Berlin World Health Forum – how corporations frame health as a ‘choice’
The 14th World Health Summit is taking place in Berlin from 16-18 October with around 5,000 participants and speakers, including a large range of corporations and their front groups with the main theme: – “Making the Choice for Health.” The Summit will illustrate how private sector interests have captured public and multilateral institutions and how terms such as inclusion, transparency, innovation and opportunity are used to defend and strengthen the commercial practices that subvert and undermine health.
For those in Berlin we encouraged a very different event: the Human Rights Film Festival – showing of Tigers – the story of the Nestle Whistleblower.
Worryingly, for the first time, WHO will be co-hosting this event – a development that raises important questions from a democratic governance perspective and illustrates the confusion in WHO’s Conflict of Interest policy, a policy that deviates from standard legal understanding. (Abbott, a major producer of breastmilk substitutes at the centre of the food safety scandal was a partner of the WHS) Although there are many WHO texts that contain Conflicts of Interest safeguards relating to infant and young child feeding – there are eight WHA resolutions and many Guidelines – these all sit amongst many other WHO texts that are littered with ill-defined and inappropriate terminology that encourage ‘partnerships’ with the private sector. Terms such as ‘shared desirable outcomes’, ‘values’, ‘genuinely committing’, ‘mutually reinforcing’ and ‘ common goals’ – are ripe for exploitation by corporations and their front organisations who have no democratic accountability. Indeed the only clear prohibition for engagement in WHO’s over-arching Framework for Engagement with Non State Actors (FENSA) is with manufacturers of tobacco or arms. Given the crises the world is facing, this muddled, inconsistent and out of date approach is unacceptably risky.
An example of the confusion caused by WHO’s mixed messaging is the newly formed WHO Foundation. News that the Foundation accepted $2.2m (£1.97m; €2.26m) from Nestlé in 2021. caused an internal furore at WHO. The Foundation has now told the British Medical Journal BMJ that as a result of this “feed back” it had redirected the money and has now strengthened its “gift acceptance policy.” In future, the Foundation will accept contributions only from companies that do not compromise “WHO’s integrity, independence, credibility, and reputation.”
Commenting on the move, Laurence Grummer-Strawn of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development said that WHO was “very upset” on discovering the contribution and had demanded that the foundation return the money. “The WHO Foundation was established to be distinct from WHO, to give it more flexibility to receive funding from the private sector, to not be constrained by the same bureaucratic constraints that we have,” he said. “When we found out about this, the WHO was very upset and said, ‘This can’t happen. You have to reverse this now.’ And we discovered we had no legal way of forcing [the foundation] to turn the money back or to change their policies.“Since then, we have had discussions to say we can’t legally force you, but you realise you are using the WHO name and you are doing something that is in violation of the World Health Assembly. And they said, OK, we won’t do that again. So we’ve corrected it, but we didn’t correct it fast enough that they were willing to turn the money back and say, ‘We made a big mistake.’ We’re left with this mark against us.”
https://www.bmj.com/content/379/bmj.o2468. Formula milk- WHO Foundation refuses to take further financial donations from Nestle
Its worth noting that in 2011, IBFAN, the People’s Health Movement, Medicine sans Frontier and Declaration de Berne successfully joined forces to stop the development of such Forums.
17 May, 2011
WHO Global Forum in Moscow. Tackling food-related diseases: voluntary measures or regulation – carrot or stick?1 May, 2011
1 May, 2011
It may be possible to listen into the sessions here: https://www.worldhealthsummit.org
The main partners of the WHS below.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, ENI Foundation
German Federal Ministry of Health, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Siemens Healthineers, Wellcome Trust, YouTube Health
Bayer, Berlin Senate for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, European Commission, European Investment Bank
German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Robert Bosch Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation
Abbott, (a major producer of breastmilk substitutes at the centre of the food safety scandal) Boehringer Ingelheim, Fondation Botnar, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research Max Planck Society
Some useful presentations and materials on multi-stakeholderism
From the Transnational Institute:
Good to see some protest outside the conference from the Animal rights group – Four Paws – Animal Welfare Worldwide