ASK Justice stands for positive policy change to improve access to medicines (A2M) and access to knowledge (A2K). We aim to achieve this by building a strong network of academic experts at Southern and East African universities and beyond. Participating faculties investigate the interface between human rights, current and future intellectual property (IP) laws, and policy reform processes. The network also teaches and contribute to public debate on the issue. What we really want to achieve is better understanding of how human rights (HR), IP and public interest are connected, and we engage with government, civil society, the media and other interest groups to add impetus to our efforts to bring about change.

The participating institutions are the University of Botswana, Universities of Nairobi and Strathmore in Kenya, Makerere University in Uganda, and the Universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town in South Africa.

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 IP policies and laws in Africa either help or hinder access to essential goods such as medicines and educational materials. Some holders of IP have strong incentives to exploit IP in ways that limit access, even when needed on human rights grounds. As with so many other imports, IP laws in African countries are often copied from developed countries and then transpire to be inappropriate for African needs.

Academics contribute to policy change in a way that civil rights organizations cannot—by means of inter-disciplinary, research-based analysis. The Public Health Program of the Open Society Foundations in New York has supported the development and teaching of courses on human rights and IP at some of our institutions in the past. The research and curricula developed from these initiatives will be incorporated, added to and taken forward in this project. ASK Justice will also introduce these initiatives to an extended network to strengthen their sustainability.

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The project is funded by the Public Health Program, Open Society Foundations, New York.