- As the AnnualSummitTakes Place This Week, Global LeadersHave an OpportunitytoScrutinize WHO's definition of transparency and accountability
Health Ministers from 194 countries will gather this week in Geneva to set the direction for future health policy around the world. JTI - Japan Tobacco International - is calling for the Assembly to urgently address an alarming transparency and accountability crisis at the heart of the World Health Organization (WHO) during discussions on the agency's reform.
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In a recent report, the WHO states that "...significant progress has been made towards meeting the objectives of being a more effective, efficient, transparent and accountable organization." This contradicts censorship practices that are 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 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, Global Regulatory Strategy Vice-President at JTI, stated: "Nobody would argue against the need for tobacco to be appropriately regulated, but there is 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. This begs the question: what does the WHO have to hide?"
JTI, a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of Companies, is a leading international tobacco manufacturer. It markets world-renowned brands such as Winston, Camel, Mevius and LD. Other global brands include Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Sobranie and Glamour. With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and about 26,000 employees worldwide, JTI has operations in more than 120 countries. Its core revenue in the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015, was USD 10.3 billion. For more information, visit http://www.jti.com.
1. Overview of reform implementation, World Health Organization, Report by the Director General, Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, Provisional agenda item 11.1, March 11, 2016, p.1.