Press Release WHO/64WHO/PRIVATE SECTOR TALKS
30 September 1998
"We need open and constructive relations with the private sector and industry, knowing where our roles differ and where they may complement each other", said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland in her first speech after her election as Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO). She also emphasized the important role of the private sector both in technology development and provision of services.
As a first step to promote these relations, an informal luncheon seminar was organized on Thursday, 24 September 1998, at the headquarters of WHO for 25 business leaders participating in the Geneva Business Dialogue, convened by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
WHO representatives proposed areas of possible cooperation and discussed matters of possible contention in relations between WHO and the private sector, as regards, for example, the public health approach versus profit-making, tobacco-promotion, access to drugs, breast-milk substitutes, health technology and health insurance.
The moderator, Mr Manuel Martinez Dominguez, President of Columbia Laboratories, in Mexico, expressed basic agreement with WHO's emphasis on health as a fundamental right. He outlined common areas of interest such as maternity, childhood, and adult to old age health care issues, preventive medicine and a society-wide approach to prevent accidents, facilitate early detection, and develop health financing systems based on a lifetime payment scheme. He also stressed the importance of competition, elimination of bureaucracy, and Research and Development (RND), as well as the role of ICC as a partner with branches in more than 100 countries.
Both parties emphasized the importance of effective and equitable access to health care services, including essential drugs in developing countries. In addition, both parties decided to continue the dialogue with a view to identifying areas of strategic partnerships to address urgent international public health needs and to ensure access to affordable health care.
These informal talks were organized by the newly established External Relations and Governing Bodies cluster and WHO was represented by two Executive Directors, Dr Michael Scholtz, in charge of Health Technology and Drugs, and Dr Olive Shisana, in charge of Family and Health Services.
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