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The IBFAN FIAN team at the 70th World Health Assembly: From the left: Camille Selleger (IBFAN) Lauren Tuchman and Flavio Valente (FIAN), Patti Rundall and Alessia Bigi (IBFAN)

Web screenings  of the proceedings can be viewed on this link

CLICK HERE for the statements on the IBFAN GIFA website

COMMITTEE B  Friday 25th May Afternoon (aprox 3.30)

Management, legal and governance matters 23.3 Engagement with non-State actors . International Baby Food Action Network

As one of WHO’s longest-standing partners IBFAN, supported by FIAN International,  hoped that Member States would ensure that WHO could emerge from the process developing Framework for Engagement with Non State Actors (FENSA) as the lead agency in public health, able to fulfill its constitutional mandate and not just as one more actor in a ‘multi-stake-holderised’ global health architecture. Through ill-defined terms such as ‘partnership’ ‘stake-holder’ and ‘trust’ corporations and philanthropies are now claiming the right to participate and shape public health decision-making processes, sidelining governments, the UN and peoples’ human rights.

Member States, while aware of these concerns, adopted FENSA with promises that there would be due diligence and increased transparency and that WHO would “exercise particular caution…when engaging with private sector entities …whose policies or activities are negatively affecting human health..”

The Gates Foundation application for Official Relations was a test of FENSA’s thoroughness. It could and should have provided clarity on the relationship between WHO and the Foundation. That the Foundation has made substantial contributions to many health initiatives is matter of public record. That it might have an influence on WHO’s nutrition policy setting– for good or for bad – we make no judgement here – is also no secret. Less well known are its substantial investments in food and beverage industries – investments that were glossed over in the report as: “engagements with select members of the pharmaceutical… food and beverage…health care… industries in pursuit of our public health goals.” In this way the FENSA process failed its first task and public trust that it will tackle the task ahead properly has now been severely damaged. Indeed we share the concerns of Brazil and the many other countries about the weaknesses that have crept into the criteria for Secondments

We are following the development of the FENSA handbook in the hopes that FENSA can be a real safeguard – not a funding opportunity to replace the missing untied funding that WHO so urgently needs. FENSA should be reviewed and evaluated soon,  the terms ‘partnership’ and ‘stakeholder’  defined and the criteria for secondments corrected.  Thank you

 

COMMITTEE B 

IBFAN STATEMENT ON Agenda Item 15.1: Preparation for the third High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in 2018

I speak on behalf of IBFAN, This statement is supported by FIAN International. We have watched with growing alarm as the GCM gives disproportionate promotion to corporations that not only promote unhealthy foods, but are involved in land-grabbing, mono-cropping – undermining access to bio-diverse wholesome foods and environmental resources. GCM is not heeding WHO’s FENSA requirement to “exercise particular caution…when engaging with private sector entities …whose policies or activities are negatively affecting human health..”Surely small farmers, town planners and teachers are much more important agents in addressing the NCD challenge? 
Precious time is being wasted on persuading corporations to produce slightly less harmful junk foods. This will not solve the problem. The GCM has been following the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health model – an initiative that after 9 years has failed to curb harmful marketing practices.GCM annual self-reporting mechanism ‘encourages’ NSAs to submit actions within their core area of business. However marketing strategies posing as health initiatives could be registered and could gain credibility from the image transfer from WHO. The baby food industry hijacking of World Breastfeeding Week, is just one example. The promotion of voluntary – here today, gone tomorrow – initiatives, can also undermine government resolve to bring in effective legislation. Since WHO does not currently have the capacity to ‘quality assure’ activities and guarantee conformity with WHO policy this idea should be abandoned. It is far too risky. Last, we call for consistent messaging. Over-emphasis on micronutrients opens the door to promotional claims on ultra processed foods.The public is mostly unaware that high heat processing and storage can destroy essential nutrients. One could stare at a piece of fruit all day and not see it for the nutrients it contains. Whereas a glance at a package laden with nutrition claims inspires false confidence

We are keen to continue working with WHO to address this challenge.

Committee B: Agenda Item: 15.5 Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity: implementation plan

IBFAN and FIAN International are pleased to comment on this Plan. IBFAN participated in the development of the ECHO Report and is pleased that many of our comments were taken on board, in particular the recognition of the importance of breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding in obesity prevention.

