Gates Foundation, KEI Enter Into Official Relations With WHO 31/01/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments 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 Executive Board ended its meeting a day early today, and agreed to have five new institutions to enter into official relation with the organisation, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, despite protests from civil society groups, and Knowledge Ecology International, led by activist firebrand James Love. Meanwhile, the WHO is pursuing the implementation of its framework of engagement with non-governmental actors adopted in 2016. WHO members urged the organisation to speedily provide implementation tools such as a register of all such actors. The WHO said all is on track and is expected to be ready by the next World Health Assembly. Delegates and “non-state actors” interact freely at WHO The Executive Board meeting is taking place from 23 January to 1 February. The WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) was adopted at the 2016 World Health Assembly. It is expected to reduce the risk of conflict of interests, and protect the WHO from undue influence by non-governmental actors, such as the private sector, foundations, academia, and civil society. A report [pdf] was submitted to the EB by the WHO secretariat, and noted today. A separate document [pdf] dealt with non-state actors (NSAs) in official relations with WHO, including a draft decision, which was also adopted today. The draft decision included a list of five candidates for admission into official relations with WHO: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, International Rescue Committee, Knowledge Ecology International, and The Fred Hollows Foundation. The decisions also asked the Board to approve maintaining official relations with 58 non-state actors, defer decision on some others, and a list of institutions with which the WHO suggested discontinued relations (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2017). The EB also took note of a document [pdf] by the WHO secretariat listing criteria and principles for secondments from nongovernmental organisation, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions. The Gates Foundation is WHO’s largest private donor, and now has a voice in the policy side as well. KEI has been deeply engaged in WHO policymaking for many years, but had never been accepted for official relations of its own. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development lost its official relations status. Member States Eager to Get on With Implementation Among the actions to be taken by the WHO, according to the meeting document, are the establishment of an online public register providing basic information on all NSAs with which WHO engages, and electronic workflow, a process for due diligence, a guide for staff, and a “dedicated coordination mechanism.” Congo, on behalf of the Africa region, said the region hopes the framework is quickly implemented, and called for the guide for staff to be published swiftly by the WHO, and that the online public register of non-state actors be ready for the next World Health Assembly. The call to complete the public register was also voiced by countries such as the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Thailand. Several members stressed the importance of FENSA being implemented throughout the organisation, at headquarters, but also in WHO regional and national offices. Some Board members approved of the criteria proposed for secondments (officers on loan to WHO from outside sources) for non-state actors, such as the Netherlands and China. India says Missing Information in Report India considered that the report provided by the WHO secretariat on FENSA did not provide information on the engagements with non-state actors since the adoption of the framework. The Indian delegate called for information including the number of engagements with each type of non-state actor, the number of risk assessment carried out by the secretariat, the number of denial of engagements after the risk assessments, and steps taken to ensure evidence of management of risk. India also called for the “various guidelines and operational procedures” to be available in the public domain to ensure transparency. The delegate also said that the mechanism for “pooled funding from the private sector” is an “important concept of FENSA,” but is not mentioned in the secretariat’s report. He asked if details and guidelines from the secretariat on this mechanism are in the pipeline. WHO Secretariat Confirms Smooth Progress Ian Smith, executive director of the Director-General’s Office, said the WHO is fully committed to implement FENSA and noted that the organisation has two years to complete implementation, until the Health Assembly in May 2018. Answering to India, he said that the number of due diligences has increased by over 50 percent since the adoption of FENSA (600 in 2015, 972 in 2016). Smith confirmed that the handbook for NSAs and the guide for staff will both be in the public domain, and are on track to being finalised for the Health Assembly in May this year. The pilot register is expected to be finalised in April, he said, and operational from that time. A demonstration of the register is scheduled during the WHA, he said. It will however take some time to fully populate the register with all NSAs but all new NSAs will be added to the register by May, he said. Board Unperturbed by Concerns over Gates Foundation Despite vehement protests about a possible conflict of interest with the Gates Foundation, whose foundation trust invests in the junk food industry, from civil society and health groups who circulated a letter last week, and two interventions today, the Board members agreed with the draft resolution accepting the five proposed candidate to enter into official relations with the WHO (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2017). The statement by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) is here. The statement of Medicus Mundi International, and the International Organisation for Cooperation in Health Care is here. Reactions “KEI thanks Dr. Chan and her staff and the members of the WHO Executive Board for supporting and approving the application for KEI to enter into official relations with the WHO. There are many challenges to making access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests more affordable and access more equal, “Thiru Balasubramaniam, KEI Geneva representative told Intellectual Property Watch. “We are impressed with the new initiatives at the WHO to meet these challenges,” he said, adding, “KEI looks forward to contributing to these efforts.” [Update] The Gates Foundation issued a statement regarding its acceptance. “We’re honored that we’ve been invited to establish a formal relationship with the World Health Organization under its newly adopted framework for engaging with non-governmental organizations,” it said. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works closely with the WHO to help it achieve health goals through the global program of work approved by its member states. Meeting the requirements outlined in the framework will further increase the transparency of our engagement with WHO.” Image Credits: Catherine Saez 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."Gates Foundation, KEI Enter Into Official Relations With WHO" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.