIV/AIDS at last year's World Health Assembly.

Governments and health campaigners truly dedicated to the protection of public health and the promotion of access to medicines for all may want to consider giving this reception a miss, no matter the quality of IPN's drinks or canapés.