by Mbulelo Ncolosi

Besides being a great getaway and refuge from Cape Town’s harsh winter, the ASK Justice mid-project workshop in Durban presented an exciting opportunity for scholars from Southern and East Africa to come together. Held at the Hotel 64 on Gordon from Sunday, 17 July, to Thursday, 21 July, the workshop focused on the ways in which the network could contribute to the improvement of access to medicines, access to knowledge and access to educational materials.

The workshop coincided with the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS2016), which helped feed into and enrich the discussion about the extent to which policymakers consider human rights when crafting IP policy. A common theme that emerged was the right to life, emergency medical treatment and access to healthcare, in relation to the rights conferred by and protected under the current legislative scheme in the four case study countries—South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Uganda.

Scholars shared experiences of the challenges they faced when trying to study the policies of their countries. Scholars from Botswana, for instance, spoke of how difficult it was to access information held by the state and to interview public officials. In Uganda, on the other hand, scholars had no problem accessing the policy, but found that it was poorly, if rarely, executed. These differences in experience brought to light an interesting and unexpected aspect of the research, and serve as a warning for policymakers—to be careful of crafting perfect policies and neglecting their execution.

The workshop also gave the team an opportunity to strategise and think of interesting ways to reach new audiences through our public voice or outreach activities. Avenues such as Facebook and radio interviews were explored as a means of ensuring that the results of the network’s efforts reach the widest possible audience. New ways of teaching were explored, with MOOCs suggested as the most promising way to enhance learning.

At the week’s close, members of the network had the opportunity to spend time in the Human Rights Networking Zone (HRNZ) and interact with activist and stakeholders from partner organisations like Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and others. The HRNZ was open to the public and presented yet another avenue to publicise the network’s activities.

ASK Justice’s case study reports will be available on our website in the not-too-distant future.

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