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Home > Intergovernmental institutions > World Health Organization >  Alcohol controversial item at World Health Assembly

Alcohol controversial item at World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly in Geneva in May discussed strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm. In spite of broad support from many of the WHO member countries to a resolution calling for global action on the harmful use of alcohol, the discussion ended in a stalemate. The WHO Executive Board will take up the issue again in its meeting in January next year.

Øystein Bakke

The World Health Assembly, which is the supreme decision-making body for WHO attended by delegations from all 193 Member States, discussed the technical issue “Evidence-based strategies and interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm" at its meeting in Geneva in mid May. A draft resolution on “Global action on the harmful use of alcohol” was tabled co-sponsored by some 40 countries, but the discussion ended in a stalemate. The Assembly was not able to reach a decision. The draft resolution was deferred to the next meeting of the WHO Executive Board.

The Resolution WHA 58.26 “Public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol” from 2005 was the starting point for the process. The resolution asks the Director General of WHO to report back at WHA60 in 2007. For this purpose the Secretariat had prepared two reports based on the process which had been going on over the last two years:

A60/14: Evidence-based strategies and interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm

A60/14 Add.1: Global assessment of public-health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol

Just prior to the WHA the secretariat also released the recommendations of the WHO Expert Committee on Problems Related to Alcohol Consumption.

Based on all this there was an initiative to table a new draft resolution which would ask the Director General to continue the work and draft a Global Strategy. The draft resolution was initiated by Sweden and cosponsored by some 40 countries. When the item was discussed it was a long discussion with a lot of countries taking part. Many countries were speaking in support of the draft resolution. Some countries attacked the process and through that approach tried to stall the process. The strongest opposition was raised by the Caribbean countries and Cuba in particular. Germany spoke in support of the resolution on behalf of all EU and other European countries. Zambia did the same on behalf of the 46 AFRO-countries. They wanted to include a reference to the role of alcohol in the spread of infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS).

When no agreement was reached in the committee discussion, the item was referred to a drafting group. Even this discussion stranded and the item went back to the committee with no conclusion. From there the item was deferred to the WHO Executive Board meeting to be held in January 2008.

The final decision can be seen in the Sixth report of Committee A which is document A60/63 on this page: http://www.who.int/gb/e/e_wha60.html



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