Call for more transparency at WHO

| May 24, 2016

Japan Tobacco International is calling for the World Health Assembly (WHA) to address urgently what the company sees as ‘an alarming transparency and accountability crisis at the heart of the World Health Organization’.

Health ministers from 194 countries are meeting this week (May 23-28) in Geneva, Switzerland, for the 69th session of the WHA, the supreme decision-making body of the WHO.

A JTI press note posted on its website said that in a recent report the WHO had stated that “…significant progress has been made towards meeting the objectives of being a more effective, efficient, transparent and accountable organization”. But, JTI said, this statement contradicted censorship practices that were increasingly being witnessed at WHO meetings.

‘At the last Conference of the Parties (COP6) of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2014, members of the public and journalists were unjustifiably ejected from the public gallery, leaving them unable to observe and report on plenary sessions that are meant to be transparent,’ the press note said. ‘The alarming tactic of conducting proceedings behind closed doors has prompted concerns – notably by the media – that health lobbyists and non-elected parties are wielding undue influence over treaty negotiations.

‘These exclusion tactics go against basic transparency and accountability rules – and are in sharp contrast to other UN meetings. At the Sustainable Innovation Forum (COP21) on climate change in Paris earlier this year, some 3000 journalists were accredited, while political and business leaders from around the world actively participated in debates. Proceedings were open to the public and live-streamed on the internet. Businesses sponsored the event.’

Michiel Reerink, JTI’s global regulatory strategy vice-president at JTI, was quoted as saying that nobody would argue against the need for tobacco to be appropriately regulated, but that there was a right way and a wrong way of achieving that. “Excluding the public and the media from debates amounts to censorship, and is unacceptable from a publicly-funded organization,” he said. “This begs the question: what does the WHO have to hide?”

Category: Breaking News

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