The 72nd Regional Committee Meeting of the World Health Organization in Europe (WHO Europe) has adopted a historic decision for the European response to the harm caused by the alcohol industry. RC72 adopted the WHO Framework for Action on Alcohol unanimously. In doing so all 51 WHO Europe Member States endorse a comprehensive plan with ambitious targets and a clear focus on the most evidence-based alcohol policy solutions to accelerate action on alcohol as public health priority across Europe.
Movendi International has partnered with WHO Europe Member States and civil society organizations to make alcohol policy the priority it should be, to bring alcohol policy back on the agenda of WHO Europe’s governing bodies in order to improve the response to alcohol harm at all levels.
Movendi International President Kristína Šperková has released a media statement putting the historic decision into context:
WHO Europe Regional Committee Meeting Adopts Historic Framework for Action on Alcohol
Movendi International Makes Five Recommendations For the Way Forward
After an intense 3+ year advocacy effort by Movendi International and our partners, we welcome and applaud the decision of the WHO Europe Regional Committee to adopt the new and historic European Framework for Action on Alcohol unanimously. After a lost decade for alcohol policy since 2010, the new Framework for Action on Alcohol is a crucial and urgently needed milestone to make alcohol policy the priority it should in Europe.
Countries across the region have largely been off track in reaching health and development related targets in terms reducing population-level alcohol harm. Now there is new momentum and clear political will and leadership to finally make use of the full potential of alcohol policy solutions to reach health and development for all Europeans.
The Regional Committe (RC72) discussion highlighted again the importance WHO Member States assign to accelerating action on alcohol. The RC72 decision was unanimously adopted after 12 statements from Member States all addressed the need to make alcohol policy a public health priority.
There’s strong support for ambitious targets and for country action through the Alcohol Policy Best Buys and the SAFER alcohol policy blue print.
The negotiations of the Framework and discussion during the committee meeting illustrate that governments and civil society broadly support the use of evidence-based language and the need to abandon flawed concepts, such as “the harmful use of alcohol” to better reflect the full burden of alcohol and its root causes.
There’s a strong mandate for the World Health Organization in Europe to lead on accelerating alcohol policy action, provide technical capacity to countries, and continue to strengthen the evidence base.
And there’s a strong and reverberating call from countries to counter-act commercial drivers of alcohol use and harm, to better protect people and communities, especially children and youth, from the products and practices of Big Alcohol, and for the protection of alcohol policy against alcohol industry interference.
The new European Framework for Action on Alcohol contains six focus areas that foster for high-impact action and facilitate country-specific adaption.
The plan contains proven elements with significant potential for the way forward. That is why we in Movendi International make five recommendations for the way forward:
- Adequately resource full implementation of the Framework, including at community level,
- Facilitate regular review of progress at the Regional Committee,
- Ensure effective mainstreaming of alcohol policy considerations in all relevant policy areas in health and beyond,
- Develop guidance to protect alcohol policy from industry interference, and
- Strengthen the governance of alcohol policy at regional level.
Movendi International and our partners on the community level call for active involvement of civil society, especially community-based groups and youth organizations, to ensure the promise of this new Framework is translated into action and real, positive change for people, communities, and societies harmed by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
We call for resourcing, accelerating, and regularly reviewing alcohol policy development and implementation. And we call for protections against alcohol industry interference.
This is a historic decision. Now we need bold action and full implementation of the Framework by all countries in the European region. We are ready to partner, support, and help advance alcohol policy as a catalyst for well-being and development for all.
Alcohol policy is a catalyst for sustainable development, universal health coverage, and economic productivity.
Movendi International is ready to support efforts to use the vast potential of alcohol policy to save lives, prevent harm, and promote of human potential.
Kristína Šperková, International President, Movendi International
Notes to the editor
More about the alcohol policy debate at the RC72 in Tel Aviv, Isreal
The Seventy-second session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe was held in hybrid format in Tel Avivi, Isreal, from September 12 to 14, 2022.
During WHO EURO RC72, health ministers and high-level delegates of the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region, as well as representatives of partner organizations and civil society, including Movendi International, gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel to deliberate and decide on critical public health issues, including a new Alcohol Policy Framework.
Alcohol policy will be on the agenda of WHO EURO RC72, after years of Movendi International advocacy to make alcohol policy the priority it should be.
- Agenda item 10: European framework for action on alcohol 2022–2025 (EUR/RC72/12): European framework for action on alcohol 2022–2025
- The draft decision text (EUR/RC72/CONF./10): European framework for action on alcohol 2022–2025
- Financial and administrative implications for the Secretariat of decision to adopt European framework for action on alcohol 2022–2025 (EUR/RC72/CONF./10 Add.1)
- Background document (EUR/RC72/BG/4 ): Turning down the alcohol flow. Background document on the European framework for action on alcohol, 2022–2025
- Information sheet (EUR/RC72/BG/14): European framework for action on alcohol, 2022–2025.
2010-2022 – Lost decade for alcohol policy progress
Europe has the highest rates of alcohol consumption per person, the highest prevalence of heavy episodic alcohol use, and the lowest rates of alcohol abstention in the world.
The Global Burden of Disease study for 2019 found that failure in tackling preventable non-communicable diseases has made the world more vulnerable to COVID-19. The study highlighted worrying data about alcohol’s contribution to the global burden of disease.
Alcohol remains one of the leading risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. It is the eight leading preventable risk factor of disease. The contribution of alcohol to the global disease burden has been increasing from 2.6% of DALYs* in 1990 to 3.7% of DALYs in 2019.
Overall, trends in alcohol consumption, alcohol’s contribution to the global burden of disease, and progress towards global targets are all pointing the wrong direction.
- Progress in the formulation and implementation of national and local alcohol policy solutions has been insufficient.
- Most countries, especially low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), have NOT implemented a comprehensive set of alcohol policies.
- Many countries are failing to implement the alcohol policy best buy solutions.
- Modelling forecasts that global targets to reduce alcohol use and harm will not be met.
- Out of 51 countries in the WHO European Region, only 16 reached the target of a 10% reduction of overall alcohol consumption between 2010-19. But 17 countries saw increases in alcohol use. Almost no progress was achieved since 2016 in the implementation of Best Buys alcohol policy solutions.
- Few countries use alcohol excise taxes as a public health policy to reduce consumption.
- Less than half use price strategies such as adjusting taxes to keep up with inflation and income levels, imposing minimum pricing policies, or banning selling below cost or volume discounts.
- Less than one-third of countries have regulations on outlet density and days of alcohol sale.
- Some countries, mainly LMICs in Africa, still have no legal minimum purchase age.
- Alcohol marketing regulation continues to lag behind technological innovations and e-commerce, including rapidly developing new delivery systems.
- Most of the countries that reported no restrictions across all media types were located in the African or Americas regions.
In recognising the growing alcohol burden and the lack of progress over the past decade, Member States entered into an extensive consultation process on regional level since 2019.
In this process an ambitious, evidence-based framework emerged that would set alcohol policy on a new track in the WHO European region – the region of the world with the highest alcohol consumption and related harms.
About Movendi International
With 130+ Member Organization from 50+ countries, Movendi International is the largest independent global social movement for development through alcohol prevention.
We unite, strengthen and empower civil society to tackle alcohol as serious obstacle to development on personal, community, societal and global level.