The Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA)  incorporating amendments by a drafting group adopted on the final day of the WHA : CLICK HERE 

For comment see my Policy blog 

Press release below. CLICK Here forIBFAN’s  Press release 18th May and here: comunicado de prensa  for  Portuguese version

Press coverage: 

bmj.h2909.full  CLICK HERE for British Medical Journal BMJ  World Health Assembly hears warnings over WHO’s relationship with industry     BMJ 2015;350:h2909 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h2909 (Published 27 May 2015)

CLICK HERE  for  Huffington Post

CLICK HERE for Third World Network

CLICK HERE for Times of India  May 22 2015 How food, beverage giants influence WHO rules

CLICK Here for Times of India  Rich-donors-are-undermining-WHO-say-civil-society-groups

CLICK HERE  for the News Minute:

Hindhu Times


CLICK HERE for BMJ on COI in CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: protecting the private good?
BMJ 2015; 350 doi:  15 May 2015)

CLICK HERE   for a great summary of Business Front Groups from the Council for Food Safety  (2013). Best public relations industry can buy: A guide to food industry front groups.,

India’s Alliance Against Conflict of Interest (AACI) Update 5 May 2015

Simon, M. (2015). Nutrition Scientists on the Take from Big Food: Has the American Society for Nutrition lost all credibility?

IBFAN People’s Health Movement letter to FENSA Negotiators. May 25 2016 IBFAN_PHM_2016_FENSA_letter_to_negotiators

Richter, J. (2012). “WHO reform and public interest safeguards: An historical perspective. Editorial.” Social Medicine 6(3): 141-150. http://www.socialmedicine;

Richter, J. (2014). “Time to turn the tide: WHO’s engagement with non-State actors & the politics of stakeholder-governance and conflicts of interest.” 19 May, BMJ 2014;348:g3351

Richter, J. (2015). “Conflicts of interest and global health and nutrition governance – The illusion of robust principles.” BMJ RR.

Press Release

Defend the World Health Organization from corporate takeover


Geneva, 19 May 2015 –

Ahead of the first meeting of the drafting group on Framework for Engagement with Non – State Actors (FENSA), Civil Society Organisations and Social Movements expressed their deep concern on attempts to facilitate corporate takeover of WHO. The joint statement signed by over 40 organisations called on Member States to take such time as is necessary to achieve a robust framework for engagement with non-state actors, to protect the WHO from undue influence. Further, the statement also called on Member States to support the DG’s proposals to increase the assessed contributions.

FENSA which was initiated to safeguard the independence, integrity and credibility of WHO, now seem to bear the threat of facilitating and legitimising the corporate capture of the Organisation. There is a strong apprehension that the negotiations on FENSA may fundamentally alter the engagements with private sector and philanthropic foundations and NGOS sponsored by the private sector in a manner compromising the credibility of WHO. .

“Many proposals by rich countries in draft FENSA text is promoting corporate capture of WHO in the name of promotion of engagements without discussion on any comprehensive mechanism to avoid conflict of interest. These proposals if accepted would institutionalise the undue corporate influence on WHO”.  Said Lida Lhotska , International Baby Food  Action Network (IBFAN)

The signatories are concerned that rich member-state donors have been deliberately undermining the WHO and weakening its capacity to promote global health by underfunding, tight earmarking of donor funding and opening spaces for corporate influence

“We learned that many Member States are opposing any curb in the exiting practices, which facilitate the corporate intrusion in WHO. The opposition of certain Member States to ban the Secondment from private sectors and other non state actors as well as using the financial resources from private sector to pay the salary of WHO staff reinforces the status quo and threaten the credibility of the WHO.” said  K M Gopakumar, Third world Network (TWN)

Over the last four years WHO has been through a far reaching reform program driven in part by arguments that the freeze on assessed (mandatory) contributions should remain in place until the Organization addresses its inefficiencies.

“The refusal of increase in the assessed contribution is the technique deployed to force WHO to open for corporate influence.” said Dr. David Legge, Peoples Health Movement (PHM). “The compromised flexibility in financial resources forces the vulnerability of WHO to look for resources from donors with profit motives and endanger the constitutional mandate of WHO.”

For more information, please contact

Lida Lhotska, ( IBFAN), +41788200850,

David Legge, ( PHM), +61408991417,

K M Gopakumar, (TWN), +41786547641,


Defend the World Health Organization from corporate takeover

May 19, 2015

At the forthcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), two key deliberations have the potential to fundamentally influence the future of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Assembly will consider the latest draft of the ‘framework for engagement with non-state actors’.  It will also finalize proposals for the financing of WHO for the next two years. The latter includes a critical proposal by the Director General for a 5% increase in assessed (mandatory) contributions.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and social movements urge the Member States of the WHO to intervene in these deliberations to strengthen WHO and protect its integrity and independence.

