See previous post.   IBFAN statement WHA73 delivered  10.11.20

Sun-setting decision will lead to more misleading marketing and greater risks to health.

Decision on Maternal, infant and young child nutrition to end WHO’s obligation to report biennially to the World Health Assembly (WHA) on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes by 2030 was ‘noted’ at the 73rd World Health Assembly on 10th November.

Although the matter was not raised during the 147th Executive Board meeting on the 16th November, several Member States mentioned the technical and logistical problems they had experienced at the WHA73. (1)

IBFAN believes that the issue should be kept open for further discussion in consideration of the negative impact it will have on child health and survival. IBFAN emphasises that the baby food has always wanted the Code taken off the WHA agenda and are the only ones to benefit from this change.

Why is this important?

Member States have a legal obligation under the WHO Constitution and the International Code to report to the World Health Assembly via the Director General (DG) of WHO, who compiles a Report based on reports from Member States.

These obligations are embedded in the International Code (2) and are a core strength of the Code.  Member States use this time for discussion of the DG Report and to share experiences of curbing marketing that misleads parents (3) and call for new Resolutions. The World Health Assembly has adopted 19 Resolutions since 1981 that clarify, strengthen and update the original Code. These Resolutions help governments withstand the pressures from the food industry to adopt weak voluntary measures – measures that been proven time and again to be inadequate. Without biennial reporting it will be more difficult to adopt new resolutions specifically on marketing.

IBFAN believes that reporting to the WHA on the Code should only end when there is convincing evidence that countries have adopted effective, independently monitored legislation that eliminates harmful marketing.  Governments have legal obligations to report to WHO under Article 62 of  WHO’s constitution.

For further information contact:


(1) The Agenda item was taken three days earlier than planned with little more than hour’s notice of the change. As a consequence the decision was taken without full Member State participation.

(2) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes 

Article 11.6 of the Code states “In accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution of the World Health Organization, Member states shall communicate annually to the Director-General on action taken to give effect to the principles and aim of the Code.”

Article 11.7 states: “The Director-General shall report in even years to the World Health Assembly on the status of implementation of the Code; and shall, on request, provide technical support to Member States preparing national legislation or regulations, or taking other appropriate measures in implementation and furtherance of the principles and aim of this Code.”

3: the exploitation of the Covid-19 Pandemic by baby food companies  is just one example:   Marketing of breastmilk substitutes during the COVID-19 pandemic.     Lancet Volume 396, ISSUE 10259, e58, October 24, 2020.

Article 60. (a) Decisions of the Health Assembly on important questions shall be made by a two-thirds majority of the Members present and voting. These questions shall include: the adoption of conventions or agreements; the approval of agreements bringing the Organization into relation with the United Nations and inter-governmental organizations and agencies in
accordance with Articles 69, 70 and 72; amendments to this Constitution.
(b) Decisions on other questions, including the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, shall be made by a majority of the Members present and voting.
(c) Voting on analogous matters in the Board and in committees of the Organization shall be made in accordance with paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Article.

Article 61 statesEach Member shall report annually to the Organization on the action taken and progress achieved in improving the health of its people’

Article 62 states: “Each Member shall report annually on the action taken with respect to recommendations made to it by the Organization and with respect to conventions,agreements and regulations.”

Other important documents:


PDF [6 MB]  A future for the world’s children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission

New  protocol to the UN CRC to regulate against commercial harm to children. Although we recognise the role business plays in wealth and job creation, the commercial sector’s profit motive poses many threats to child health and wellbeing, not least the environmental damage unleashed by unregulated industry. More immediately, children around the world are enormously exposed to advertising from business, whose marketing techniques exploit their developmental vulnerability and whose products can harm their health and wellbeing. Companies make huge profits from marketing products directly to children and promoting addictive or unhealthy commodities, including fast foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol, and tobacco, all of which are major causes of non-communicable diseases. Children’s large and growing online exposure, while bringing benefits in terms of information access and social support, also exposes them to exploitation, as well as to bullying, gambling, and grooming by criminals and sexual abusers.

Extraterritorial Obligations and the Code_Feb 2018 Discussion paper, February 2018 The Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes

EB members :  Botswana, Burkino Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau -Kenya, Djibouti, Oman, Sudan, Tunisia, UAE. Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Tonga, Kenya, Madagascar, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Grenada, Guyana, USA, Bangladesh, India (Chair) Indonesia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Israel, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, UK.

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