A compromise was struck at the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting, held from 17-25 January 2011, allowing a Swiss pharmaceutical industry representative to sit on a committee selecting proposals for research and development (R&D) financing for neglected diseases, despite the fact that he is author of one of the proposals. In light of the fact that a predecessor working group fell prey to allegations of conflict of interest and lack of transparency, WHO added special safeguards to prevent undue influence, but questions remain for some about conflict of interest. The compromise was reached in the margins of the meeting after developed countries threatened to subject other committee appointees to scrutiny. Developing countries, including those with burgeoning generics industries also have candidates on the 21-member expert committee, though none is considered as directly positioned to benefit from the outcome. Critics say the Swiss private sector proposal could be worth billions of dollars to developed country brand-name pharmaceutical companies. Thailand raised concerns about the proposed expert and Brazil argued that equity in global health was at stake.
The author presents in this paper how in the name of 'reform', against a backdrop of a funding crisis, a greater collaboration between WHO and big business is being justified. She provides a historical overview of the process which began in 1992 with the drive for UN 'reforms', naming it as a euphemism for the neoliberal restructuring of the world body. Both the idea of attracting more funding from private foundations and the commercial sector and the notion of dealing with global health and nutrition matters through multi-stakeholder approaches are argued to carry major risks to WHO's role as the highest authority in international public health. Even though the regular World Health Forum is abandoned at the moment, the notion of greater involvement of the private sector as legitimate 'stakeholders' in public health affairs is not. She calls for an urgent reflection on whether this path should be pursued, noting that the 'privatisation' of public agencies and spaces increases the reliance on private sector funding, as well as inviting profit-motivated actors into public decision-making forums, and sometimes removing specific public issues from the public sphere altogether. This is seen to be the opposite of ensuring financial independence of public institutions and safeguarding and enlarging of spaces for public debate.
The UN health chief urged countries to come up with new ways to make medicine for HIV/AIDS and other diseases more affordable in the world's poorest countries, without stifling innovation among pharmaceutical companies. WHO's 193 member states are looking to forge a global strategy on the highly divisive issues of drug development, patenting and pricing.
The World Health Organization made a unique proposition: what if big donors pooled resources to take out private insurance to pay for vaccines in the case of a bird flu pandemic? WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said WHO had been given more preparation time than it could have hoped for ahead of an influenza pandemic. WHO is using that time to study various financing options to allow low income countries to access vaccines and prevent a pandemic catastrophe that could kill millions of people.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is under siege by private sector forces using their financial leverage to gain undue influence in the financially beleaguered United Nations agency, according to the author. He makes this assertion from observing developments such as the presence of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates sharing the stage with WHO Director General Margaret Chan at the World Health Assembly in 2011, in the presence of industry interests at a civil society meeting before the 2011 UN summit on non-communicable diseases or from the private-sector influence in the increasingly powerful global foundations in health. Many corporate giants are noted to have been adopted by WHO since 2010, as private sector partners working together for ‘better global health’.
The origins of this public-private sector partnership process can be traced to WHO’s chronic funding problems and in the search for extra resources, the private sector funding of foundations has become more influential. The author points to concerns of industry influence in the reform proposals of WHO and asks the question whether the Director General's actions in promoting public-private partnerships have been at odds with her speeches on defending the basic mandate of WHO to promote the public health interest on the global stage?
Is government responsible for ensuring public health? Is it necessary for public entities to deliver this public good? Who else might serve the unprofitable urban poor?
Public services are being liberalized world wide, opened to foreign service providers, often turned into private services through privatization, commercialization, marketization, and deregulation. Yet the privatization of public services means that many, many people can no longer benefit from such services because they cannot pay, or because they do not belong to the social class for whom the private services are intended. The document discusses how little is known about the changes taking place in services long-considered to be a public "right", or about the widening social disparities that result from liberalization.
The cost of private health care is rising so rapidly that it is in danger of becoming unaffordable to all but the wealthy. The punch-drunk public health sector is, however, failing to provide an alternative for the average salaried person. Everyone, from blue-collar workers to senior executives, is clamouring for more affordable, quality health care. A radical new deal is needed for the private and public sectors. New ways of delivering and funding health care must be created. Both sectors are on the ropes and are being forced to act.
A group of international civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the World Bank to implement smart procurement guidelines that support the development of the domestic private sector of developing countries. This submission calls on the World Bank to review its procurement guidelines so that they become an economic policy tool which is pro-poor, promotes domestic industry development and empowerment, reduces asymmetries between local and foreign companies in order to create a truly level playing field, focusing in particular on SMEs and works towards poverty eradication, sustainable development and mitigating climate change. The Bank should become a development tool, considers social and environmental criteria, and creates incentives for all private actors to behave in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. It should also respect transparency and accountability, emphasising that accountability to citizens in developing countries matters most. The Bank can play a catalytic role in strengthening domestic accountability through its procurement practices, the CSOs argue. Finally the Bank should increase the effectiveness and developmental impact of aid and ensures that the larger share of aid inflows remain in the recipient countries.
Water, the most precious global resource, was the subject of World Water Day on March 22. This was preceded by the World Water Forum, held between 16-22 March, where officials from 140 countries met to discuss how to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Patrick Bond discusses the “water wars” – the battle by activists against the global trend that seeks to turn the delivery of water into a commercial enterprise.