Statement on Conflicts if Interest delivered at WHA on behalf of HAI, Berne Declaration, KEI, TWN, PHM, IBFAN

Date: 
20 May 2011

Today Health Action International, represented by one of its members, Patrick Durisch, delivered the following statement at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Agenda Item 13.5 Global Immunization Vision and Strategy

64th WHA, item 13.5, 20.05.2011

Statement on the management of conflicts of interest in global immunization governance

Thank you, Mr Chairman, for this opportunity to address the member states and express our concerns about governance of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health bodies, as regards the management of conflicts of interest in global immunization governance. This is a joint statement from Health Action International, Knowledge Ecology International, Third World Network, the Berne Declaration, the People’s Health Movement and IBFAN.

WHO and other public health institutions have complex relations with commercial entities that supply health care products and services. In some cases the commercial entities are subject to or in need of regulation, in order to protect consumers and promote the public interest. Public health institutions are also often engaged in buying goods and services, or providing financial assistance for such purchases.

It is therefore widely recognized that governments and public health institutions like the WHO must avoid conflicts of interest in all aspects of governance. WHO can only respond meaningfully to the challenges of public health through greater transparency and accountability guided by the priorities of Member States and the advance of public interest. However, transparency is a necessary but not sufficient safe guard: there must also be a clear approach and policy to ensure that those representing commercial interests are not part of policy and norm setting decision making.

We are concerned that proposals for the governance of the decade of vaccines, do not adequately address the management of conflicts of interest, and present an unrealistic and empirically unsupported assumption that all stakeholders will collaborate to advance the public interest.

We ask the WHO members to ensure that any changes in governance structures address in a realistic manner the risks that conflicts of interest will frustrate efforts to protect consumers and the public interest. In this regard, we emphasize also the importance of evaluating the conflicts of interest by pharmaceutical companies, vaccine manufacturer, other industries, and private donors who have complex private interests.

Specifically, we ask WHO members to guard against initiatives that will give private interests and donors a greater role in WHO governance. For this reason, we are calling on member countries to oppose the governance of the Decade of Vaccines, as well as the proposed WHO reform.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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