“Michael Kirby Appointed to New UN Post

Important inquiry on intellectual property law and human rights

New York, 19 November 2015

The United Nations announced today in New York that the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) has established a new High Level Panel on Health Technologies.  The Hon. Michael Kirby (Australia) has been appointed a member of the Panel.  The new High Level Panel will be chaired by former President of the Swiss Confederation Ruth Dreifuss and former President of Botswana, President Festus Mogae.   A link to the announcement may be found here.

As Secretary-General Ban indicated in constituting the Panel:

“Despite the progress made in tackling several major health challenges since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in the year 2000, millions have been left behind.  Disease and poor health remain barriers to social and economic development and the promise of more inclusive and equitable development has not yet been fully realised.
For this reason, the High Level Panel, which comprises leaders from public and commercial worlds, has been tasked with “making recommendations for how the future of health technologies innovation can be balance with access for all, so that no one is left behind in the pursuit of a healthy and productive life?”

Sustainable Development Goals

The Secretary-General  has set the creation of the Panel in the context of the “interdependence of health and development”.  He envisages that the Panel will give reality to the “bold and ambitious agenda with the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These SDGs include SDG3 which aims to “attain healthy life and wellbeing for all”.  However, at the moment, as the Secretary-General has recognised, the availability of health technologies is essential for the achievement of SDG3 [but] many of these technologies remain unavailable or inaccessible, such as those needed to treat hepatitis C and HIV, as well as some non-communicable and rare diseases.”

Past Experience

Michael Kirby has past experience that will serve him well in his new role as a member of the Panel.  In 1989-92, he was a Commissioner of the inaugural  World Health Organisation Global Commission on AIDS.  In the 1990s he served on the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee and on the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organisation (1995-2003).  Since 2003 he has been a member of the UNAIDS Expert Panel on AIDS and Human Rights.  In 2015 he was appointed to the Equitable Access Initiative of the Global Fund of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  In the mid-1990s he was Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia.  In 2013-14, he chaired the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).  Between 1996 and 2009 he served as a Justice of the High Court of Australia, Australia’s highest court.

Michael Kirby will serve on the High Level Panel in a part-time capacity.  It is expected that the Panel will have meetings in New York, Johannesburg and possibly other sites and that there will be an expert technical committee to assist the panel on which he will also chair.”