Although this contains some welcome critical comments, the overall conclusion is that public private partnerships are the way to go….


The 2018 Report Private Sector: Who is Accountable? by the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent (IAP), was launched at a high-level event co-hosted by the governments of Finland and South Africa on 27 September during the UN General Assembly in New York. The news release is here:

Additional information:


  • IISD, SDG Knowledge Hub “Independent Panel Underscores Private Sector Accountability in Health”, here
  • DEVEX @UNGA “Getting accountability right for women and children”, here
  • Comment by Richard Horton “Offline: It’s time to hold the private sector accountable”, Lancet, here


Speaking on behalf of the PMNCH Private Sector Constituency, Merck for Mothers Executive Director Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet said that “successful engagement will not result from regulation alone” when it comes to holding the private sector accountable. The private sector “can revolutionize the delivery of health care today as well as anticipate the needs of tomorrow,” she said. “We believe that the public and private sector has a shared responsibility” for accountability.

“We need to establish and strengthen trust,” she continued. “We need to understand, target and value the unique contributions each sector can bring to the table around shared commitments to achieve the SDGs. We also need to recognize the yin and yang of our efforts—the mutual and reinforcing principles of the social and health returns as well as the financial returns of our joint investments—because each of these powers the other and is ultimately critical for the success of achieving our shared goals.”

“We have to mobilize the private sector as a real partner,” said Mr. Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum. With the private sector representing 80% of global gross domestic product and official development assistance continuing to dwindle, “the question is not if, but, how, the private sector is to engage,” he said.

“Businesses engaging in the context of UHC must be aligned with one central objective: improving people’s health,” stated IAP co-chair Mr. Kul Gautam, “but many countries are playing catch-up on private sector regulation after years of expanding engagement in health.”

The panel finds that even in countries with well-developed systems of private sector stewardship, there are challenges and shortfalls in accountability. In many cases, conflicts of interest are pervasive which sometimes distort and derail public policy objectives and regulatory efforts to protect people’s health.

While the panel welcomed the self-regulatory efforts undertaken in good faith by private sector actors, “self-regulation without independent validation and oversight is not enough on its own,” said Gautam. “Accountability must go beyond answering to shareholders and investors.”

Speaking on behalf of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Board Chair H.E. Michelle Bachelet, fellow PMNCH Board Member Dr. Anders Nordstrom, affirmed that while the private sector needs to follow rules and laws, the consumers of their products also “have important tasks as citizens in democratic societies,” including exercising their rights by voting at the ballot boxes as well as with their pocketbooks. “We can’t fight the private sector, we need to work with them,” and engage with investors to not invest in tobacco companies, “but in companies and businesses that are good for health.”

However, civil society representatives, including those from the NCD Alliance and Vital Strategies, weren’t so sure that rules and measures in place for keeping the private sector in check are having the desired effect and that more accountability measures need to be put in place to ensure equity for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.

“The recipe for success is already known, tried and tested in many countries. These include taxation, measures to restrict advertising and marketing of unhealthy food and drink towards young people, and relative availability and affordability of healthy vs. unhealthy foods,” said Ms. Nina Renshaw, Policy and Advocacy Director for the NCD Alliance.

“Those who lobby against effective measures, proven measures, including the Best Buys, have no place at the table in health policy making,” she continued. “It is for governments to determine their own priorities, to put health first, to protect their citizens, to regulate and set standards. Health-harming industries’ role is to implement, to adjust their practices to the regulatory environment—NOT the other way around.”

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