United Nations and business

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World Economic Forum - a help or a trojan horse?

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer account for 60% (35m) of total worldwide deaths Reduction of NCDs should ideally be included in the Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Undernutrition and overweight, which are associated with sub-optimal breastfeeding, contribute significantly to NCDs. 

Our work with WHO focuses on the control of inappropriate food marketing, so we pay close attention to WHO’s interactions with the private sector. Together with public health NGOs we have been concerned about the formation of a new Global NCD Network. The Conceptual Framework for this new body proposes that the World Economic Forum (WEF) be a member of its International Advisory Council (IAC) which would provide ‘strategic guidance’ to WHO and advice on ‘prioritizing possible responses.’

Peter Brabeck, Nestle Chair, (along with Tony Blair) is on the Board of WEF, which has 1,000 member companies, most with turnovers over $5bn.

We believe that allowing WEF to join the IAC would create a potential for undue influence of WHO policy and would send the wrong message to Member States. We have asked WHO to allow only public health bodies alongside Member States on the IAC. Once priorities are agreed, the Private Sector could then be consulted to act as multipliers and to encourage members to work towards well defined public health goals.

At the first NCD Network meeting in October, WEF was described as having no commercial agenda. However, in his presentation for WEF, Dr. Raynaud mirrored Nestlé’s approach and language, referring to Wellness, Respect and Trust, the ‘business case for investing in health’ and the need to stimulate new market opportunities through Public Private Partnerships. 

WHO has assured us that it has not yet decided and that our views will be considered seriously.



UNHCR poised to Bluewash Nestlé

We have had disturbing news that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is in discussion to expand a substantial partnership with Nestlé on water, sanitation and livelihood development. Nestlé joined UNHCR’s Council of Business Leaders in Jan. 2005.

ACTION: Please write to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, UNHCR, Case Postale 2500 CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt, Switzerland (fleming@unhcr.org) calling for a rethink on account of Nestlé’s continued violation of human rights, not only in respect of the International Code, but on the many other issues listed on Page 21.

Taking money from a Code violator undermines any work UNHCR or the UN system as a whole strives to do on infant and young child survival.


UPDATE: Press release 23 November 2009: UNHCR uses 'due diligence' and abandons 

US$ 5 million deal with Nestlé


World Health Assembly - One Million Campaign 

Representing Save the Children, we joined the IBFAN team for the WHA in May. IBFAN’s Dr Arun Gupta, presented a petition of 45,000 names to the President of the World Health Assembly, H.E Mr N S de Silva, calling on governments to end the promotion of baby foods aimed at children under age two by 2015. (135,000 people have now signed the petition).

ACTION: See film clip and add your name online: www.onemillioncampaign.org

In an intervention on behalf of Corporate Accountability International, Dr Gupta called for an end to partnerships with the baby food industry, and drew delegates attention to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).1 This calls on governments to protect their health policies from interference by the tobacco industry. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) falls within the FCTC’s definition of advertising and sponsorship and a new law in Mauritius bans CSR by the tobacco industry.

1. www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf


Breastfeeding an MDG indicator?

At the WHA our call for breastfeeding to be used an indicator for tracking progress on the MDGs progressed. The 2009 World Health Statistics now include exclusive breastfeeding for the first time. (UNICEF already includes breastfeeding as an indicator for MDGs.) Norway urged “Member States to ensure inclusion of early and exclusive breastfeeding in the list of indicators for tracking progress on MDG 4 and to request the Director General to use her good offices to advocate this inclusion within the UN system.”


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