Next WHO DG Must Protect WHO

WHO DG Must Protect WHOOver the years we have watched the WHO’s interaction with business interests grow to an alarming level. The new Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) is supposed to help protect the WHO from commercial organizations having influence on policies and decisions, but unless it is one of the priorities of the next Director General, FENSA will fail to protect both the WHO and the billions of people that need global health policies to be driven by evidence and public interest, not corporate greed. Below is an Open Letter to the WHO DG candidates that rings the alarm.
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Keep policy and priority setting free of commercial influence
Open letter to WHO DG candidates published in: The Lancet
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2817%2931146-7/fulltext

“In May, 2017, WHO Member States will meet in Geneva for the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) and a new WHO Director-General (DG) will be elected. As public-interest non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in global health governance and the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, we believe that a fundamental consideration for Member States when electing the DG will be how the new leadership will ensure appropriate interactions with alcohol, food, pharmaceutical, and medical technology industries. We invite the three candidates to describe what steps they commit to take to ensure greater transparency, rigor, and public scrutiny of WHO’s policy and regulatory and norm-setting activities so that they are adequately protected from undue commercial interests.

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Before We Need OHCHR Help

Before OHCHR Two years ago, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations agency to protect, defend, and promote our human rights, published ”How To Follow Up On United Nations Human Rights Recommendations”. It is intended for civil society organizations (CSO), specifically the larger national and international ones. This sixty-page “Practical Guide” has both useful information on OHCHR procedures and mechanisms, and offers many short case studies and insights into how different CSOs have used the UN system to advance human rights.

The OHCHR system of ‘follow up’ is well-intentioned, although it is extremely slow, bureaucratic, and not accessible to those without resources — who are perhaps those most in need of having their rights defended. Although this OHCHR guide is good at what it aims to do, it doesn’t take into account the needs of individual rights-holders or small rights-seeking organizations in communities around the world. Poor people from marginalized communities need to be able to address, simply, cheaply and without fear, the failures of their governments or local authorities to implement UN human rights recommendations – failures that can be fatal for them or their families.

For example, there are billions of poor marginalized people currently being denied access to medicines and adequate care, water, or food, all of which are the legal obligation of Governments to provide. They also have little or no access to free legal aid, which means that this system of ‘follow-up’ is often a non-starter — it leaves behind those most in need.

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