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Fighting big business interest in health governance

The increasing corporate influence in global health governance is pointed out at the 70th World Health Assembly.

Discussions on the health of the world’s populations kicked off last week amid concerns over the growing impact of the corporate sector on global policies. Together with delegates from IBFAN-GIFA, Baby Milk Action/IBFAN UK, FIAN International is urging further accountability and effective safeguards against undue corporate influence, as the latter proves detrimental to people’s human rights.

In a statement, civil society noted that emergencies are proving to be major opportunities for commercial exploitation and for the expansion of the ‘Business of Malnutrition’. This has been observed with unsolicited donations of breastmilk substitutes and baby food products, the organizations said.

In relation to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), civil society expressed concern about the WHO Global Coordinating Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. This mechanism gives disproportionate promotion to corporations that promote unhealthy foods and are involved in land-grabbing and mono-cropping, thereby discouraging biodiverse and wholesome foods.

Commenting on the biennial outcome report of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), IBFAN, FIAN International and the People’s Health Movement (PHM) highlighted the need for the work program of the Decade of Action on Nutrition to comply with the human rights framework and to guarantee access to effective and timely remedies for victims. As echoed in a statement, it is necessary to include the promotion and protection of women’s rights as a crosscutting element of all areas of intervention and to ensure that trade and investment agreements do not harm human rights.

As for the implementation plan of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, the organizations welcomed the inclusion of some of their crucial inputs in the draft plan and recalled that breastfeeding constitutes a human right. States have the obligation to provide mothers with accurate, unbiased information as well as counseling from the start of their pregnancy, so too a minimum of 6 months of maternity leave.

IBFAN and FIAN International have also raised concerns about the Framework for Engagement with Non State Actors (FENSA) and its definition of ‘partnership’ ‘stakeholder’ and ‘trust’, as the current terminology is allowing corporations and philanthropies to shape public health decision-making processes, thereby undermining governments, the UN and peoples’ human rights. 


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  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine and supervise policies, appoint the Director-General and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • On 1 April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution ‘Decade of Action on Nutrition’, described as a leap forward in galvanising international action on nutrition. It aims to “accelerate implementation of the ICN2 commitments, achieve the Global Nutrition and NCD targets by 2025 and contribute to the realization of the SDGs by 2030”.