23/05/2023 - 3:47 pm
EMBARGOED 12:01AM CEST 23 MAY 2023
A group of 106 community and public health leaders from 60 countries and six continents are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to stop its closed-door meetings with alcohol lobbyists, which allow companies that profit from alcoholic products to have unprecedented access to leaders who are responsible for advancing global health.
To coincide with the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly, which is underway in Geneva, leading health advocates from around the world are calling out the secretive, annual invitation-only WHO meeting with alcohol company representatives.
In a joint letter, leaders from organisations representing public health, community, family violence, children’s rights and First Nations groups called on WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to stop engaging with alcohol lobbyists.
“Alcohol companies should not have a seat at the table where policy and programs to progress community health, wellbeing and safety is being developed, assessed or evaluated,” the letter said.
“The health, wellbeing and safety of our families and communities is far too important.”
Alcohol companies’ repeated efforts to undermine public health reforms have been observed in Australia and around the world.
In Mexico, multinational alcohol companies take millions of litres of water from drought-ravaged communities to produce beer, forcing communities to protest for the basic human right to access water.
In Ireland, alcohol companies have lobbied at every step to undermine the Public Health Alcohol Action Act, watering down its impact and delaying many measures, such as the rollout of mandatory warning labels spelling out the health risks of consuming alcoholic products.
In Australia, a large alcohol retailer spent five years trying to build a large bottle shop near a dry Aboriginal community in an area with high levels of alcohol harm, forcing the community to fight back.
In many African countries, multinational alcohol companies are deploying unethical practices to drive alcohol use, including using “beer promotion girls” and aggressive marketing that exposes children to alcohol promotions.
Ms Kristina Sperkova, President of Movendi International said preventing and reducing alcohol harm was crucial for the WHO to achieve its aim of giving every person an equal chance at a safe and healthy life.
“Alcohol companies and their lobby groups work relentlessly to undermine common sense measures to improve the health and safety of people across the globe. They should not be given unprecedented access to the very people who are responsible for advancing global health,” she said.
“Alcohol kills 3 million people a year globally, representing 5 per cent of all deaths. Among young adults aged 20 to 39 years, one in seven deaths are a result of alcohol. Every effort should be made to prevent this harm.”
Tran Tuan, Former Director of the Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD) said that stopping alcohol use will help Vietnam achieve its sustainable development goals by 2030.
“Alcohol crisis prevents Vietnam from achieving success in implementing 13/17 SDGs committed by 2030,” he said.
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RTCCD signed the open letter that raises concerns about closed-door meetings the WHO has with alcohol companies and their lobby groups: WHO Open Letter