25 May 2005
"On behalf of Corporate Accountability International, I wish to emphasize the need for World Health Organization (WHO) support to Member States in ‘monitoring the impact of international trade agreements on public health,’ as referenced in the Secretariat Report. The potential tensions between trade and health underscore the need for WHO and Member States to protect public health policy from interference by vested commercial interests. On issues from tobacco to water to food, the profit motive of transnational corporations can run counter to the human right to health.
"The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provides important interpretive guidance to Member States on the relationship between public health and trade agreements by setting a new standard for global regulation of industries whose products and practices are harmful to public health. Member States recognized the conflict between trade liberalization and the increased spread of tobacco addiction, including the use of trade agreements to pressure developing countries to accept products of the tobacco transnationals, and sought to protect public health over the interests of the tobacco industry. We can no longer ignore the impact of corporations, trade agreements and global financial institutions on public health.
"Access to safe and healthy food and water are essential for life and good health. By 2025, some 3 billion people–80% of them in developing countries– will be suffering from water shortage. The rapid commodification of water is facilitated by trade agreements, and should be monitored closely for negative impacts on public health–particularly in poor regions already lacking adequate access to water. Corporate bottling facilities are draining millions of gallons of water every year from some of the poorest communities in the world, and corporations like Coca-Cola and Suez are aggressively turning water from a basic human right into an unaffordable luxury.
"For the first time in history, there are now an equal number of people– 1.1 billion–who get too much to eat as those who don’t have enough to eat. Global food corporations like Cargill and Monsanto, and their trade associations like the Grocery Manufacturers of America, maintain a stranglehold over the world’s food resources, and wield influence over trade agreements and global financial institutions. In the face of this global epidemic of hunger and obesity–afflicting both developing and industrialized nations–the World Health Assembly (WHA) has adopted a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Transparency and proper management of conflicts of interest are vital to its successful implementation.
"In accordance with the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the FCTC and WHA resolution 54.18, and the Millennium Development Goals, Corporate Accountability International urges WHO and Member States to monitor trade agreements and financial institutions vigorously to ensure their consistency with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. We further call on Member States strengthen checks and balances over potential conflicts of interest in pursuing the Millennium Development Goals. For example, WHO should share its experiences related to public-private interactions, including lessons about rejecting inappropriate suggestions for interaction.
"Finally, we recommend that WHO and Member States participate in the process underway in the UN Human Rights Commission, toward further development of Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights. Global norms and standards on the conduct of transnational corporations are an essential element of healthy, equitable development in the 21st century."
Corporate Accountability International, formerly Infact, is a membership organization that protects people by waging and winning campaigns challenging irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the world. For over 25 years, we’ve forced corporations–like Nestle, General Electric and Philip Morris/Altria–to stop abusive actions. Corporate Accountability International, an NGO in Official Relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), played a key role in development of the FCTC. For more information visit http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org.
Source: Corporate Accountability International