Forgotten lessons: WHO, Big Tobacco and protecting the integrity of WHO decision making

Exerpt from my forthcoming book, chapter 4:

In July 2000 the WHO Committee of Experts on Tobacco Industry Documents released a 260 page report documenting the tobacco industry?s strategies to undermine the work of the WHO. At the same time the WHO issued a 15 page response document listing detailed steps to ensure that the WHO was never undermined again. Just a few of the 58 recommendations were as follows:

#6. WHO should urge other UN organisations to investigate possible tobacco company influences on their decisions and programs, and to report their findings publicly.

# 7. WHO should advocate implementation and consistent enforcement of effective conflict of interest and ethics policies throughout UN agencies.

#8. WHO should urge Member States to conduct their own investigations of possible tobacco company influence on national decisions and policies, and to publish reports on their findings.?

#11: Appoint an ombudsman or other independent officers, outside the standard lines of reporting authority, with autonomy and clear authority for enforcing ethical rules.

#12. Disseminate conflict of interest rules more broadly.

# 14. Introduce a formal process for vetting prospective employees, consultants, advisers, and committee members, to identify conflicts of interest.

# 19. Prohibit employees, consultants, advisers, and committee members from holding any substantial financial affiliation with the tobacco industry, including any employee or consulting relationship. . . ?

#20. Disqualify any professional services from performing work on behalf of WHO if the firm also provides a tobacco company with services likely to be adverse to the interest of public health. . . ?

#21. Prohibit employees, consultants, advisers and committee members from accepting any item of value from a Tobacco company or its affiliates. . . ?

# 35. WHO and IARC should take steps to educate their scientific investigators and collaborators about tobacco company efforts to undermine research and the need for special vigilance in protecting the integrity of tobacco-related research.?

Although the above sampling of WHO recommendations was in response to Big Tobacco?s attempts to undermine WHO integrity, the relevance to other large industrial interests is all to obvious. Just substitute "tobacco" above with 'telecommunications', 'power' or 'pharmaceutical'.

Unfortunately it seems the WHO has forgotten its lessons but who is to police the WHO?

Don Maisch



Conflict of interest at WHO


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