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Question 1: The 1995 Policy Review and Since

Which values and interests bear most fundamentally on Canada's foreign policy? How can Canada's foreign policy better reflect the concerns and priorities of Canadians?



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Date: 2003-05-02 02:14:14
I represent Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Carol Devine, MSF's Humanitarian Affairs Officer and Representative for the Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.

MSF has hundreds of donors in Canada, thousands overseas, who support our work, and hundreds of Canadian volunteers who work overseas with us in over 80 countries. So my comments reflect concerns and priorities vis-a-vis Canada's foreign policy, with the support of many Canadians and thousands of our fellow international citizens.

From our perspective, certainly the pillars of interdependence and multilateralism are fundamental. Human security is paramount, but Canada must play a stronger role with concrete actions tackling the massive human insecurity caused by lack of access to medicine by 1/3 to 1/2 of the world's population. The HIV/AIDS virus is a known 'opponent' or enemy and the drugs exist to combat it. Statistics of the AIDS epidemic alone, 42 million with HIV/AIDS, 5 percent only with access to life-prolonging medicine, alert us to the enormous economic, social, political and thus security concerns facing the planet. Canada has taken positive steps towards confronting this huge problem, but with the G8 and FTAA coming up soon, we hope that Canada will show more leadership and long-term commitment to foreign policy which will aggressively address and tackle these injustices that clearly bear on the health of the world, beyond physical health.

Our interdependence is obvious by the fact that diseases and environmental scourges know no sovereign borders, and by the fact that the suffering of individuals because of lack of political decision-making and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in some countries has reverberations in Canada. We support that Canada has a multilateralist approach in foreign affairs, for example, Canada's leadership and initiative with the Landmine Ban, Canada's support of the ICC, and Canada's apparent desire to find a multilateral solution to the Paragraph 6 issue of TRIPS and the Doha Declaration to make access to medicine more possible in poor countries. MSF strongly recommends a workable, economically viable solution to this incomplete and important part of TRIPS and to overcome what we analyse as strong US approaches for a 'TRIPS-plus' solution and pressure from the pharmaceutical industry both at the WTO and in intellectual property provision negotiations in the FTAA. Canadian foreign policy, by continuing to support the declaration of 'health for all', and the goal of public health before profit, and not reneging on Doha at the WTO or the FTAA, is extremely important. We strongly recommend that Doha should be the 'ceiling' for trade negotiations on intellectual property rights and thus that for the sake of millions of our patients in the Americas, and us in Canada, that there be no IPR provisions included in the FTAA. We know that thousands of Canadians urge and support the Canadian government to be leaders and to put people above profit in our trade relations with other countries and to for example, concretely continue to support Africa's development by commiting more support to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and other initiatives to tackle preventable killer infectious diseases globaly. Soon we will be delivering to the Canadian government, over 11,000 petitions from Canadians stating just these concerns and requests to the Canadian government from Canadians across the country.

It is positive to see in the outline of the pillars that HIV/AIDS and infectious disease are major concerns for foreign policy and beyond, for Canada to address. We know that thousands of Canadians think it is beyond a question of whether or not infectious diseases is something the Canadian government should tackle as a major global problem.

Included in the pillar interdependence it is mentioned that Canada supports innovative institutions to address global problems. Canada can support one such innovative institute to tackle the absolute lack of needs-based research and development into major infectious and neglected diseases, the not-for-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Institute, created in part of MSF, and again by strongly supporting concrete multilateral solutions to make medicine more accessible. The lack of research and development for infectious and neglected diseases today also reflects a public policy crisis. The current Canadian government fear that flexibilities in TRIPS relevant to R&D must not allow middle-income countries to abuse flexibilities for making 'lifestyle' drugs, must not decrease TRIPS flexibilities without considering the urgent needs-based R&D potential, for which the abuse is only the other way around: it is nearly non-existent. The current challenge is from drug development for better, cheaper drugs and diagnostics, to providing treatment to, for example, HIV+ children in resource-poor and instable settings, and better and cheaper drugs for diseases of the poor like kala azar and sleeping sickness that have no 'market'. Canada should provide political and development support to other governments who must still change their protocals to provide effective malaria treatment, namely arteminisin-based combination therapies. Millions around the world are still receiving ineffective malaria treatment, the human social and economic burden is huge. Foreign policy and malaria? The two are interconnected. Some governments say that what malaria treatment another government provides is a soverign issue. We do not want to wait for Canada to have more malaria, for it to be obvious that malaria is a significant threat now to all of us.

We wish for positive Canada-US relations and foreign relations around the globe. With particular reference to Canada-US relations, in fact relevant to all foreign relations, one note about Canada and our neighbour's concern for our mutual security following Sept 11, we urge that each country respect the Refugee Convention and fundamental rights such as non-refoulement and the right to flee. Again, multilateralist, internationally-minded approaches to foreign policy, acknowledging the interdependence of our actions and lives, are crucial if we are to continue to be a country that values humanitarian principles and the lives of fellow citizens. Canada has shown, but can show more leadership in the face in injustices such as the global access to medicine problem, and by actively supporting foreign policy, as well as international development support, respecting for humanitarian principles, international human rights and humanitarian law, on largely forgotten conflicts such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and soon-to-be forgotten-again Afghanistan.

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