Summary of 2020 web-based consultation on the WHO working document

June Leung, SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand, has prepared a Summary of the 2020 web-based consultation on the WHO working document Developing an action plan to strengthen implementation of the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. See the Executive Summary below or download the full paper.

Executive summary
A web-based consultation was hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 16 November 2020 to 13 December 2020 on a working document for development of an action plan to strengthen implementation of the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. Stakeholders were invited to submit their comments and suggestions for consideration. The current report provides a summary of these submissions with respect to GAPA’s key advocacy points.

A total of 251 submissions was received from 73 jurisdictions, including 143 (57%) from civil society organizations, 22 (9%) from governmental institutions, 63 (25%) from industry organizations, and 23 (9%) from organizations with unknown affiliations. In comparison to the 2019 web-based consultation on implementation of the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and the way forward, entities representing the alcohol industry had substantially increased their number of submissions (from 43 to 63). While civil society organizations also saw an increase in submissions (from 113 to 143), governmental institutions showed a drop in submission numbers (from 33 to 22) despite the extended consultation period. However, further contributions by governmental institutions are expected at the regional technical consultations with Member States scheduled for early 2021. Notably, 21 submissions by organizations with unknown affiliations were think tanks belonging to the Atlas Network, which was funded by the tobacco industry and consistently opposed the alcohol policy “best buys”. However, it was unclear whether these think tanks had any links to the alcohol industry as WHO did not require respondents to declare conflicts of interest in this consultation.

Overall, almost half (47%) of all submissions partially or fully mentioned the need to address conflicts of interest or the role of economic operators in the Global action plan, while 43% mentioned the need to focus on the SAFER initiative or the alcohol policy “best buys”. Relatively few (28%) mentioned the need for more regular reporting on progress starting sooner and 16% mentioned the need to address equity or protect low to middle-income countries, highlighting areas where GAPA’s advocacy efforts could be strengthened. On the other hand, requesting WHO to further acknowledge the positive role of economic operators in the reduction of harmful alcohol use was a prominent message in the submissions by the alcohol trade associations and producers.