"The Future of Health Rights" Side Event at UNGA Focuses on Overcoming Pharma Monopolies and Healthcare Commercialization

"The Future of Health Rights" Side Event at UNGA Focuses on Overcoming Pharma Monopolies and Healthcare Commercialization
Source: United Nations


Emily Wolfe 

Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

Amidst the bustling activities of this year's United Nations General Assembly, a significant side event titled "The Future of Health Rights: Overcoming pharma monopolies and the commercialization of healthcare" took centre stage, shining a spotlight on the urgent challenges and disparities in global healthcare.

The event addressed the undeniable fact that the world is veering off its target of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. The critical dialogue surrounding the event emphasised the essential role of civil society in pressuring governments to enforce serious measures towards realising UHC for all.

A panel of health experts aimed to debunk the prevailing misconception that the private sector can singularly address the challenges faced by underfunded and under-resourced health systems. In a compelling argument for public health reform, they unanimously voiced that strong, well-resourced public healthcare systems - ones that are equitable, universally accessible, gender-transformative, and free at the point of use - should undeniably form the cornerstone of all domestic and global health strategies. This includes a robust approach to pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response.

One of the central discussions revolved around the pharmaceutical industry's monopolistic grip on medical innovation. The event advocated for the imposition of stringent conditions on the industry to promote broader access to medical advancements. It further emphasised the need to eliminate the extractive tendencies of Development Finance Institute (DFI) investments that frequently prioritise profits over patients.

Drawing parallels to the climate crisis, COVID-19 was described as a precursor, a "test run," shedding light on how the world responds to large-scale crises. Despite widespread proclamations that “we're all in this together”, the pandemic has unveiled a fragmented international response, with notable disparities in the treatment of marginalised communities and an unsettling emphasis by major corporations on profits over public welfare. The conclusion was clear: both health and climate justice require harmonised action from the global community.

The side event, conducted in English, was punctuated with immersive experiences, including a Virtual Reality zone that brought attendees closer to the realities faced by those most affected by healthcare disparities. Angela Oketch, an award-winning journalist, skillfully moderated the proceedings, ensuring a balanced discussion amongst keynote speakers, expert panellists, and the audience.

Concluding with a networking session, the event facilitated a deeper understanding and unity among stakeholders, emphasising the collective responsibility to advocate for health rights, ensuring a healthier and more equitable future for all.