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.

Keep policy and priority setting free of commercial influence
Open letter to WHO DG candidates published in: The Lancet

“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.

In May, 2016, WHA adopted the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), a policy due to be fully operational by May, 2018. While FENSA envisages that WHO will “exercise particular caution…when engaging with private sector entities …whose policies or activities are negatively affecting human health..”,1 the rhetoric and direction of WHO’s reform process as well as WHO’s chronic funding challenges have left us deeply concerned rather than reassured. We fear that instead of protecting WHO’s mandate, FENSA risks relegating WHO to a limited role, unable to stand up for human rights and democratic decision making.

We draw attention to the conflict of interest statement signed by more than 175 NGOs and networks representing more than 2000 groups and first launched at the UN High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases in 2011: “The policy development stage should be free from industry involvement to ensure a ‘health in all policies’ approach, which is not compromised by the obvious conflicts of interests associated with food, alcohol, beverage and other industries, that are primarily answerable to shareholders.”2

Alcohol, food, pharmaceutical, and medical technology industries should comply with policies developed by WHO and its Member States. Their role is not in public health policy formulation, risk assessments, risk management, or priority setting, nor in determining normative quality standards and legally binding regulations to protect and promote public health. These processes must be undertaken in an environment free of commercial influence.

We believe that only a WHO that protects its independence and integrity of decision making will have the ability to fulfil its constitutional mandate, and look forward to your response to our request.”


List of 61 Signatories:
See also: Statement „The WHO we want“:
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