Should UN General Assembly Be Platform For Big Alcohol?

As the United Nations General Assembly convenes, global health takes center stage in the coming three days — starting of with the first ever High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, followed by the third High-Level Meeting on NCDs and topped off by the high-level side event on alcohol policy, NCDs and SDGs on Friday morning. Alcohol is a major risk factor for both TB and NCDs, like cancer and cardiovascular disease and therefore in the coming three days unprecedented attention will be paid to the alcohol burden and the solutions we know are scientifically proven and economically smart to use in efforts to improve health, save lives and promote development.

Unfortunately the alcohol industry is also given a platform. Together with UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the UN, the Worldwide Brewing Alliance is discussing “the role of the brewing sector in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The event is by invitation only and scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, between 11.30AM and 1PM.

Interestingly, they have invited the CEO of the NCD Alliance, Katie Dain. But Katie declined attending, something that David Nabarro, former candidate to become Director-General of the World Health Organization, and issued a statement instead.

We are deeply troubled by the alcohol industry’s attempt to white-wash their horrendous Human Rights track record. And we are appalled by UN agwencies like UNITAR to continue to help Big Alcohol in doing so.

Here is my statement:

The alcohol industry, including global beer giants like AB InBev and Heineken, has amassed an appalling Human Rights track record in their merciless pursuit of profits. They are systematically using unethical business practices to sell and promote their harmful products. They are aggressively working to derail, obstruct and undermine WHO-endorsed, scientifically proven, high-impact alcohol policy solutions.
Alcohol policy solutions that save lives, promote sustainable development and improve health and safety for families, communities and societies worldwide. It is a disgrace for the United Nations and UNITAR in particular that such an industry is provided a platform to white-wash their image, abusing the 2030 Agenda. Alcohol is a major obstacle to sustainable development, adversely affecting 13 of 17 SDGs.
In order to achieve the SDGs it is important for all UN agencies and programs to safeguard against apparent conflicts of interest and to put the public interest first. We have previously called on UNITAR to end their partnership with the alcohol industry and today we must reiterate that call.”

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Originally published at IOGT International.