Last month, USCIB hosted a high-level meeting between business representatives, senior staff from the World Health Organization and officials from the International Organization of Employers to discuss workplace and employee health initiatives, and to identify opportunities for collaboration between WHO and business.
The meeting included briefings from companies on their worldwide operations, initiatives for employees and the community within which they operate, and company participation in public-private coalitions to effect broad-based change. The WHO representatives discussed current work on workplace and employee health, including opportunities for private-sector engagement.
Since the WHO work will also be implemented with national governments – focusing on developing countries – discussion included how business can coordinate country programs with WHO national initiatives.
One model partnership is the WHO’s efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of leaded gasoline in developing countrie4s, especially Africa. Major petroleum and auto companies have worked with national governments, the United Nations Environment Program, the World Bank and other bodies to make lead-free gas – along with catalytic converters and more efficient automobiles – available in Africa. The resulting improvements in air quality have directly improved the lives of around a billion people.
Also participating in the meeting were senior representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, who updated participants on the WHO’s new International Health Regulations. Revised following the SARS epidemic, these regulations constitute the international legal framework for response during such epidemics by governments, the WHO and other stakeholders. Pandemic preparedness and coordination between business, supply chains, government and international organizations were also explored.
The meeting concluded with strong agreement that business is a key stakeholder for the WHO’s work in this field, and that there are many other opportunities where collaborations and partnership could be beneficial. There are concrete actions for follow-up, and a mutual desire to maintain an ongoing dialogue.