The 75th Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA75) has adopted a historic decision for the global response to the harm caused by the alcohol industry. WHA75 adopted the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan unanimously and in doing so endorses a comprehensive plan with ambitious targets to accelerate action on alcohol as public health priority.
Movendi International has partnered with WHO Member States and civil society organizations to make alcohol policy the priority it should be, to bring alcohol policy back on the agenda of the World Health Organization’s governing bodies in order to improve the response to alcohol harm at all levels.
Movendi International President Kristína Šperková and Movendi International Vice President Pubudu Sumanasekara comment on the historic decision:
After an intense 4+ year advocacy campaign by Movendi International and our partners, we welcome and applaud the decision of the World Health Assembly to adopt the Global Alcohol Action Plan. After a lost decade for alcohol policy since 2010, the new WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan is a crucial and urgently needed milestone to make alcohol policy the priority it should be towards reaching health and development for all.
The World Health Assembly discussion highlighted again the importance WHO Member States assign to accelerating action on alcohol. The WHA75 decision was unanimously adopted after more than 40 statements, representing more than 110 countries 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.
There’s a strong mandate for the World Health Organization 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 Global Alcohol Action Plan contains weaknesses and troubling elements that many statements pointed out.
But the plan also contains promising elements with significant potential for the way forward:
- Bold targets,
- Ambitious action areas,
- Focus on what has been proven to work best, such as alcohol taxation, banning advertising, and reducing alcohol availability, and
- Improvements of the alcohol policy infrastructure at all levels.
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 action plan 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 day. Now we need bold action. We are ready to partner, support, and help advance alcohol policy as a catalyst for well-being and development for all.
Kristína Šperková, International Presdient & Pubudu Sumanasekara, International Vice President, Movendi International
Notes to the editor
More about the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan
A decision unanimously adopted at the 75th Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA75), the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), confirms that alcohol harm is a public health priority and that accelerated alcohol policy action has strong support from WHO Member States.
Member States made 40 statements, representing more than 110 countries, in the discussion of action to better prevent and reduce non-communicable diseases in general and alcohol harm in particular.
The deliberations during WHA75, culminating on Friday with a dedicated session to discuss the Global Alcohol Action Plan, showed that Member States consider the decade since the adoption of the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy in 2010 a lost decade for alcohol policy development, where progress on reducing alcohol use, related harm, and advancing alcohol policy solutions has largely been lacking.
2010-2022 – Lost decade for alcohol policy progress
But in 2019 and 2020 WHO Member States recognized this lack of progress.
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.
- No low-income country has reported increasing resources for implementing alcohol policy in the last decade.
- Many countries are failing to implement the alcohol policy best buy solutions, with LMICs more likely to have fewer evidence-based and cost-effective policies.
- Modelling forecasts that global targets to reduce alcohol use and harm will not be met.
- Without action, Africa could see an increase in both the absolute number and proportion of people consuming alcohol, the amount consumed per capita and heavy episodic alcohol use.
- Southeast Asia has seen a 29% increase in per capita alcohol use since 2010.
- 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.
- Alcohol remains highly affordable in the WHO Americas region. Between 2012-16, per capita consumption among alcohol users only increased, with 1 in 5 alcohol users consuming heavily.
- 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 global and regional levels of more than two years to find solutions for how to accelerate action on alcohol as public health priority.
In this process a delicate consensus emerged that yielded a carefully crafted compromise document – the Global Alcohol Action Plan, endorsed by the 150th Session of the WHO Executive Board in January 2022 and now finally approved at the WHA75.
The potential and risks of the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan at a glance
The WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan (GAAP) is a delicate compromise document that respects the red lines of major alcohol producing countries (especially in the EU and United States) and the request of alcohol policy champion countries for more ambitious, evidence-based action to protect people and communities from the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
There are concerning elements in the GAAP that risk impeding full implementation and hindering significant progress in the coming years.
Importantly, the Action Plan’s ambitious targets, its focus on the alcohol policy best buys and SAFER, and the improvements to the alcohol policy infrastructure at all levels are promising elements to accelerate alcohol policy action as public health priority.
|Concerning elements in the GAAP||Promising elements in the GAAP|
|Role of the alcohol industry in the document and inclusion of alcohol industry with “measures” in every action area||Ambitious targets|
– For example: 20% reduction of per capita alcohol consumption
|The WHO dialogue with the alcohol industry||Ambitious action areas (6 action areas with solid actions for member states and the secretariat)|
– Clarity on governments’ responsibility to protect people from alcohol harm
|Flawed concept of “harmful use of alcohol”||Focus on the alcohol policy best buys and SAFER|
– Closest the GAAP comes to provide a blue print for governments on what to do to accelerate alcohol policy action
|Suggestion of self- and co-regulation||Operational principles|
– Among others a human rights based approach to alcohol policy
|Ability of alcohol and tobacco industry front groups to water down the GAAP||Expert committee with the remit to explore the way forward that could/ should lead to discussions of a global binding treaty in years to come|
|Improvements of the alcohol policy infrastructure at all levels|
– GAAP contains solid suggestions for infrastructure and governance improvements in global, regional, and national alcohol policy arenas
The decision leading up to the WHA75 adoption of the Global Alcohol Action Plan
Movendi International has helped initiate the process towards the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan, bringing alcohol policy back on the agenda of the WHO governing bodies, after many years of absence.
Movendi International has partnered with Member States and civil society organizations in all stages of the four-year long process towards the drafting, improving, and adopting of the action plan.
These efforts are detailed in the four stories below.
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.