We are concerned that rich member-state donors have been deliberately undermining the WHO and weakening its capacity to promote global health by underfunding, tight earmarking of donor funding and opening spaces for corporate influence. Partly as a response to this situation a number of Member States are driving an initiative directed at protecting WHO from improper influence through regulating WHO’s engagement with the private sector entities, philanthropic foundations, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. However, this initiative may be blocked at the WHA.

The funding crisis

Donor funds account for 80% of WHO’s budget and 93% of donor funds is tightly earmarked to programs that the donors support. This prevents WHO from implementing programs that rich countries do not support, even when they are decided by the World Health Assembly. Threats of further funding cuts are held out if attempts are made to implement such programs.

The compromised ability of the WHO to intervene effectively during the 2014 Ebola crisis is a tragic illustration of the impact of the budgetary crisis on WHO’s capacity to fulfill its mandate. Over the last four years WHO has been through a far reaching reform program driven in part by arguments that the freeze on assessed (mandatory) contributions should remain in place until the Organization addresses its inefficiencies. Such arguments fly in the face of clear evidence that these inefficiencies are largely a function of WHO’s financial crisis brought on by the freeze on assessed contributions.

The Director-General has now proposed a 5% increase in assessed contributions..While 5% is a relatively small increment, much less than the big donors contribute as voluntary contributions, it is of huge symbolic value and a crucial step towards breaking the logjam of freeze on assessed contributions. Predictably, certain large donor countries are gearing up to oppose the increase and refuse to adopt the budget.

WHO’s relationship with global corporations lies at the heart of the crisis

Threats to health and barriers to affordable health care arise due to the commercial interests of big corporations.  The increasing incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke due to intensively marketed cheap ultra-processed foods is a stark example.  Pharmaceutical corporations clearly value shareholders’ demand for profits over affordable access to essential medicines and vaccines.  For WHO to fulfill its mandate it must be able to name such threats and barriers and develop and implement policies and programs to manage them.

However, rich member states, the USA and UK in particular, have repeatedly opposed WHO taking any action which might run counter to the interests of transnational corporations. Furthermore certain rich member states are seeking to force WHO to open up its policy making and decision making spaces to the transnational corporations.

Proposals for ‘multi-stakeholder partnerships’ would designate junk food manufacturers as partners in the task of addressing obesity, heart disease and stroke. Over the last two years WHO and its Member States have been locked in a contentious debate around the rules governing corporate influence over decision making in WHO.  Rich countries are seeking to use these rules to clear the way for transnational corporations to buy influence and insert corporate staff into strategic positions within the WHO Secretariat.

The present draft of the ‘framework for engagement with non-state actors’ is contested and problematic. It is more important to get a good outcome than rush to adopt a document that might further legitimize corporate influence of decision making in the WHO..

A recently leaked document from the International Food and Beverage Alliance (see accompanying document) illustrates the lengths that the corporations will go to ensure that the ‘framework for engagement’ increases their access to policy-making in the agency and the degree to which member states can be ‘persuaded’ (if such persuasion is needed) to support them.

We call upon the delegates to the 68th World Health Assembly to defend the integrity, independence and democratic accountability of the World Health Organization by

  •      supporting the increase in assessed contributions;
  •      taking such time as is necessary to achieve a robust framework for engagement with non-state actors, to protect the Organization from improper influence. 

Supporting organisations as of 19 May, 2015:

Aliança de Combate do Tabagismo/Brasil (ACT/Br)

All India Drug Action Network

Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de Aids (ABIA)

Baby Milk Action

Berne Declaration

Breastfeeding Association of Trinidad and Tobago

Colombian Medical Federation

Corporate Accountability International

Centro Studi e Ricerche in Salute Internazionale e Interculturale (CSI) University of Bologna

Diverse Women for Diversity

Drug Action Forum – Karnataka

European Mutual-help Network for Alcohol related problems

First Steps Nutrition Trust

Fundacion Ifarma

Health Action International (HAI)

Health Innovation in Practice (HIP, Geneva)

Health Poverty Action

HealthWrights (Workgroup for People’s Health and Rights)

Hesperian Health Guides

INFACT Canada / IBFAN North America

Initiative for Health and Equity in Society,

International Association of Consumer Food Organizations – Europe  (IACFO-Europe)

International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)


Medico International

Medicus Mundi International Network

NGO Forum for Health

NGO Misión Salud (Colombia)

Osservatorio Italiano sulla Salute Globale (OISG)

People’s Health Movement (PHM)

Policies for Equitable Access to Health (PEAH)

Public Services International

SOCHARA (Society for Community Health Awareness. Research and Action)

Society for International Development (SID)

Third World Health Aid (TWHA)

Third World Network (TWN)

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines

VBBBvzw / IBFAN Belgium


World Social Forum on Health and Social Security

Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network



‘[Individual] conflicts of interest are defined as circumstances that create a risk that professional judgments or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.

‘Institutional conflicts of interest arise when an institution’s own financial interest or those of its senior officials pose risks of undue influence on decisions involving the institution’s primary interests.’

Lo, B. and M. Field, Inst of Med. (US) Committee on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education and Practice, Eds. (2009).



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