Civil society organizations are concerned about the official endorsement of an official relation between WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) at the WHO Executive Board (EB) meeting this week. In an open letter to the EB, over thirty civil society organizations – including Wemos – expressed their concerns about conflict of interest.
The endorsement is one of the first examples of the implementation of the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA). We are concerned that FENSA does not contain strong provisions to avoid and/or properly manage the conflict of interest that could evolve from engagement with non-state actors like philanthropic organizations and international business alliances.
Conflict of interest
Now that BMGF is allowed to enter into official relations with the WHO, the foundation can attend and speak at the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board meeting, the governing bodies of the WHO. However, there is a conflict of interest: the foundation is entirely financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which is heavily invested in food, drug and alcohol companies. The fact that the trust benefits from sales of unhealthy consumer products does not coincide with WHO’s mandate to ensure health for all.
Integrity and credibility of WHO
During the EB meeting, only India strongly stated the necessity of a conflict of interest policy in addition to FENSA. Merely excluding actors with interests in the arms or tobacco industry is not sufficient. A careful look should be taken into the due diligence of official relations of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations if the WHO wants to protect its integrity and credibility.
Read more about FENSA: