[Ip-health] Did the WHO just invite corporates to set health policy?

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Wed May 20 00:42:04 PDT 2015

*Title :* TWN Health and UN Sust Dev.: Did the WHO just invite corporates
to set health policy?
*Date :* 20 May 2015


*Did the WHO just invite corporates to set health policy?*
By Chitra Subramaniam, 19 May 2015
The News Minute (India)

The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Margaret
Chan has invited the private sector, civil society and academia among
others, to join a dialogue on how non-state players can work with the
global body to enhance public health work. A leading voice in this
configuration is the United States-based Global Health Council (GHC) whose
strong and spirited response to the invitation has set the cat among the
pigeons in some countries (including reportedly with India) and certain
sections of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“It is my honour as representative of the Global Health Council Delegation
to present the Global Health Council Delegation Members,” Dr. Christine
Sow, Executive Director of the GHC said in a letter to Dr. Chan.

The letter dated May 5th 2015 has been accessed by The News Minute (TNM)
and it lists over a 100 top dogs of the food and beverage sector to top
universities and pharmaceutical companies. This year, the GHC has been
allowed to bring over a 100 delegates. A new industry body that is keen to
get official status relations with the WHO is the international Food and
Beverage Alliance (IFBA) representing big food corporations, Nestl้,
Ferrero, Coca Cola, Mars, McDonalds and Pepsico. Sugar is a major issue of
contention with some countries calling it the next tobacco that must be
severely regulated in foods and beverages. Some participants in the GHC
list have only partially declared their work including one who works with
the alcohol industry. In principle and practice this invitation raises
several ethical issues at a time when the WHO is strapped for cash.

How the WHO’s secretariat navigates the proposed new Framework of
Engagement with Non-State Actors is the moot point. A WHO document on how
the issues speaking to non-state actors can be framed has been removed from
the site: http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_f18iles/WHA68/A68_5-en.pdf

The full text of changes to it can be read here:

The WHO was not available for comment but in 2010 started the reform
process (to invite non-state actors) Dr. Chan proposed that they would
accept funding from private philanthropies and the commercial sector
“…without compromising independence and adding to organizational

Never has the need for an organization like the WHO been more necessary.
And never has the organization been spread so thin that it appears
rudderless and searching for relevance. This is a budget year for the WHO.
Addressing the World Health Assembly (WHA), the organisation’s apex body on
Monday (18 May), the world’s most powerful political woman and a doctor by
training German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in no uncertain terms that
this was a time for reckoning as WHO had failed to rise to many challenges
including the most recent one – Ebola.

The root of the problem is two-fold. The founders of WHO viewed good health
for its intrinsic benefits and the world voted to secure a normative or
standard-setting role for it in 1948. The United Nations’ (UN) chief health
body was not supposed to involve itself in implementation which was the
responsibility of its member-states.

The other, closer to the issue at hand is the confusion - real, propelled
or feigned – about what non-state actors mean. For now, no definition has
emerged has emerged adding to concerns about unequal powers including money
power on the one hand and a galloping but different disease burden in the
developed and developing countries. The draft framework of the resolution
is yet to take a stand on how conflict of interest will be managed – or
whether it should be at all – and instruments available to countries to
independently conduct due diligence.

“At the Executive Board (EB) meeting last January, the Italian delegation
had a member from a chocolate group in it – that is like inviting the
tobacco industry or the food industry to set tobacco control laws or those
relating to obesity,” Patti Rudall, Policy Director, Baby Milk
Action/IBFAN, United Kingdom (UK) said. “We don’t have a solution. We are
calling on the WHO to do what it was set up to do and invite others
afterwards,” she added.  The EB sets the agenda for the WHA which follows
in May and sources told TNM the sugar lobby was very active at the WHA.

During a preliminary discussion many countries in Africa, Latin America,
Brazil and India cautioned against passing the resolution that will allow
companies to enter the policy setting stadium. But 24 hours is a long time
in politics and the WHO is a political organization where who-you-know
matters more than WHO.+

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