PHM-Exch> STOP the World Health Forum IBFAN position

Claudio Schuftan cschuftan at
Mon May 16 18:37:52 PDT 2011

*STOP the World Health Forum*

“*The future of financing for WHO: World Health Organization: reforms for a
healthy future*”.
Report by the Director General. A64/4 (5 May 2011) and the report

The report A64/4 proposes the creation of a World Health Forum (WHF) as an
essential element of the global health governance system. *The WHF, as
proposed, undermines the principles of democratic governance, and the
independence and effectiveness of WHO.  It increases the power of the
already disproportionately powerful for-profit sector. *IBFAN urges Member
States (MS) to reject the draft resolution in the document A64/4, for the
following three reasons:

1.   WHO is an intergovernmental organization, which has a constitutional
mandate to ensure the fundamental right of every human being without
distinction to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
WHO must protect its independence, integrity in decision making and its
reputation. It must also guard against manipulation of its governing bodies
by private interest actors.  We believe this forum will undermine WHO’s
ability to fulfill its mandate. Paragraph 20 (ii) of the report A 64/4
illustrates this point. It states that the expected outcomes of the WHO
reform will “*Improve health outcomes, with WHO meeting the expectations of
its Member States and partners”.*  The reassurances given in paragraph 86
that “*a multi-stakeholder forum […] will not usurp the decision making
prerogatives of WHO’s own governance*” are not credible.  How can the WHF
meet the expectations of commercial actors without usurping the prerogatives
of WHO’s own governance?

2.   In paragraph 87 of the report A64/4, it is proposed that the
multi-stakeholder forum will “*identify future priorities in global health*”.
This is a reason for serious concern as it is the WHA’s responsibility to
set health priorities, benchmarks and standards which will effectively
protect health for all. Previous experience with multi-stakeholder
initiatives has shown that health priorities are distorted when they have to
be agreed by for-profit actors, whose duties and responsibilities are
ultimately to their shareholders and employees. IBFAN’s experience on baby
foods illustrates how the baby food industry systematically undermines
Member States’ efforts to regulate marketing in line with WHA’s resolutions.

3.   The WHF institutionalizes conflicts of interests as the norm within WHO
by extending the role of policy and decision shaping to for-profit actors
that have an interest in the outcome. WHF poses an unjustifiable risk, in
that it may compromise and distort international and national agreed public
health priorities and policies. This is ever more worrying in the absence of
a strong and clear WHO policy on conflicts of interests. Transparency,
currently promoted as the answer to the problem of conflicts of interests,
is an essential requirement but it is not a sufficient safeguard in itself.
It helps identify conflicts of interests, but does not deal with them.

*In conclusion, the proposal for WHO reform fails to demonstrate any added
value over possible alternatives to address the issue of strengthening WHO’s
role in global health governance.*

*N.B.** This reform is being introduced under the name of “financing for
WHO”, however the report A64/4 hardly mentions finances. These are reflected
only in the point 4 of the Report A64/INF.DOC./5 only in a form of a
corporate resource mobilization strategy. *
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