Intellectual property rights and the campaign for access to essential medicines : the advocacy role assumed by Médecins Sans Frontières
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Non-governmental organizations and transnational networks have been increasingly successful a t gaining influence within issue areas traditionally controlled by the state. In many instances, non-state actors have been instrumental in forcing issues onto the global agenda, have aided in the development or transformation of global regimes, and have participated in securing state compliance for the adoption of new international norms. This paper argues that, consistent with social constructivist theory, ideas are important in influencing state preferences and change may be possible when certain factors are present. I f non-state actors can influence states, it is meaningful to understand how this happens. This paper focuses on a campaign led by Medecins Sans Frontieres that began in the late 1990s to acquire affordable medicines for patients in developing states that could not afford patented drugs. The campaign reached a measure of success in that member states of the World Trade Organization re-negotiated contested terms and meanings within the trade agreement for intellectual property rights and allowed concessions that would benefit lower income states. What factors contributed to the success of the campaign? And what were the most important factors - the issue, the actors or the mechanisms used?