The Commonwealth Secretariat (http://www.thecommonwealth.org/) is the principal organization of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, including both developed and developing nations. As well as seeking to promote democracy and good governance, and serving as a platform for global consensus building, the Commonwealth is a source of practical help for sustainable development. This last has recently included promotion of production of herbal medicines. The Secretariat has provided limited funds to support African Anglophone countries in manufacturing herbal medicines and in late 2000 organized a Medicinal Plants Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. The Forum explored ways of improving and encouraging cultivation and conservation of plants in order to increase production of herbal remedies to provide affordable medicine, particularly in Africa. The Forum also covered trade-related issues such as non-tariff barriers, regulation and licensing, patents and quality. The Secretariat launched A Guide to the European Market for Medicinal Plants and Extracts at the Forum. Detailing the growth and development of the European herbal industry, the guide includes practical information for producers and exporters of medicinal plants.
The European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) (http://www.emea.eu.int/) contributes to the protection and promotion of public and animal health through its efforts to: ensure high-quality evaluation of medicinal products; develop efficient and transparent procedures to facilitate timely access by users to innovative medicines; and control the safety of medicines for human and animals, particularly through its pharmacovigilance network. In 1997, EMEA established an Ad Hoc Working Group on Herbal Medicinal Products. The group acts as a forum for Member States to exchange information and experience regarding herbal medicinal products. It also promotes the development of a common interpretation of existing legislation in this area and provides guidance for national drug regulatory authorities on herbal medicines issues. Additionally, the Group is preparing proposals for revising and developing new guidance and requirements for ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicinal products.
Founded in 1989, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) (http://info.ex.ac.uk/phytonet/escop.html) aims to advance the scientific status of phytomedicinesh and to assist with the harmonization of their regulatory status at the European level. ESCOP's Scientific Committee has completed a number of European monographs summarizing the medicinal uses of plants (including their safety). ESCOP considers this activity essential for harmonization. Fifteen monographs had been published by 1992. Since then, attention has focused on producing summaries of product characteristics on individual plant drugs, primarily those for which European or national pharmacological monographs already exist. The sequence of topics in each summary is designed to highlight clinical aspects of the relevant plant drugs, including pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics and pre-clinical safety data.
h ESCOP defines phytomedicines as "medicinal products containing as active ingredients only plants, parts of plants or plant materials, or combinations thereof, whether in the crude or processed state".
The European Union (EU) (http://userpage.chemie.fu-berlin.de/adressen/eu.html) is a union of 15 independent states based on the European Communities and was International and national resources for traditional medicine founded to enhance political, economic and social co-operation. Member States delegate sovereignty for certain matters to independent institutions which represent the interests of the EU as a whole, its member countries and its citizens. The EU focuses on two aspects of TM/CAM: policy and regulation, and research into "non-conventional" medicine. A recently completed COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical research) project examined differences between so-called conventional and non-conventional medicine in terms of concepts, research and practice, reasons for the growing popularity of non-conventional medicine and the implications of these for conventional medicine, and the current state of research in non-conventional medicine.
The World Bank (http://www.worldbank.org/) is the world's largest source of development assistance, providing nearly US$ 17 thousand million in loans annually to its client countries. Using its financial re-sources, staff and knowledge-base it seeks to help developing countries attain stable, sustainable and equitable growth in the fight against poverty. Currently, this includes assisting a number of developing countries with policies and strategies for medicinal plant conservation, cultivation, processing and marketing. Additionally, the Bank operates an Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Program (see http://www.worldbank.org/afr/ik/index.htm), which aims to mainstream indigenous/traditional knowledge in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural resource management and many other areas of concern to communities, into the activities of development partners. Different strategies are being used to achieve this goal. They include a data-base on indigenous/traditional knowledge and practices, and a series of "IK Notes". The Program also supports resource centres across Africa that focus on identification and dissemination of indigenous/traditional knowledge and practices. Working with governments and local partners, the Pro-gram has also begun to help mainstream the application of IK in World Bank projects and in national development programmes.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) (http://www.wto.org) is the international organization charged with setting the legal ground rules for international trade. Although WTO became officially operational only in January 1995, it is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade multilateral trading system founded in 1947. Its objectives are to promote: non-discrimination; progressive liberalization of barriers to trade; predictable policies and transparency; competition; and special provisions for developing countries. WTO's Council for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rightsi accorded WHO observer status on an ad hoc basis. WHO can now monitor all relevant issues under discussion at the WTO that may have implications for the health sector. (As of May 1999 WHO was mandated to monitor and analyse the public health implications of trade agreements on pharmaceuticals.) In 2000, WHO and WTO held an international workshop on Differential Pricing and Financing of Essential Drugs.
i The Agreement is commonly known as "TRIPS".