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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

Health governance in the public interest? WHO redefines conflicts of interest and risks undermining public health mandates.

Judith Richter, Affiliate of the IBME, has been Scientific Organizer and Speaker at the conference.

Ever since public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been hailed as a key policy model, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been promising to upgrade its conflict of interest measures to ensure its mandate is not jeopardized by overly close relationships with private sector actors. WHO has not honoured these promises and the world has failed to pay attention.

Instead, a dangerous policy shift has occurred. WHO has moved from neglecting conflict of interest issues to blurring the entire conflict of interest concept. Warnings about the risk this shift poses to WHO’s integrity, independence, and trustworthiness have been ignored.

The press conference, which was held just prior to the 71st World Health Assembly, focused on conflicts of interest in relation to the emerging system of undemocratic global ‘multi-stakeholder governance’. The aim was to stimulate debate about undue influences in health and nutrition policy-making and the need to prevent the reduction of WHO’s role to that of a fundraiser and broker of public-private hybrids.

Key actions proposed included: correcting problematic policy documents such as WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), questioning harmful discourses and entanglements, and opening up space for public scrutiny.

Introduction by Alessia Bigi, MA, International Baby Food Action Network - Geneva Infant Feeding Association (IBFAN-GIFA), IBFAN Global Liaison Office



Judith Richter, Senior Researcher & author. Presentation: Global health and nutrition governance and the politics of conflicts of interest

David Miller, Professor of Sociology. Presentation: Mapping the web of influence - Conflict of interest and the corporate capture of science, civil society and policy

David Klemperer, MD, Professor of Public Health and Social Medicine. Presentation: There’s no such thing such a free lunch


Webcast of the presentations

Pdfs of the full presentations