|The Observatoire des trafics illicites du Mékong (Observatory for illegal traffic along the Mekong), based in Bangkok is at the heart of a cooperative project between the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MFEA) and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, to fight against “counterfeit products that represent high level risks to health or security”.|
In this region of Southeast Asia that is deeply affected by trafficking of all sorts, falsified medicines are particularly problematic. The efforts engaged in by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the countries along the Mekong answer the Fondation Chirac’s plea.
Indeed, according to a study being finalized at the Mahidol University (Thailand), between 2003 and 2008, around 12% of antimalarial medication (over 20% in Cambodia and 7% in Vietnam), 5.8% of antibiotics, and 1.4% of TB medication did not meet quality standards. Altered or sub-standard antimalarial drugs for example are accused of triggering increased resistance to artemisinin at the border between Cambodia and Thailand.
Given this, the project led by the Priority Social Fund of the French Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs aims to create a framework for solid, standardized, and consistent efforts against trafficking in goods that are counterfeit and / or dangerous to public health and safety. This framework, based on proven skills, could lead to an operational collaboration at the regional level.
A comprehensive inventory has been compiled in cooperation with the authorities of the concerned countries in order to offer to the relevant ministerial departments recommendations to strengthen government action. These recommendations focus on improving the legal framework, knowledge of traffic, know-how, inter-ministerial organization… with the goal of significantly increasing the findings, seizures, arrests, prosecutions, and sentences of traffickers.
Training of the pertinent ministry and administration officials (customs, police, health, justice) will be carried out in order to reinforce their capacity and improve collaboration between complementary administrations. An important communication component has also been established to inform health professionals and consumers about their rights and risks.
This vital groundwork, which falls in line with recommendations promoted by the Fondation Chirac since the Cotonou Declaration, will help trigger regional collaboration to strengthen the fight against trafficking of products that are hazardous to human health.
On March 16, the French MFEA and the Cambodian government inaugurated the Central Office for the Fight against trafficking in counterfeit goods (OCLTBC) whose focus should lead to undertaking several major operations. There are 200m2 of offices that house a unit of 12 policemen, customs officials, and health inspectors. They are equipped with a drug analysis laboratory, a conference room, and a museum displaying seizures.
Throughout this process, the Observatory of trafficking is a driving force behind the growing awareness of these countries for the need to fight against the traffic of products that are harmful to human health, featuring falsified medicines at the top of the list.
The Fondation Chirac supports the production of two films produced by Soho film to warn about falsified medicines. The first is a commercial aimed the general public, soon to be visible on the web, informing about the dangers of buying medicines over the Internet. The second is a 52-minute documentary investigating trafficking in falsified medicines in the Mekong region. This film should be available in September.
After the member states of La Francophonie adopted a resolution against falsified medicines in October 2010, President Jacques Chirac renewed in March, his invitation to Francophone heads of state and governments to sign the Cotonou Declaration. The President of Macedonia, Mr. Gjorge Ivanov, and the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, signed during the month of March.
After organizing a conference on counterfeit medicines during the European Development Days, the Fondation continues its advocacy with the European Union and its partners in developing countries. The Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly heard the Fondation on March 17, in preparation of its General Assembly to be held in May 2011 in Budapest.
April 4, 2011: Scientific Committee meeting chaired by Professor Marc Gentilini
May 16-18, 2011: Plenary Meeting of the Joint ACP / EU Parliamentary Assembly in Budapest