TWN Info Service on Health Issues (Oct15/17) 
27 October 2015
Third World Network

WHO: Civil society protest over undermining of current negotiation on FENSA

Dear friends and colleagues,

On 15 October 44 civil society organizations and networks (increased to 61 signatories as of 26 October) addressed a letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, to express their concern over a “non-paper” prepared by the Secretariat and given to Member States right before the start of informal negotiations on the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) that took place from October 19 to 23 at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.

(See article titled: WHO Secretariat “scare mongering” on FENSA.)

The 68th World Health Assembly (WHA) had requested the Director-General to submit the finalized draft text to the 69th WHA (in 2016) through the 138th session of WHO’s Executive Board. The resolution also requested the Director-General “to develop the register of non-State actors in time for the Sixty–ninth World Health Assembly, taking into account progress made on the draft framework of engagement with non-State actors” and to convene as soon as possible, and no later than October 15, an open-ended inter-governmental meeting (OEIGM) to finalize the draft framework”.

Informal consultations have taken place in July and September with a formal round of negotiations scheduled to take place the first week of December 2015.

The letter to Dr. Margaret Chan is reproduced below.

With best wishes,
Mirza Alas
Third World Network

Dr. Margaret Chan
World Health Organization

Dear Dr. Chan

We, the undersigned, are from public-interest civil society networks and organizations who stand for a strong, independent World Health Organization (WHO) that does its work with integrity and deserves the trust of global citizens.

We write to express our concern about the “non-paper” titled “Implications of Implementing Framework of Engagement with Non-state Actors” that was issued by the Secretariat on 14 October 2015.

WHO Members States initiated the development of the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) to safeguard the independence, integrity and credibility of the WHO when engaging with ‘non-state actors’ (NSAs). FENSA was to provide a robust framework for engagement with NSAs to ensure the protection of the Organization from undue influence especially in its norms and standard setting functions.

The non-paper prepared by the Secretariat, portrays the implementation of FENSA as having “detrimental consequences on the work of WHO”, provides no constructive contribution to the new Member State-led process.  We question the motives behind such a paper as it comes in the middle of negotiations. It is purported prepared on the basis of a decision of the World Health Assembly (WHA). Yet, we do not find any such decision reflected in the WHA resolutions or the list of decisions.

We are very concerned that the paper by the Secretariat can undermine further strengthening of a FENSA and prevent it becoming a truly robust framework, as the paper lists the potential ‘unintended consequences’ often in an exaggerated manner, as assumptions, without providing any empirical evidence to back up these claims.

A robust framework is essential to protect the integrity, independence and credibility of WHO as it carries out its essential norm-setting tasks.  We refer here to your address at the Regional Committee of Europe on 15 September 2015, in which you stated:

“The new distribution of power raises an absolutely critical question for health in the sustainable development era. Who really governs the policies that shape our health? Is it democratically elected officials acting in the public interest? Is it multinational corporations acting in their own interest? Or is it both? That is, governments making policies that are heavily influenced by corporate lobbies.” (1)

While fully agreeing with your concern, we would like to point out that it is high time to take measures in the Organization to insulate WHO from corporate capture and other undue influences. It will be a step in the right direction if the final framework contains effective provisions for identifying risks of undue corporate influence, including conflicts of interest, and measures to avoid and when not possible, manage, such risks in a transparent and effective manner.

Moreover, currently, WHO does not have transparent and effective policies and tools to prevent such undue influences and risks.  As you are aware, the Organization lacks a comprehensive conflicts of interest policy within which the existing tools could be implemented, and new ones identified and developed, including capacity building for WHO staff. Therefore, it is very disconcerting that the FENSA provisions on conflicts of interest contain conceptual errors, despite repeated attempts by public interest advocates to highlight these in the governing body debates and in NGO statements. It is urgent to fix those errors.

We call upon you to ensure that your Secretariat supports a constructive finalization of a FENSA that includes robust provisions to prevent undue influence from the private corporate sector, including corporate philanthropy foundations, and that the secondary interest of WHO to secure funding does not collide with the WHO constitutional mandate, a conflict of interest that global public health cannot afford.

We thus kindly ask you to ensure that the Secretariat act in good faith and protect the independence, integrity and credibility of WHO. We stand ready to support your efforts in that direction.



  1. ACT+  Alliance for Tobacco Control and Health Promotion (Brazil)
  2. Action on Sugar and World Action on Salt and Health
  3. Alcohol Policy Youth Network
  4. All India Drug Action Network
  5. Alliance Against Conflict of Interest (AACI)
  6. Anti Drug Abuse Association of Lesotho (ADAAL)
  7. Arugaan Philippines
  8. Asociacion Centro Feminista de Informacion y Accion – CEFEMINA
  9. Associa็ใo Mama Mater/IBFAN Portugal
  10. Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
  11. Baby Milk Action
  12. Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation
  13. Berne Declaration
  14. Blue Cross Norway
  15. Blue Cross Thaba Bosiu Centre (TBC)
  16. Breastfeeding Network (UK)
  17. Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI)
  18. Centre for Science in the Public Interest (Canada)
  19. CESTA Friends of the Earth El Salvador
  20. Corporate Accountability International
  21. Diverse Women for Diversity (India)
  22. El Poder del Consumidor (Mexico)
  23. FIAN International
  24. FIAN Nepal and National Network on Right to Food Nepal
  25. First steps Nutrition Trust  (UK)
  26. Foundation for Research in Science, Technology & Ecology
  27. Global Policy Forum
  28. GNRTFN secretariat
  29. Haburas Foundation/ Friends of the Earth Timor-Leste
  30. Health Equalities Group
  31. Health Innovation in Practice (HIP), Geneva
  32. ICCO COOPERATION, India Office
  33. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society (India)
  34. Institute for Socioeconomic Studies - INESC (Brazil)
  35. International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)
  36. International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC)
  37. Knowledge Ecology International
  38. La Leche League Great Britain (UK)
  39. Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
  40. Medico International
  41. Medicus Mundi International – Network Health for All
  42. Mother and Infant Research Unit, University of Dundee (UK)
  43. NCT (UK)
  44. Osservatorio Italiano sulla Salute Globale (OISG)
  45. People’s Health Movement (Global)
  46. REDES-FoE (Uruguay)
  47. Responsible Approaches to Infant Feeding (RAIF). New Zealand
  48. RIPESS Intercontinental
  49. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (UK)
  50. SAAPA Lesotho
  51. Society for International Development –SID (Italy)
  52. The European Alcohol Policy Alliance
  53. The Housing and Land Rights Network
  54. Third World Network (TWN)
  55. UK Faculty of Public Health
  56. UK Health Forum
  57. WEMOS Foundation
  58. World Breastfeeding Tends Initiative
  59. World Obesity Federation
  60. World Public Health Nutrition Association
  61. Youth Network No Excuse Slovenia