As you know, States obligations with regard to breastfeeding are defined in the 3-pillar framework ‘Protect, Promote and Support’ adopted in 2002 by the WHA. Recently, a group of UN experts, among whom the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, have reiterated that these obligations, including protection against misleading marketing, constitute an integral part of States’ human rights obligations.

Mothers themselves have no obligation to breastfeed their child. Indeed, they always remain fully sovereign over their own body. It is rather the role of States to ensure that mothers do not face obstacles to breastfeeding.

States have the obligation to provide mothers with accurate and unbiased information and counseling from the start of their pregnancy, including on the continuation of breastfeeding up to 2 years or beyond. We regret that key factor, is not mentioned in Action 4. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative should also be mentioned as the external audit that guarantees implementation of the Ten Steps.

To be consistent with the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed up to 6 months, States should grant working mothers with a minimum of 6 months of maternity leave.

Finally in relation to education, we are pleased that Action 5 warns of the risks of corporate sponsorship and the need for conflict of interest safeguards – corporate sponsorship of education blurs the lines between marketing and education. As highlighted by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education the rapid increase in the commercialization of education is a major concern.

 

COMMITTEE A Tuesday Morning 23rd May (move the curser to 2 hours 40mins)

Agenda Item: 12 RESPONSE TO EMERGENCIES

Thank you for allowing me to speak on this important topic on behalf of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the 37-year-old-global network that protects breastfeeding and works for policy coherence with WHO’s Resolutions, norms and guidance.

Our work is especially important in emergencies, where breastfeeding is a lifeline for infants and young children but where responses are often characterized by large influxes of unsolicited donations of breastmilk substitutes and products that do more harm than good.

Public appeals for funds often make this worse – repeating the myths used by the baby food industry for decades: that women can’t breastfeed because of stress or malnourishment. Rarely do appeals highlight the resilience of breastfeeding or that artificially fed babies face many more risks to survival.

While the speedy delivery of products can be essential in certain circumstances, emergency relief protocols must prevent over-emphasis on product-based, quick-fix approaches to the treatment of malnutrition, approaches that can undermine confidence in more sustainable, local, bio-diverse foods. If breastmilk substitutes are required they must be purchased, distributed and used according to strict criteria. Sadly, emergencies are prime opportunities for commercial exploitation and for those whose main purpose is the expansion of what we call ‘the Business of Malnutrition.’

IBFAN’s World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative assessment of policies and programmes on Infant feeding during Emergencies show that implementation of global guidelines and recommendations on this is dismal.

We see WHO’s role as norm-setting rather than operational – promoting prevention and emergency preparedness protocols that will improve food security in the long term, helping to reverse this situation and improve public health generally.

We look forward to continuing our work with WHO on this important issue.

 

COMMITTEE B:  Agenda Item 15.4: Outcome of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (Document A70/30)
IBFAN and FIAN International welcome the outcome document of the ICN2, which refers to the development of the Decade of Action on Nutrition work programme setting the framework for implementation of States’ commitments to eliminate malnutrition in all its forms by 2025.

Although the work programme emphasizes the leadership of States, the following remaining concerns are to be addressed:

  • All activities carried out under DoA must be compliant with the human rights framework and guarantee access to effective and timely remedies for victims.
  • Promotion and protection of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, should be understood as crosscutting elements of all areas of intervention.
  • Trade and investment agreements must not harm human rights, and therefore should not make use of Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms. Primacy of human rights over corporate rights must be guaranteed by a binding international instrument on business enterprises and human rights, which would ensure corporate accountability to the people.
  • Regulation of private sector impacting on food systems and access to natural resources, including on marketing for unhealthy foods and breastmilk substitutes, seeds protection for peasants, antibiotic resistance, endocrine disrupting chemicals, is central.
  • Root causes of malnutrition in all its forms should be addressed, and social protection cannot be considered as the only solution to poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
  • The specific role and relevance of different actors should be clarified, and centrality of the participation of the most affected by all forms of malnutrition should be recognized as part of the solution by harnessing on their competencies rather than on the ones of the private sector.
  • Strong inclusive monitoring and accountability mechanisms must be in place to measure progress and hold States accountable to their obligations and commitments.
  • Strong safeguards against conflicts of interests should be foreseen to protect public institutions and officials
    Thank you.

 

 

 

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