Letter to WTO Members: Postpone the 12th Ministerial - TRIPS Waiver Now!

The letter

English: Letter to WTO Members: Postpone the 12th Ministerial - TRIPS Waiver Now!
Spanish: Carta a los Miembros de la OMC: Posponga a la 12a Ministerial ¡Exención de los ADPIC ahora!
French: Lettre aux membre de l’OMC: reportez la conférence ministérielle et dérogez l’ADPIC maintenant

Media release

Release: November 23, 2021
Contact: Deborah James, djames@cepr.net
Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network

Civil Society Calls for 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be Postponed, and for Immediate Agreement on a Waiver on Intellectual Property (IP) Rules to End the Pandemic

Over 130 global, regional and national civil society organisations from around the world have written to the Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), urging them to postpone the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) that is being convened in Geneva in just over a week, in the midst of a global pandemic with rising cases across the globe. It is available in English, Spanish and French.

Shamefully, the proposed Ministerial Conference comes as a handful of powerful governments, led by the European Union, the UK, Norway, and Switzerland, continue to block a WTO waiver for Covid-related intellectual property rights under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that could ensure access to treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines for all. The letter calls on governments to immediately agree to the waiver, for which a Ministerial meeting is not necessary, as waivers have been agreed by meetings of the General Council of the WTO, in Geneva.

Covid-19 has exposed the WTO’s systemic prioritiy of profits over people through the monopolies that are guaranteed to Big Pharma under TRIPS.

As the letter points out, these inequities are compounded by the impacts of Covid-19 on the ability of Ministers and officials, especially from the global South, to attend and participate fully, effectively and safely in a Conference where their fundamental interests are at stake.

Some Ministers from poorly vaccinated countries, or those isolated from international travel, may simply be unable to travel; Switzerland’s rules on indoor gatherings exclude some forms of vaccination and require onerous and impractical testing requirements. The health risks, costs and quarantine requirements add to the burden, especially for poor countries.

Instead of addressing these urgent crises, a number of WTO members are pushing the hyperglobalisation agenda even further in the name of an alleged Covid-19 recovery package, and without the waiver – the sham “Walker process” – with the support of the European Union and the corporate beneficiaries of the intellectual property monopolies.

“The institution whose rules enforce vaccine apartheid is, unbelieveably, attempting to hold a meeting under conditions of vaccine apartheid, without having first resolved that apartheid by agreeing to the TRIPS waiver. Holding a Ministerial Conference in these circumstances is unconscionable. We call for the TRIPS Waiver, now!” said Deborah James of the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network, which coordinated the letter.

Non-government organisations that provide essential support for delegations have been denied space in the main venue, putting them out of reach of many delegations.

To proceed under these circumstances would further erode the WTO’s legitimacy, and undermine the credibility of the new Director-General, at a time when the Organisation’s credibility is already at an all time low. The letter therefore calls on Members to postpone the ministerial conference and direct all efforts to reaching an urgent agreement on the TRIPS waiver.

For years now, the WTO has faced a crisis of legitimacy for its failure to address, and its furthering of, systemic instability, inequalities and indebtedness on poorer countries, workers, women, indigenous peoples and vulnerable communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare these deep ruptures between the global North and global South, rich and poor, privileged and vulnerable.


The Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) global network of NGOs and social movements works for a sustainable, socially just, and democratic multilateral trading system.