WHO Candidates’ Weak Words

Caution Weak WordsThe 1948 Constitution of the World Health Organization positions the WHO as the ‘guardian’ of everyone’s right to health, which makes the forthcoming election of its next Director General to be of great importance to those who strive for human rights and health justice. This is why we have been closely following the election process, and studying the final three Candidate’s positions. As the WHO process is nearing its conclusion, we are deeply dismayed by the weak words on rights and shallow slogans coming from the next Director General of WHO.

In a few weeks, a new Director General (DG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) will be elected by the representatives of the 193 governments, known as Member States, that govern this UN agency. Although we believe that a human rights-based approach (HRBA) should be the framework of all of the World Health Organization (WHO) policies and programmes, many of the Member States do not share this view on rights. This may explain why after 70 years of the WHO’s mandate to progressively realize the right to health, it has failed to do so. It also may explain why the candidates will not risk losing the potential support of these regressive Member States by proposing real actions and reforms that would advance the right to health, including steps that would make the WHO more accountable to those they serve, the folks on the ground waiting for health justice.

Unfortunately, the billions of people that are most impacted by the policies of the WHO do not have any say in this election process. Only Member States have a vote on the candidates, as well as on every other aspect of WHO policies.

A key element of the human rights-based approach is the participation of affected communities and their civil society organizations in decisions on policies, which would enable the public to be more equal partners in public health development. The WHO is missing this crucial element, and after 70 years, must change.

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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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