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Host: Welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security and international cooperation. Earlier we spoke to the Foundation's newly appointed Council president, he discusses with us the global war on counterfeit drugs. We will hear about his recent work with heads of state globally, who are bringing in fresh laws against trafficking, the production and the sale of fake drugs. And later on, we have an exclusive interview with Pakistan's Foreign Minister who tells us that there are possible solutions to regional security challenges, including dialogue on the Kashmir issue with the international community.
Host: Ambassador Jean David Levitte, a former French ambassador to the United States, spoke to us on the fight against counterfeit drugs and medicine and how it is being resolved. He brings over 40 years of diplomatic experience in the field of peace and security.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte: In Africa, in some countries, 70% of the medicines sold are fake medicines. So, a mother who has a child with fever, buying on the street market, the medicine she thinks will save the life of her child. And she kills her child. That is the tragedy. And it's the same in Southeast Asia, the Mekong River countries.
Host: International cooperation is needed as counterfeits are a global problem, but what is the solution?
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte: So we have to do something. We started by working with the organisation in charge of… World Customs Organization and they organised with us big offensive actions in harbours, in 15 African harbours, for two weeks over four years. And we took in the container ships coming from big countries 850 million fake medicines, huge quantities. What happened? Nothing. Because the governments were not equipped prepared to take action in Africa.
Host: Many countries do not have laws to define and enforce regulations addressing crimes related to counterfeit medicines. With such high stakes, the fight against counterfeit drugs has put pressure on governments to protect people.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte: So we decided to that the best way to proceed was to first mobilise the head of states of these African countries and Southeast Asian countries. And I got the support of President Hollande and then President Macron, and then we prepared a model law to criminalise what is a crime. It is not counterfeit. This is an Hermes tie, it can become counterfeited, or a Louis Vuitton bag.
Host: New laws to guard against falsified and substandard drugs will contribute to preventable tragedies across the world.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte: But a counterfeit drug is not the same. It is a crime because it kills. It may kill, it often kills innocent people. And so the law, criminalises the production and the sale and traffic of fake substandard medicines. So, eight countries in Africa have already adopted this model law as their national law. And slowly the number of countries adopting this model law is expanding from West Africa to Central Africa, and hopefully to the whole continent. Our second task is then to educate the judges, the prosecutors, the customs officers and the police to implement the law. And that's what we are doing in the countries which have already adopted this model law and we started the same process in Southeast Asia. Last year in November, we have organised a big conference with ministers, health and security ministers coming from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, in Phnom Penh, we had the ministers in charge of health and security of these five countries, working together with the pharmaceutical industry, with NGOs, launching a big campaign, and it was a big success story.
Host: And why is this not discussed in Europe and the US?
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte: In Europe or in the US? Well, simply because we are protected. When you go to a pharmacy and you buy medicine, you can be sure it's safe. So, we are not mobilised because we are protected. But our job in this small institute (International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM)) is precisely to take care of the hundreds of millions of those who are under the threat of dying because criminal networks are providing massively these fake medicines to innocent people.
Host: Earlier we spoke to his excellency Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Pakistan lies at the crossroads of Southwest and Central Asia. It is a region with great opportunities and rich and potential, but also beset by many security challenges. However, the outlook is optimistic.
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: The security challenge that Pakistan is facing currently is twofold, one on the eastern side, which is on the Indian side, because India has undertaken some steps which of peace and security of the region. They have taken actions in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which has been questioned, and they have been rejected by Pakistan.
Host: Pakistan has been working towards ensuring convening a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Kashmir and has been using its diplomatic outreach to get the consent of at least 16 of the 47 members of the UNHRC.
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: There are three parties to the dispute. India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. On the western side, we have Afghanistan, there's been war going on since the last 19 years and we've had to face the brunt of that war because of refugees. There are 2.7 million refugees, Afghan refugees, still living in Pakistan. There have been terrorist attacks on account of that war. We've suffered in economic terms and in human terms because of that war. And now, we are facilitating the peace process and encouraging a reconciliation process in Afghanistan to an intra-Afghan dialogue. So, these are the two immediate challenges that Pakistan is facing, and they are a serious threat to regional peace.
Host: Is a third-party mediation the only solution?
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: So we are working on peace on the Western side. On the eastern side, we have drawn the attention of the Security Council where the Kashmir issue is a line pending on the Security Council agenda. We are requesting the international community to facilitate because bilaterally there has been no progress between India and Pakistan, and this new situation has made matters worse. So, the solution is that we follow the Security Council resolutions. There is a plebiscite, UN supervised plebiscite, held in Kashmir. And the people decide what they want. And we will accept their decision.
Host: It would appear the only way this issue can be resolved is through third party facilitation.
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: We are contributing to the solution. For example, Pakistan has been advocating for years but now there is a new convergence and they have also come to the region after years of fighting and spending a trillion dollars that there is no military solution to Afghanistan and the way forward is negotiated political settlement, Pakistan is facilitating that process. And hopefully, the talks that have been going on in Doha will be concluded successfully. And that would lead to reconciliation process and a mainstreaming of the Taliban into the Afghan political dispensation and living in peace.
Host: Well, that's all for today's podcast for the GCSP. Thanks for listening and thank you to Jean-David Levitte for joining us along with his excellency Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi on an enlightening discussion on Pakistan's future. Join us again next week. We will be looking at nuclear weapons and do they still keep us safe? And meet the man who wrote a secret blog while under ISIS occupation. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Until then, bye for now.