IBFAN statements at EB148

Unfortunately – none of our statements were read – partly because of technical issues – partly because the Chair decided not to allow any NSA statements on that issue.

All three statements will remain on the  NSA platform until May and the WHA74.

IBFAN Statements

 EB148/39. Agenda Item 19.5. Report on the implementation of the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA)

IBFAN and many public interest organisations have consistently worked to protect WHO from undue commercial and political influence – long before the development of FENSA. Member States refusal to lift the long-standing ban on raising assessed Member state contributions to WHO, has placed WHO into a severe institutional conflict of interest – a conflict between its mandate (its ‘primary interest’) and the need to collect funds.

The development of FENSA , which calls all kind of actors ‘stakeholders’ or ‘partners’ blurs the fundamental differences between actors in terms of power, interests, and legitimate roles. It has certainly, as we feared, drawn WHO, Member States and public interest NGOs deeper into a world that favours business and private philanthropies’ interests.

Sadly, WHO has failed to correct its conflict of interest definition, which is based on a Gates-funded project and used by the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, a public-private hybrid that IBFAN has criticised from its inception. SUN and FENSA promote the idea that complex problems can only be solved if ‘all stakeholders’ work together in ‘partnership.’ In reality when there are no shared goals, inappropriate partnerships can seriously undermine WHO’s purpose.

For IBFAN and those working on issues related to marketing, we can feel the pressure to move away from independent monitoring, strong regulations and holding corporations accountable for their actions, to start trusting and believing corporate promises and multi-stakeholder partnerships – all the while pretending this is moving us forward to a safer and more equitable world.

Sadly, none of these fundamental issues are properly addressed in the FENSA evaluation. The COVID crisis has shown the world the importance of having a strong and brave WHO – please lets make it can also be independent.

Agenda Item: 19.1 WHO transformation.

As a global network working in partnership with WHO for over 40 years, IBFAN is pleased contribute to this debate. IBFAN’s primary work centres around the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and its 19 clarifying Resolutions.
When implemented well, the Code helps Member States hold corporations accountable for practices that harm health and will help ensure that the WHO Reform does not subvert WHO’s constitutional mandate of health for all and the world’s regulatory and standard setting body in international health matters.
Unless checked, increased emphasis on technological approaches can drain national resources and undermine essential primary health care that save lives.
It is not wise that ‘all stakeholders’ work together in partnership. Partners that work against public health goals are not good partners – however friendly they may sound. We have seen how the baby food industry exploits COVID-19, undermining WHO guidance and ignoring the 8 WHO resolutions on Conflicts of Interest. This industry should have no role in funding or influencing infant feeding.
We are pleased to have WHO’s reassurance that the International code will not be sun-setted. However an ambiguity remains in WHA73/26 that still calls for reporting ‘until 2030’.
We call on Member states to clarify EB148/33 with an amendment to Paragraph 5. Any interference with WHO and Members states obligation to report to the WHA would be incompatible with WHO’s Constitution.  Thank you.

Agenda  Item 5 Global action on Patient safety.

IBFAN,  is the 40-year old global network working in partnership with WHO to end harmful marketing that undermines breastfeeding and child health.  We are pleased to contribute to the  debate on patient safety and Universal Health Coverage, on behalf  the world’s youngest citizens, newborn babies, and their right to be safely delivered into an environment free from commercial influence.  

We appreciate WHO and UNICEF’s COVID-19 guidance on the care and feeding of newborns that is being widely adopted and helping to ensure that mothers and babies are not cruelly separated from each other unnecessarily on the basis of false information. 

IBFAN has on-the-ground experience of how baby food companies are exploiting the pandemic and adding to such misinformation.  Companies have devised YouTube channels with doctors suggesting that mothers stay 6 feet away from their babies, they sponsor the training of medical students, they promote breastmilk substitutes with false claims that they build immunity and protect against viruses.  Such marketing violates WHO’s clear guidance on marketing and  conflicts of interest and puts babies health at risk. Yet companies persist, pretending their support is ‘Humanitarian’ and that they are suitable partners in nutrition.  Poorly-resourced health workers who are not well informed will  not know who to trust. 

When considering funding for UHC  we must remember the 8 WHA Resolutions that call for Conflicts of Interest safeguards –  forbidding the baby food industry from funding or influencing the infant and young child feeding arena.  Partners who work against public health goals do not help.  Strong  legislation is the way to make harmful practices and misinformation a thing of the past.  Thank you

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