Friday, 12 March 2021

Cash for honours at the W.H.O.

The World Health Organisation has given the UK an award. Public health minister Jo Churchill picked it up on a Zoom call on Wednesday and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control made a little speech
We are very pleased that the United Kingdom has been awarded a 2020 United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force Award recognizing the UK’s role in the global prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. 
How exciting. 

The award recognizes the UK’s commitment to tackling tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries – through the FCTC 2030 project. 

What, you might ask, has the UK been doing to tackle tobacco use is low- and middle-income countries? 
The answer is that it has been bunging the WHO a lot of money. Specifically, it has been handing millions to the people at the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

This project was established with generous official development assistance funding from the UK Government, and is today also funded by Australia and Norway.
Generous is the word. No country gives more to the FCTC in assessed contributions than the UK on a per capita basis (the biggest contributors in absolute terms are the WHO's mates in China), but these payments only scratch the surface. The UK also gives the FCTC bonus payments, such as the £15 million (to be spent over five years) dished out in 2016. The British civil servant involved in this transaction landed himself a plum job at the WHO shortly afterwards. What a small world!
The trouble is that the agenda of the WHO - and the FCTC specifically - is diametrically opposed to that of the British government. While the UK encourages smokers to switch the e-cigarettes, the WHO wants to ban them. With the possible exception of Mike Bloomberg - who was also bestowed with an honour after giving the WHO lots of money - the FCTC is the biggest threat to tobacco harm reduction on the planet. 

The UK government is using taxpayers' money to finance prohibitionists and what are we getting in return? A little wooden plaque. This has to stop.

On a related theme, I strongly encourage you to watch this excellent little film from Yorkshire Cancer Research about vaping. This is what real public health work looks like.

No comments: