Reigniting the Spirit of the Doha Declaration: Why a TRIPS Waiver Extension is Key to the Legitimacy of the World Trade Organization

Boston University Global Development Policy Center

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have an opportunity at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 to grant an extension to the much-embattled Waiver to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The Waiver, proposed more than three years ago, was intended to allow countries and their pharmaceutical firms to manufacture and distribute generic versions of COVID-19 products to their populations more freely.

Recently, the international community quietly passed by the 22nd anniversary of the conclusion of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in November 2023. The Doha Declaration, originally adopted at the insistence of the Africa Group, was a landmark moment in international cooperation in which the members of the WTO agreed (in principle) that public health should not be undermined by a narrow reading of global rules governing intellectual property (IP).

This policy brief explores the origins of the Doha Declaration as a reflection on the history of the WTO and its TRIPS Agreement, and makes the case that there is still room for the WTO to contribute to increased access to medicines by extending the TRIPS Waiver to diagnostics and therapeutics.