WHO Members Discuss Engagement With Non-State Actors This Week 27/03/2014 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The World Health Organization this week is holding an information consultation with member states on the UN agency’s engagement with “non-state actors.” The meeting follows a request by member states at the January WHO Executive Board to pursue discussions on a framework for the organisation’s engagement with non-state actors, which has been changing in recent years. The informal consultation is being held from 27-28 March, in a closed meeting. According to the draft agenda [pdf], the objectives of the meeting are to invite member states to provide comments to the proposed framework [pdf] for engagement with non-state actors presented at the last WHO Executive Board meeting (IPW, WHO, 24 January 2014). Member states are also invited to consider different operational procedures relating to the engagement of WHO with different types of non-state actors (NGOs and private sector), as well as a policy defining how risks of engagement are managed within the secretariat and transparency increased. The result of the informal consultation will allow the WHO secretariat to draft proposals to be submitted to the World Health Assembly from 19-24 May, according to the draft agenda. At the January Executive Board meeting, the issue of WHO’s engagement with non-state actors fuelled discussion, as countries remarked on the different nature of non-state actors, whether they are industry or profit-oriented, or public interest NGOs. They underlined the necessity to protect WHO from undue influence, conflicts of interest, and to preserve its integrity. At that time, some developed countries said they would prefer that all non-state actors be assessed in the same way. During this week’s informal consultation, member states are expected in particular to comment on the rationale for engagement of non-state actors, as presented in the framework and the overarching principles guiding WHO’s engagement, according to the draft agenda. The five over-arching principles guiding the engagement of the WHO with non-state actors are the following: (a) demonstrate a clear benefit to public health (b) respect the intergovernmental nature of WHO (c) support and enhance the scientific and evidence-based approach that underpins WHO’s work (d) be actively managed so as to reduce any form of risk to WHO (including conflicts of interest) (e) be conducted on the basis of transparency, openness and inclusiveness During the Board meeting, WHO Director General Margaret Chan said about the organisation’s engagement with such actors: “We are not doing this for money.” Two red lines cannot be crossed by non-state actors, she stated: the policy space of states and the technical standards space of WHO. She asked that civil society organisations act as whistle-blowers. Currently 190 nongovernmental organisations are in official relations with WHO, according to the WHO list. Some civil society groups have raised concerns about some NGOs in official relations with WHO. For example, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), after being approved as an NGO working in official relations with WHO at the January Board meeting, said in a release that the absence of clear rules of engagement led to what they deem to be incorrect decisions by the Board. They cited the example of the International Special Dietary Foods Industries, which were not granted the status of an NGO in official relations with WHO in January, while such status was awarded to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), which IBFAN describes as “a public-private entity with assets of US$61 million.” Furthermore, they asserted that some industry groups have “incorrectly gained NGO status with WHO,” such as Croplife International, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, DuPont, and the International Life Sciences Institute, which they say represents companies such as Nestlé, Coca Cola, Kellogg and Pepsi. In a January release, GAIN said, “The WHO decision concludes a week of recognition for GAIN’s achievements within the UN System to address malnutrition.” The WHO webpage on the non-state actor issue is here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WHO Members Discuss Engagement With Non-State Actors This Week" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.