IBFAN concerns about Ongoing discussions about WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA)
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As part of WHO’s Reform process, Member States of WHO have been for over 4 years discussing a policy for engagement with external actors. To protect the agency’s integrity, independence and credibility, the 2014 World Health Assembly (WHA) called for an ‘appropriate framework’ to address ‘conflicts of interest and relations with the private sector.’
The latest draft policy, the WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), was presented to the 2015 WHA where Member States engaged in extensive drafting session. Yet, the policy has not been finalized and is being discussed once more by Member States in Geneva on 9-10 July .
FENSA has a critically important role to play in protecting WHO from undue influences and ensuring its integrity, independence, trust-worthiness, its accountability towards the world’s people and its primary constitutional mandate to work for: ‘Health for All’.
Unfortunately, the draft policy in its current form is inadequate to play this role. The document lacks in coherency, and rather legitimizes old channels of industry influence while opening new once. Moreover, while the addressing of conflicts of interest has been at the core of the member States demands, the current draft only further confuses the issue, using an incorrect conflict of interest concept, conflating Conflicts of Interest that lie within a person or institution – with conflicts or divergences between actors and their mandates.
We hope that Member States attending the meetings this week will recognise that tinkering with the FENSA text now will not solve this problem. We hope that they will assess the situation and engage in a fundamental political discussion about FENSA’s role in the future direction of WHO, a discussion which has still not been had. We also hope that member States will call on assistance of from experts who in Conflicts of Interes to ensure FENSA’s efficacy in addressing the CoI risks..
Only this approach can set FENSA on the right track, positioning it squarely as a tool to assist WHO to fulfill its mandate.
As people of this world, we need to ask some questions:
- Is FENSA intended to be a safeguard or is it a fund raiser in disguise?
- Is WHO’s need for extra funding (its secondary interest) is now conflicting with its constitutional duty to protect health for all (its primary interest)
To understand why IBFAN and others are so concerned about what is happening, try reading the draft document and replacing the term Non State Actor (NSA) with Transnational Corporation. Then it becomes clear. Terms such as ‘transparency, openness, inclusiveness, accountability, integrity and mutual respect’ – are totally inappropriate when applied to TNCs, whose overriding fiduciary duty is to maximise profits. Yet FENSA seems to rely on this.