PHM Canada, along with other organizations, signed onto a letter (seen below) sent to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to act on vaccine apartheid as a product of racism and colonialism. The letter asks for urgent action appeal on Covid-19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies to be made widely available to all individuals across the world.

To see the full collective statement, please click here.

Independent Expert Members
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination United Nations

Submitted: 25 November 2021

RE: Letter of Support to the Urgent Action Appeal on COVID-19 Vaccines and Other Healthcare Technologies

Dear Sir/Madam,

1. We refer to the Urgent Action Appeal submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) by the African Alliance, Center for Economic, Cultural Rights (CESR), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Minority Rights Group, OXFAM International and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on 25 October 2021.

2. The petitioners of the Urgent Action Appeal request the CERD to address the immediate and long-term damage of entrenching racial discrimination caused by failures by certain states (Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, and the United States of America) to take measures to ensure equitable global access to and distribution of life-saving COVID- 19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies.

3. We address this letter to jointly express our support for the Urgent Action Appeal.

3.1 Our support for the urgent appeal is motivated by the lived realities of many people and communities, primarily in the global South, whose lives continue to be devastated, with some losing their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic-related compilations, its impacts and the inequitable global distribution of vaccines and other life-saving treatments and technologies.

3.2 We strongly agree that the development of COVID-19 tests, vaccines and related therapeutics has been key in the global health emergency responses to curb the spread of the virus and save lives by slowing down fatalities once a person has contracted the virus. Worryingly, COVID-19 tests, vaccines and related therapeutics are among the most unequally distributed health commodities, largely more accessible and available to higher income countries with predominantly white populations in the global North.

3.3 We have seen the devastating and intersecting ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately inflicted on persons and communities already marginalised including but not limited to; people of colour, Indigenous Peoples, stateless persons, migrant workers, persons with disabilities and women in their diversity. Yet these persons and their communities, particularly those in the global south, have had astonishingly little access to the COVID-19 tests, vaccines and related therapeutics.

3.4 We have also watched in anguish how capitalism, power and self-preservation have continued to be more important than human rights, lives and international co-operation despite the continued threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the respondent states in the urgent action appeal have

opposed a request spearheaded by India and South Africa to temporarily waive intellectual property protections (including patents, copyrights, industrial design and undisclosed information) on healthcare technologies concerning COVID “prevention, containment or treatment” imposed by the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), which has significantly contributed to the global racial, power, economic and geographical divides and discrimination.

3.5 We firmly believe that treaty bodies have an important role in preventing and responding to human rights violations. Given its mandate, the CERD is uniquely placed to address the current global racial inequality and other intersecting discrimination caused by the inequitable global access to and distribution of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies. More importantly, we emphasise that CERD’s Urgent Appeal was adopted to respond to human rights problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale of violations. As narrated in the urgent action appeal, it is clear, in our view, that the impacts and consequences of the respondent states opposition to the TRIPS waiver has had devastating consequences on many vulnerable and marginalised persons and communities warranting intervention as contemplated by the urgent action, explaining why we unequivocally support the filing.

4. The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference will take place from 30 November to 3 December 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland where further discussions on the TRIPS Waiver will take place. In our view a decision from CERD within this timeframe will be both opportune and impactful.

5. In amplifying our support for the urgent action appeal and its impact on the current inequitable access to, and distribution of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies, we request the CERD to adopt a decision on the appeal including express specific concerns and provide recommendations for action during its 105th session to be held from 15 November 2021 to 3 December 2021.

We thank you for your attention and consideration.

Women’s Legal Center (WLC), South Africa
Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda
A11 – Initiative for and Social Rights, Serbia
AfroResistance, Americas
Amnesty International (AI), United Kingdom
Asian Dignity Initiative, Republic of Korea
Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Colombia Association of Physicians for Humanism, Republic of Korea
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh
Cátedra UNESCO de Desarrollo Humano Sostenible (Universidad de Girona), Spain
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), United States
Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
Centre for Legal Aid, Uganda
Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad (DEJUSTICIA), Colombia
Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS), Guatemala
Coalition Sexual and health rights of marginalized communities MARGINS, North Macedonia
Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), Colombia
Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Colombia
Equal Health Campaign, Spain
FIAN International, Germany
Habitat International Coalition – Latin America Office, Mexico
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), India
International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka
Just Fair, United Kingdom
Korea Women’s Associations United (KWAU), Republic of Korea
Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society, Republic of Korea
Lawyers for Human Rights, South Africa
Legal Resources Centre (LRC), South Africa
MINBYUN Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Republic of Korea
Movement for Black Lives
Nagorik Uddyog, Bangladesh
Namati Mozambique
Namati Sierra Leone
Observatori DESC, Spain
Open Net Association, Republic of Korea
Our Journey, Malaysia
People’s Health Movement Canada / Mouvement populaire pour la santé au Canada
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Republic of Korea
Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC), Mexico
Sexual Minorities Uganda