PHM attended the Human Rights Council discussions in Geneva

18 Jul 2014

A PHM activist, also a part of PHM's WHO Watch program, attended the Human Rights Council discussions in Geneva and shared the key elements of the discussion through our skype channel.

On 11 June 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, presented a report to the Human Rights Council, focused on unhealthy foods and non-communicable diseases. The Report can be found here:

The report highlights the role of junk food in spreading malnutrition and stresses that the policies of globalisation have not only increased the free flow of unhealthy foods, but also allowed this flow to be controlled by TNCs. Grover highlighted that while the international community has failed to consider the health impacts of these policies, aggressive marketing by TNCs have strengthened the impacts,. He also underlined the role of Free Trade agreements in furthering these policies and criticized the secrecy of FTAs’ negotiations.

In its intervention, the WHO secretariat commended the report.

During his presentation, SR Grover stressed that States have non-deniable obligations to ensure safe and healthy foods and are warranted to intervene when third parties are influencing food habits which lead to unhealthy ones, especially when they target children and low income groups.

Uruguay denounced the litigation brought against its government by tobacco company Philip Morris and questioning its progressive policies on prevention of tobacco use and underlined that this represents an attack on the right to health.

Several countries highlighted the link between increase in obesity rates and foreign direct investment in the food sector and stressed the importance of protecting local food production, including through the restriction of imports of manufactured foods. In this regard, Venezuela shared it's national program to upgrade food habits through support to production, distribution and retailing of locally produced healthy foods.

In his response to the debate SR Grover underlined the importance of formulating binding rules for TNCs in order to protect victims of HR violations by these entities. He referred to the ongoing discussion on this respect in the Council, which led, a few days later, to a resolution creating an intergovernmental working group with a mandate to report on a framework for such a proposition.

The report includes 20 recommendations for states and the food industry. With regard to the food industry, they include to abstain from undermining public health nutrition efforts, including through such means as funding and publicizing biased research, instituting front groups and conducting expensive and onerous litigation.

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