[Ip-health] How food, beverage giants influence WHO rules

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Fri May 22 01:00:09 PDT 2015

<http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com>How food, beverage giants influence WHO
rulesRema Nagarajan,TNN | May 22, 2015, 04.05 AM IST
A leaked mail from the International Food and Beverages Alliance (IFBA) has
revealed the hectic lobbying by this alliance of the world's largest food
and beverage companies to influence the framing of rules on the World
Health Organization's (WHO) engagement with the private sector. Ever since
the WHO started focusing on the global epidemic of diet-related ailments
like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, food and beverage companies have
been trying to be part of the standard setting and policy-making activities
of the WHO.

The mail which referred to the WHO secretariat's ongoing work on its
Framework for Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), also revealed how
the IFBA, which includes Coca Cola, Pepsico, Nestle, McDonald's and
Unilever, is being backed by the developed world-- several countries of
Western Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the US-- who
appear to have pledged to not accept any framework which excludes the food
and beverage industry.

Over 45 civil society organizations from across the world signed a public
statement calling upon delegates at the ongoing World Health Assembly (WHA)
to defend the integrity, independence and democratic accountability of the
WHO. The statement said that the mail illustrated the lengths that the
corporations would go to ensure that they get access to policy-making in
the WHO and the degree to which member states could be 'persuaded' to
support them.

Civil society organizations have been objecting to WHO clubbing private
for-profit companies and business associations and alliances of such
companies, along with big philanthropies, academic institutions and
non-profit public interest groups under the head of non-state actors.

The leaked mail referred to alliance representatives having several
"outreach meetings" on FENSA with the missions of the US, UK, Canada and
Latvia (which currently holds the European Union presidency) in Geneva. The
WHO secretariat has been working on FENSA in the context of its reform

In the mail, Rocco Renaldi, Secretary General of IFBA thanked the Food and
Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), the largest industry association in
Canada representing the food and consumer products industry and the Grocery
Manufacturers Association (GMA), a US based trade association of the food
industry for helping to drive home what would be an acceptable outcome for
the alliance in the tussle to the frame rules for WHO's engagement with the
private sector.

The mail proudly announced that following a meeting of the WEOG group
(Western Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the US), there
was "full alignment among these countries on a position that is essentially
equivalent to ours". It added that while the WEOG would actively work for
the framework to be adopted it "will not accept any document that excludes
the food and beverage industry from the framework".

The mail went on to state: "The US' forecast is that it will be possible to
make sufficient progress for a new draft Framework to be developed in the
run up to WHA and to be finalized via drafting groups during the WHA. But
this is only one forecast and much will depend on the Chair's (Argentina)
ability and willingness to reach an agreement."

According to the mail, "helpful outreach" was also conducted by IFBA
members, associates and partner organizations in a number of capitals which
included several emerging economies and developing countries in Africa and
the Asia Pacific. In Brazil's proposal on the draft framework it had taken
a clear stance against international business associations and
philanthropic foundations being granted 'official relations' status with
the WHO and had instead suggested that they be given only observer status.
>From the IFBA email, it appears that there is targeted effort by the
alliance to make Brazil change its stance.

While many of the countries were identified by IFBA as being "in favour of
our positions" some were found amenable to highlighting how incongruent it
would be to "exclude private sector organizations from official relations
with WHO".

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