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TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (May15/09)
22 May 2015
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are pleased to share with you another report on the threat of undue influence of corporations on the World Health Organization, this time from the food and beverage industry.  

At the ongoing World Health Assembly, WHO member states are considering the Secretariat's draft Framework for Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA). A major point of contention is whether to make a clear distinction between public interest NGOs and business interest groups, with the result of limiting the role of industry and its associations in influencing public health policy making at the WHO.

The report below from The Times of India reveals the intensive lobby by the food and beverage industry to get support from developed country governments.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
____________________________________________________

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/How-food-beverage-giants-influence-WHO-rules/articleshow/47378845.cms

How food, beverage giants influence WHO rules

Rema 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 process. 

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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