Dina Fanara

Assistant News Editor

 

In preparation for the upcoming Global Citizenship Conference (GCC), taking place at McMaster on March 9 and 10, the GCC’s organization committee and the World University Services of Canada (WUSC) hosted a discussion panel with regards to world issues on March 5.

The main focus of the discussion centered around the concepts of “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches to peacekeeping and peace-building initiatives.

The panellists consisted of five influential speakers present at the pre-conference event: Robert O’Brien, the chair of Department of Political Science, Leo Johnson, a refugee from Liberia and recent graduate from McMaster University, Shawn Cheung, the founder of raising the Village NGO and a representative for Canada to the UN and Jessica Franklin, a McMaster Political Sciences professor.

According to one of the moderators for the event, an executive representative of WUSC, the purpose of the discussion panel involved “challenging ways in which we encourage development.” She also said that the “idea of bottom-up approaches to development [is] a new fresh take on ways to change the world.”

The first question presented to the panel was, “Is it fair to separate top-down and bottom-up methods to development?” In response to this question, O’Brien discussed the importance of understanding what is meant by top-down and bottom-up.

What is understood to be “top” can be international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank. However, this may also include certain dominant thoughts and theories, certain states over others, or large corporations.

Johnson noted that, “what can be the top in one conversation can be the bottom in another conversation.” He continued, “bottom-up usually becomes the reality . . . there has to be a certain structure or access to power.”

The remainder of the discussion blossomed out of the topics brought up after the initial question. Later in the discussion, Franklin brought up an important point: “immediately when I think of top down and bottom up, gender comes to mind . . . when we look at the notion of top down and bottom up approaches, I look at who is situated in [places of power] . . . whether or not these can be seen as gender neutral.”

When asked about what can be done to instill more balance in international development, Cheung acknowledged that “we don’t need another big player, we need somebody who can understand the region.”

This event served as a glimpse into this year’s Global Citizenship Conference, touching upon several of the topics which will be the topic of further discussed this upcoming weekend.

The Global Citizenship Conference has been running annually for five years and is looking forward to seeing the same overwhelming suppport this year.

Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor

 

The open forum discussion began with the harrowing reality that ten million people die each year due to lack of access to medicine. An expert panel of university professors and pharmaceutical CEOs went on to address the variety of obstacles present in the global campaign to provide universal and equitable medical treatment.

Organized by the McMaster Health Forum Student Subcommittee with support from the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program, the panel of three speakers, Aidan Hollis, Richard Elliott and Philip Blake, stressed that pharmaceutical inequality was not entirely caused by poverty found in developing nations.

People are not dying simply because they cannot afford the price of life. A complex analysis of the situation on the macrocosmic scale yields a much different observation: inequality does not result from poverty, but rather due to the current structure of medical research and development.

As it stands, a pharmaceutical R&D firm’s most motivating incentive is for innovation and the subsequent patents. Because of this primary incentive, if the demand is large enough, a patent allows the firm to profit for innovation into a novel process as opposed to meeting any dire need.

Profit, then, as described by Hollis, professor in Economics at the University of Calgary, “is due to the connection of innovation and price.”

Only the greatest innovation will result in both a larger price on the market and the most significant profit for the company. Just as it is not by the benevolence of the baker that one receives their bread, it is not by the charity of the pharmaceutical firms that one receives their medicines, no matter how necessary they may be.

The panel agreed that such a complex network of private and public partners working to meet their ends has caused much of the global struggle to achieve universal access to medicine. Elliot, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, stressed that, “such price-based incentives have characterized the staggering inequality in healthcare for a long time.”

The panel offered little in way of solution, although a few overarching suggestions were offered in how to “square the circle,” as Hollis described it. Perhaps the most obvious was an explicit need to change the funding paradigm by radically altering incentives to fund research.

By no means did the panelists suggest it would be an easy task, however. Hollis stated that while the means to best do this is a contentious topic, it must be remembered that “companies are run by people who value healthcare just as much as anyone else,” which is inherently true.

Behind the grey walls and the large laboratories are people who would rather a system that rewards them for what they do, not what price they sell.

Philip Blake, president and CEO of Bayer Incorporated, mirrored the ideal. “We need a way to encourage innovation in a reality described by serendipity, and to find motivation balanced by pragmatism.”

Pragmatic as any solution may be, the question of how valuable one life is compared to the net profit seemed inescapable. While all panelists were adamant in their belief that any single life is invaluable, dividends behind the various pharmaceutical industries may have suggested otherwise.

One thing is for certain, though. The solution to a gross inequality in medical access is not found in a cure. Based on current intellectual property rights and capital market systems, there is no money to be had in a final cure.

Instead, profit is found in pills that placate an illness, that opiate the senses, and that mitigate the affects, as opposed to eradicating them.

That is the reality of the global struggle in universal medicine. On one end, people lack access to medication and die.

On the other, people take it for granted and often abuse their prescriptions. It would seem that the current market system does not allow for a middle ground between the two. As Hollis stated, “while companies want to do what’s valuable by improving health, they also want to make money.”

 

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenu