Health governance in the public interest? WHO redefines conflicts of interest and risks undermining public health mandates

Watch the webcast of this excellent Press Conference:

Here are the Presentations by David Klemperer and Judith Richter

Note: Among the many things worth noting were the clear call for WHO to correct its faulty Conflict of Interest definitions and protect its independence and ability to fulfil its constitutional obligations. David Klemperer’s  slides 15 and 16 quote from an article Science organisations and Coca-Cola’s ‘war’ with the public health community: insights from an internal industry document ( Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  March 14, 2018).   An internal document describes the mission of Coca Cola’s  ‘independent’ research research organisation  – Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) to be an ‘honest broker’ in the obesity debate that will distract from effective solutions, ‘combating science with science’ and promote obesity reduction strategies that are commensurate with Coca-Cola’s interests.  The GEBN aims to be  a ‘weapon’ in the ‘growing war between the public health community and private industry“ over obesity. 


17 May 2018, 10.00-11.30   Swiss Press Club   La Pastorale, Route de Ferney 106, 1202 Geneva

Ever since public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been hailed as a key policy model, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been promising to upgrade its conflict of interest measures to ensure its mandate is not jeopardized by overly close relationships with private sector actors. WHO has not honoured these promises and the world has failed to pay attention.

Instead, a dangerous policy shift has occurred. WHO has moved from neglecting conflict of interest issues to blurring the entire conflict of interest concept. Warnings about the risk this shift poses to WHO’s integrity, independence, and trustworthiness have been ignored.

This meeting will focus on conflicts of interest in relation to the emerging system of undemocratic global ‘multi-stakeholder governance’. The aim is to stimulate debate about undue influence in health and nutrition policy-making and the need to prevent a reduction of WHO’s role to that of a fundraiser and broker of public-private hybrids. Key actions include correcting policy documents such as WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), questioning harmful discourses, and opening up space for public scrutiny.

Introduction: Alessia Bigi, MA, IBFAN-GIFA, International Baby Food Action Network, (IBFAN) Global Liaison Office


Judith Richter, PhD Soc.Sc. MSc, Senior Researcher for civic engagement, whose numerous publications include Holding Corporations Accountable: Corporate conduct, international codes, and citizen action; and Public-private partnerships and international health policy making: How can public interests be safeguarded?

David Miller, Professor of Sociology, has written widely on issues of communication and power, including on the lobby strategies of the alcohol and food industries. Most recently he co-authored Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries.

David Klemperer, Professor of Public Health and Health Sciences, MD, has long contributed to awareness-raising on conflict of interest issues in the medical community, a.o. as co-editor of the book Conflicts of Interest in Medicine, expert on the Committee for Transparency and Independence of the German Medical Association, and member of physicians’ No Free Lunch initiatives.


Contact person for follow-up questions: Judith Richter Tel. +41-78.820.08.50 (18 May)


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