JTI urges new WHO D-G to 'get back to basics'

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR (May 25): Japan Tobacco International (JTI) is calling on the newly elected director-general (D-G) of the World Health Organisation to uphold the fundamental principles of transparency, sustainability and innovation, as it noted a number of abuses in recent years that put these fundamentals at risk.

In expressing its dissatisfaction with the United Nations (UN) agency in a statement today, it charged that the WHO today "has become ideology-driven, engaging in a fight against businesses, tobacco growers, and vapers when it should open itself up to scrutiny and see the merit of initiatives that are actually delivering results, no matter what individual positions are".

In particular, it referred to the last WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference, where it said WHO operated in direct contravention of the UN's fundamental principles as it held open debates behind closed doors, excluding journalists and the public.

"We expect the new D-G to terminate this culture of secrecy. Any individual or organisation seen to consult with anyone in the tobacco sector, including government representatives and experts with legitimate credentials, is in the WHO's line of sight," it claimed, adding that other UN agencies has been pressured to follow the same "dogmatic" practice.

It also accused WHO of bullying tobacco farmers and governments, and jeopardising many programmes which enhance tobacco communities' livelihoods and help them meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

"This includes Public Private Partnerships that have delivered concrete results which can only be achieved through sustained and collaborative efforts. Conversely, if companies didn't take their responsibility towards society seriously, the same organisation would no doubt point fingers at them.

"It is crucial for the new WHO regime to acknowledge the invaluable expertise, resources and rigor that legitimate companies can and should continue to provide to communities where they are established," it added.

In terms of innovation, JTI noted the FCTC has continued "to recommend the prohibition or restriction of e-cigarettes", even though JTI said these products do not contain tobacco and have the potential to reduce health risks.

Businesses, JTI said, wants a WHO which encourages innovation and choice through research and development, instead of "sliding into a contagious trend of product bans".

"We trust the new WHO director-general will take this opportunity to get back to basics by tackling the issue of transparency, keeping an objective view of sustainability in the developing world, and accepting that the innovation of next-generation products can help address some of the organisation's concerns," added JTI.

On May 23, the member states of WHO elected Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new WHO D-G.

Dr Ghebreyesus was nominated by the government of Ethiopia, and will begin his five-year term on July 1, 2017.