This issue’s contents:

COVER: Avian flu virus controversy

'Sharing' of avian flu virus a central issue at WHA
By Martin Khor & Sangeeta Shashikant

When the World Health Assembly (WHA), the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), met in Geneva in May this year, the issue confronting the more than 190 member states constituting this Assembly was the unjust situation facing developing countries with regard to access to avian influenza vaccines. Although developing countries have been the main contributors of samples of avian flu viruses to the WHO collaborating research centres and laboratories, many of the drug companies (largely from the West) which manufacture the vaccines and prevent easy access to them by the imposition of rigorous patents, have been profiting at their expense by their unauthorised access to such samples for their own research. The result is that developing countries are, in a situation of high prices and limited supplies, unable to stockpile sufficient supplies of such vaccines to meet any pandemic outbreak.

Winners and losers in the sharing of avian flu viruses
By Martin Khor & Sangeeta Shashikant

Unless the principles and provisions of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity governing access to the genetic resources of a sovereign country and WHO's March 2005 Guidance on sharing flu viruses are strictly adhered to, it is only the developed countries and their drug companies which will profit from any sharing of avian flu virus samples.

Developing countries call for new flu virus-sharing system
By Martin Khor

At the 60th World Health Assembly, developing nations led by Indonesia presented a draft resolution which reflected their strong dissatisfaction with the current WHO research system and called for a new international framework to be set up for the sharing of avian influenza viruses.

WHO admits patents taken on avian flu virus
By Martin Khor

During a technical briefing on avian flu during the recent 60th World Health Assembly, a senior WHO official admitted that patents had been taken on the avian flu virus and that WHO collaborating centres to which samples of the virus have been sent by member countries have been granting unauthorised access to such samples to drug companies.

WHO shaken up by delegates' criticisms on IP issues
By Martin Khor

At the 60th World Health Assembly in Geneva in May, there was strong criticism from some of WHO's member states of the growing neglect by the UN agency of its mandated commitment to public health and of the inequities of the current WHO system which operates to the detriment of developing countries.

WHA avian flu decision links sharing of viruses and benefits 
By Sangeeta Shashikant

The 60th World Health Assembly concluded its proceedings by adopting a resolution on pandemic influenza which links the sharing of influenza viruses by countries affected by the avian flu outbreak, to the access of developing countries to vaccines and other benefits.

WHA agrees on public health, innovation and intellectual property after initial divisions
By Lim Li Lin

In addition to the avian-flu resolution, the WHA also passed a resolution to, in effect, expedite the work of an intergovernmental committee set up by a 2006 resolution to develop a framework to secure an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven essential health research and development on diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries. The resolution was occasioned by the perceived failure of the WHO Secretariat to give the requisite priority and resources to the work of the committee.

Civil society calls for fair framework for sharing of virus samples as well as vaccines

Civil society organisations backed the demand of developing countries at the WHA for the establishment of a fair and equitable virus-sharing framework. The following is the text of a statement endorsed by some civil society groups active on health matters and issued before the WHA met on 14 May.


'FAO must give priority to organic agriculture'
By Hira Jhamtani

An international conference on organic agriculture has called on the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to promote organic agriculture to tackle the pressing issue of food security.

Biofuels: The debate heats up
By Fidel Castro

In this follow-up piece to his earlier contribution to the biofuels debate (see TWR#200), President Fidel Castro of Cuba says that 'the fact that the subject is being discussed is already an important step forward.'


The growing abuse of transfer pricing by TNCs
By Kavaljit Singh

'Transfer pricing', a financial accounting device used by transnational corporations (TNCs) to rake huge financial benefits, has long been a major problem facing host countries. Kavaljit Singh discusses this phenomenon in the wake of the recent disclosure of resort to this practice by the pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline.


Blair's decade
By Jeremy Seabrook

Jeremy Seabrook says that whatever dispute there may be about outgoing British premier Tony Blair's legacy, there can be no doubt as to what his bequest to the world of international affairs is: Iraq.

Behind Turkey's presidential battle
By Gamze Cavdar

The people of Turkey are headed for the polls as a result of the latest round in the longstanding fight between the ruling Justice and Development Party (better known by its Turkish initials, the AKP), a 'neo-Islamist' party, and its secularist detractors comprised of opposition parties and the 'deep state', a shadowy nexus of military and police officers and militants on the far right. In analysing this latest political crisis, Gamze Cavdar points out that this secular-Islamic dichotomy tends to obscure other key faultlines in Turkish politics, in respect of which there are no fundamental differences between these two political coalitions.

Bombs over Cambodia
By Taylor Owen & Ben Kiernan

Aerial bombing is likely to play a key role in the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially as the US seeks to replace its own ground troops with local government forces. In this respect, the US air war against Cambodia between 1965 and 1973 may offer some important lessons, say Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan as they revisit, in the light of new information, the brutal US war against that country.


Women victims of 1965 speak out
By Carmel Budiardjo

A new book published in Indonesia has at last given voice to the women victims of Suharto's bloody drive to power in 1965, when the Indonesian army under his command and its supporters launched their wave of repression against all opposition groups and dissidents in the guise of crushing a so-called 'communist' coup. Carmel Budiardjo, herself a victim of the Suharto regime, discusses this important new publication.

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