Over recent years, there has been an increasing interest worldwide in both the health care and economic development aspects of traditional medicine. As traditional knowledge, particularly the knowledge of traditional medicine and medicinal plants, could have an economic and trade value, the need to protect it and to secure fair and equitable sharing of any benefits derived from it, have become of concern to more and more WHO Member States. However, intellectual property rights in the context of traditional medicine is a very complex issue. WHO has been requested to co-operate with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and other international organizations to support countries in improving their awareness and capacity to tackle these problems.
The WHO Traditional Medicine team has therefore taken the initiative in proposing this Inter-Regional Workshop on Intellectual Property Rights in the Context of Traditional Medicine. The initial suggestion met with an immediate enthusiastic response from the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO), who were not only willing to organize the meeting but also to provide financial support. Positive responses and active support were also received from the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), and the Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO).
Our sincere thanks should go, firstly, to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for their cooperation and support and for providing two speakers: Ms. Maria Perez-Esteve, Economic Affairs Office, Trade, Environment and Development Section, UNCTAD, and Mr. Shakeel Bhatti, of the Global Intellectual Property Issues Division, WIPO, as well to all the other speakers for their valuable contributions to the Workshop.
Secondly, our sincere appreciation should go to the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, particularly to the Regional Director, Dr Uton Muchtar Rafei and the Director, Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals, Dr Palitha Abeykoon, as well as to the former Regional Adviser for Traditional Medicine, Dr Kin Shein, for all their assistance in the organization of the Workshop, and in the drafting of this report with Regional Office financial support.
Appreciation should also be expressed to the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean and the WHO Regional Office for Africa, particularly to the Regional Advisers for Traditional Medicine, Dr Chen Ken (WPRO), Dr Peter Graaff (EMRO), Dr Ossy Kasilo (AFRO) and the DAP Team Coordinator, Dr German Velásquez, for their help in organizing the Workshop and also for financial support from their Regional Offices and the DAP Team.
We must also express our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, for their hospitality and courtesy in ensuring the smooth running of the Workshop. Thanks are especially due to Dr Pennapa Subcharoen, Director, National Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine, Department of Medical Services, and Mrs Iamtip Boonchalermkit, Foreign Relation Officer, Department of Medical Services, without their, and their colleagues’, efforts, the Workshop could not have been be arranged, particularly within the very short frame allowed.
Thanks are also due to Professor, Mr Tan Kiok K’ng, WHO Short Term Consultant, for drafting the report and to my colleague, Mr Peter Thorpe, for his editing work.
Limitations of space, unfortunately, preclude the naming of all those who have helped in the Workshop.
This Workshop is only a beginning. Follow-up activities, based on the Workshop recommendations and suggestions from Member States, will continue to be carried out by the Traditional Medicine team in cooperation with WIPO, UNCTAD and the WHO Regional Offices.
Dr Xiaorui Zhang
Acting Coordinator, Traditional Medicine
Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy