Who Will Lead the WHO?

Upcoming Elections

In May 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold its General Assembly. Member states will select who the new director general is to be. The WHO plays a major indirect role on the ongoing EU Health Commission discussions on tracking and tracing tobacco products as they have created clear guidelines on tobacco product tracing outlined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Who are the WHO Candidates?

Dr. Sania Nisthar

Dr. Nisthar is the former Pakistani Health minister and runs her own NGO called Heartfile. Dr. Nisthar is also the co-chair of the WHO Commission on ending child obesity.

Dr Nisthar was know for her fights against big tobacco in Pakistan. Below I have listed some of her feats in this regard:

  1. Active member on the International Non-Governmental Coalition Against Tobacco
  2. Heartfile promoted the “ban-TAPS” Campaign in Pakistan and celebrated “world no tobacco day”
  3. published articles against the tobacco industry.
  4. Conducted research  into socioeconomic influence on tobacco use

Dr. David Nabarro

Dr Nabarro has spend much of his career at the WHO and UN. Dr. Nabarro served in a verity of roles relating to nutrition and food safety. He has also spoken out against big tobaccos attempts to influence the WHO. He has stated in the past that the WHO “needed better safeguards from industry interests.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The only non-MD contender is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Dr. Tedros is a seasoned political actor who served in many prestigious and senior government roles in his native Ethiopia. He served as both foreign and health minister. Although not an MD, Dr Tedros is no doubt academically qualified for such a WHO role as he has a PhD on community health.

Dr Tedros’ relationship with big tobacco is a bit more complex that the other two candidates. I spoke to leading tobacco control activists in Africa expressed concern about Dr Tedros.

As foreign minister Dr Tedros seemed to facilitate BAT investment in Ethiopia which came in the form of a meeting with BAT officials while on a visit to The UK.

Additionally Dr. Frank Ashall an associate professor at an Ethiopian university  and now the director of Africa Tobacco-Free initiative has written articles apposing Dr Tedros’ candidacy.  Dr Ashall’s concerns revolve around  2016 Deal involving Dr Tedros that saw Japan Tobacco International purchase 40% ownership in the Ethiopian government owned National Tobacco Enterprise.

Dr Ashall explained in a comment o this blog that: “(Dr Tedros was) Foreign Minister at the time, and as a man who should care about expansion of tobacco and increased cigarette smoking in his own country, and as a man who is hoping to become WHO Director General, he should unquestionably have spoken out against this deal.”

I sent a series of questions to all three WHO candidates before writing this article. Unfortunately I did not receive responses from any of them.

Impact on EU Track ad Trace

The FCTC is of relevance in the greater context of my blogging as it explicitly states in article 8.12 that “Obligations assigned to a Party shall not be performed by or delegated to the tobacco industry.” This by extension extends to Inexto which was born out of the tobacco industry created technology called Codentify. Today Inexto’s core product remains the Codentify system and its senior staff are all those who created Codentify for big tobacco.

The WHO is the premiere body on which several EU member states have chosen to base their operating practices on. It is thus of critical importance that the WHO’s director general not just be divorced of tobacco industry ties but have a clearly demonstrable past of fighting the industry as a whole in the name of a healthier future.

We must insure that whoever becomes the WHO’s director general will proper carry out the FCTC and fight to exclude Inexto as a track and trace option in Europe.

Connections between DG SANTE, PWC and PMI.

logos

On June 22nd the EU Commission Tobacco working-group’s  Subcommittee on Tracibility and Security Features convened a meeting in which DG SANTE informed the committee that they have subcontracted consulting work to two firms to conduct both a feasibility and implementation study of potential track and trace solutions to be implemented across the EU. The question is: are these third party firms truly independent of tobacco industry influence.

proof of contract.jpg
Screenshot from DC SANTE document citing PWC and Everis as consultants on tractability solutions.

The Tobacco industry has produced and promoted a system called Codentify which they have begun implementing across Europe in an attempt to create an unavoidable reality in which their system must be chosen by default. In actuality this system may not even track or trace products and as the health conscious community raised concerns about the systems capabilities the tobacco industry sold the system off to a, so called, “Third Party” company named Inexto in an attempt to distance the product from themselves. This story I proudly broke to the EU observer some months ago.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has explicitly stated that Codentify does not meet their standard for a solid track and trace solution for the industry.

The two company’s assigned the consulting task by DG SANTE  are PWC and Everis. The hiring of such firms came as some surprise to those watching this committee closely and when the firms names where announced it was important to explore if these firms have an intrinsic interest in supporting a tobacco industry produced solution.

After just an initial search it is clear that PWC has strong ties to the tobacco industry which put their objectivity in inherent question. PWC are the primary auditors for Philip Moris International (PMI) and have in the past done auditing work for British American Tobacco (BAT) as well.

pwc
Proof from PMI’s website of an existing relationship with PWC.

Although this is just preliminary information I will continue to delve deeper into this issue and publish as more information comes to light.

 

Initially  DG SANTE refused to respond to requests for clarity on these matters but in recent days have responded. I will be including their full response in a follow up article.

The Tobacco Control Community and Regulaiton

Why The tobacco control community needs to re-address Codentify and industry regulation in general.

As time goes on more and more people seem to be writing me. Sometimes with questions, and sometimes with comments. I have received both threats and praises alike and obviously prefer the latter. Recently, I was asked why I take the time to write so much about Codentify instead of other important tobacco control issues.

I felt it important to answer publicly: Codentify is a stealthy move the tobacco industry is making in order to subvert even the most basic capabilities of the European Union and member state governments to keep tabs on their production process. This has massive implications on all other aspects of the industry’s impact in Europe and to a greater extent, the world.

This critical initiative on behalf of the tobacco industry is highly intricate and technical in nature. The minutia and technicality of the issue is how the matter has remained out of critical public Eye. Unlike the health affects of smoking or other mainstream tobacco control critiques, Codentify and regulation fraud is an unfamiliar language to the average European

Interestingly enough, those in the know have reached out to me from as far away as South Africa, Indonesia and the United States asking to collaborate.

I think in the coming months the public will begin to hear more and more about the tobacco industries attempts to steal the regulatory capabilities away from third parties and create a monopoly on insight into their production practices.

The Tobacco industry is extremely sophisticated and it seems they will try to sell Codentify to other industries in an attempt to look back and say “look it’s being used elsewhere.” we cannot let that happen and early awareness is critical.

In the coming months I will be more formally reaching out to critical activists around the world to bring attention to this overlooked issue that could become the linchpin for the tobacco industries greatest victory against humanity in decades.
Conversely, early awareness can lead to the tobacco control movements greatest success since the introduction of plain packaging and massive warning labels.