The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inequalities between and within countries in Asia and the Pacific in providing access to universal health care, including access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. The pandemic has also accentuated existing weaknesses and deficiencies in health systems within countries, in terms of financing, human resources and technologies. There is thus an urgent need to diversify production capacity for essential medical products (vaccines, diagnostics and/or therapeutics) and to facilitate their access in Asia and the Pacific, including through securing essential technologies for manufacturing and utilizing regional integration and trade mechanisms.
In this regard, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is implementing the project “Regional integration and cooperation to promote affordable and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics in the Asia-Pacific region”. This initiative is aimed at strengthening the capacity of countries in Asia and the Pacific to develop coherent policies and practical strategies on trade, investment, technology transfer, and regional cooperation to address inequities in supply and capacity, within the broader objective of enabling greater inclusivity and resilience in national health systems.
The ESCAP Secretariat is seeking to commission five trade-focused national studies (one study for each of the below five target countries), and invites interested researchers and practitioners to make proposals based on the following:
Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
A research paper on trade-policy and related challenges for a target country, and possible options for addressing them to ensure more affordable and equitable access to essential medical products, within the broader context of strengthening resilience and preparedness for future health emergencies.
Issues to be examined and discussed include, but are not limited to:
- Review of relevant existing literature, including on (target country’s) experience and policy action taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Identifying, for the target country, important source and destination countries for essential medical products and the inputs or goods required for their manufacture and distribution.
- Trade policy environment for essential medical products and associated goods, including tariff and non-tariff measures, as well as related regulatory approval processes.
- Regional trade agreements (RTAs) that the target country is involved in, and scope for leveraging these agreements and collaborating with RTA partners.
- Wider considerations including industrial policy, value chains, domestic production capabilities, logistical networks, infrastructure, supply and demand dynamics, etc., that could impact (potential) production of or access to essential medical products. The discussion should provide insights into the target country’s (potential) positioning in the value chains of essential medical products.
- Relevant emerging areas including technologies, new ways of production, and/or business models and opportunities.
- Recommendations for domestic policy and for regional cooperation, taking into account good practices and existing platforms and mechanisms (including subregional blocs such as ASEAN and SAARC, and initiatives such as the WHO mRNA technology transfer hub) and what could be proposed moving forward, including through collaboration with international organizations, regional organizations, and development partners.
The scope of diseases and medical products to be discussed may take into consideration:
- The top causes of mortality for the target country, including diseases identified as priorities by public health authorities.
- The top medical products prescribed or used in the target country that address diseases or illnesses affecting the largest number of people.
- The above, as well as neglected diseases, that are relevant or common across countries in the target country’s (sub)region.
Primary data sources, particularly from relevant stakeholders, should be utilized where appropriate.
The paper is expected to be 8,000-12,000 words, excluding tables, figures, references and appendices.
(Please refer to the Annex for references and associated ESCAP resources.)
Research duration, benefits and activities
- Duration: 1 December 2023 – 31 May 2024
- Consultancy fee: Up to USD 13,000, depending on the proposed scope, methodology, and experience of the researcher.
- Other benefits and activities for selected proposals:
- Presentation of findings in ESCAP events on or related to “Regional integration and cooperation to promote affordable and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics in the Asia-Pacific region”, where relevant;
- Publication of research findings in UN publications or through ESCAP regional networks, including ARTNeT and UNNExT, where relevant and suitable.
Please apply as soon as possible or no later than 17 November 2023.
Individual(s) with relevant expertise are invited to submit research proposals for a selected target country to Mr. Yern Fai Lee, Associate Economic Affairs Officer, ESCAP [[email protected]] with a copy to Ms. Nucharat Tuntiwigit [[email protected]].
The submission should include:
- An email expressing interest.
- In 500 words or less, a research proposal, including (1) a summary of the research, including scope, methodology, and detailed tentative outline of the paper, (2) research schedule/timeline, and (3) main expected outcome/finding/recommendation.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) and any other evidence of relevant work.
The criteria used to evaluate the proposals will be based on the feasibility of the proposed research plan (75%), with heavy bearing on expected outcome/findings; and previous work experience of the applicant(s) in the areas related to the research topic and target country of study (25%).
- Only selected candidate(s) would be contacted.
- Considering the specialized nature of topics, successful proposals are expected to come from researchers who already have work/research experience, particularly in the target country of study.
- Where applicable, candidates are welcome to make a proposal jointly with other researchers and practitioners to maximize synergy and complementarity of expertise.
For further information:
Please email Mr. Yern Fai Lee ([email protected]) should you have any questions.
ANNEX: References and resources
- Webpage for inception workshop of the project
- ESCAP background and preliminary research notes for the project
- ESCAP reference material and past research on trade and health
- ESCAP supplementary notes on diseases, essential medicines and technology transfer