Human rights and human needs: Diverse moral principles justifying third world access to affordable hiv/aids drugs

This article demonstrates two propositions. First, that moral discourse has played an important role on the transformation of international trade law. In the case of the initial linkage of intellectual property and international trade prior to the founding of the WTO, moral discourse played a complementary role to overwhelming economic pressures. Introducing such language as "stealing" and "piracy" into the IP debate enabled the pharmaceutical industry to change the global perception of the moral and economic status of IP and thereby contributed to the enactment of the TRIPS Agreement. In the case of the Doha Declaration, however, moral discourse played an even more crucial role. Through powerful articulation of cogent moral arguments, relatively weak third world countries and AIDS activists were able to obtain important concessions on relaxing patents in times of national emergencies and on parallel importing issues. A second objective of this paper is to demonstrate that appeal to human rights is not the exclusive form of moral discourse that can lead to the view that poor citizens of third world countries should have affordable access to AIDS/HIV drugs. While there is great moral power to human rights discourse, there is also great power in other forms of discourse, e.g. utilitarian principles such as the theory of rescue and even the philosophically controversial notion of supererogatory duties. The article carefully parses the moral language of activists and NGOs in the successful effort to bring about the Doha Declaration. This analysis demonstrates that an appeal to human rights is not the only way to inspire decisive action and achieve human betterment.
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