The Hon. Michael Kirby 2016

The Hon Michael Kirby gives a public lecture on a new United Nations initiative on healthcare

Until 2009, Michael Kirby was a Justice of the High Court of Australia. Following his retirement, he has been busy with a number of international engagements for the United Nations. On a previous visit to the University of New England, he gave a public lecture on his work on human rights violations in North Korea. Since the completion of that work, he has been appointed by the UN Secretary General ( Ban Ki-moon) to be a member of his High-Level Panel on access to essential healthcare. This panel was created to contribute to the fulfilment of the new  ‘’Sustainable Development Goals’’, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015. The 3rd such goal is that everyone everywhere will, by 2030 have access to essential healthcare. In establishing his panel, and appointing its members, the Secretary General made reference to the ‘’ policy incoherence’’ that exists between trade laws and the law of human rights. Amongst the relevant trade laws are the treaty of the World Trade Organisation giving new and stronger protection for intellectual property rights (including patent protection over pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests). Amongst universal human rights law is one that proclaims the right to essential healthcare. What happens when there is a clash between the cost of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics and the availability of such benefits to people and countries that cannot afford to pay for them because of the patent monopolies? This is a tricky problem and one that involves huge sums of money and large legal and political controversies. In his talk Michael Kirby will describe the importance of the project and the way in which this may be one of the most enduring legacies of  UN Secretary General Ban.