Following several years of negotiations, last week in Geneva the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted updated rules that will govern how the World Health Organization (WHO) manages relationships with non-governmental actors, such as industry, philanthropic organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic institutions. The WHO Framework of Engagement with non-State Actors (FENSA) is intended to prevent conflict of interest and avoid the risk of undue influence of non-state actors on the work of the WHO. A copy of the FENSA resolution and text can be found here. FENSA will likely impact joint initiatives between WHO and other UN bodies, such as FAO, UNEP, etc. and could create precedents impacting business engagement in other UN forums.
Throughout the negotiations, USCIB has stated that in light of the magnitude and breadth of global health challenges, all stakeholders, including from business, should be involved in following and cooperating with WHO’s mission.
“USCIB has consistently emphasized the need for partnerships between business, governments and other stakeholders to fully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG3 on Health, and called on WHO to catalyze those partnerships wherever possible,” said Helen Medina, USCIB’s vice president for product policy and innovation. “It is now our hope that the WHO will implement FENSA inclusively so that member states and the secretariat may fully benefit from the private sector’s practical knowledge expertise, experience, resources and research.”
In particular, Medina noted that implementation should encourage and involve large business networks, such as the International Organization of Employers and the International Chamber of Commerce, in observing and furthering WHO’s work. Like other United Nations bodies, USCIB hopes WHO will seek the best expertise from the business community, and take advantage of broad business networks to further WHO objectives.
As next steps, the WHO secretariat will create a guidance document to facilitate the FENSA implementation, which is likely to be done in phases. Full implementation is to be achieved in a two-year time frame. The WHO secretariat will also establish a register of non-state actors in time for the next WHA in May 2017. The 2017 WHA is also expected to review progress on implementation of the framework at the three levels of the WHO and then take any decisions necessary to enable the full, coherent and consistent implementation of FENSA.
The FENSA resolution agreed on May 28 indicates that the WHO Executive Board will have a standing agenda item for reporting on FENSA implementation. In 2019, the implementation of the framework and its impact on the work of WHO will be evaluated, and the results of this evaluation will submitted together with any proposals for revision at the WHO Executive Board in January 2020.
USCIB will monitor how the WHO will implement FENSA and its impacts and implications for U.S. companies. USCIB will seek opportunities to inform the development of the WHO FENSA implementation guidance as appropriate, and monitor any precedents that may arise from FENSA in others UN forums.