WHO: Ambassador Cornado attends the General Meeting of the Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs
The Permanent Representative of Italy to the International Organisations in Geneva, Ambassador Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Director General for Hygiene, Health and Food Safety and Nutrition at the Ministry of Health, Ms. Gaetana Ferri, and the President of Federalimentare, Luigi Scordamaglia, attended the General Meeting of the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (GCM/NCD). The meeting, held in Geneva on 5 and 6 November, was co-organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Governments of Switzerland and Sri Lanka. It was co-sponsored by the Governments of Uruguay and Israel.
In his address, Ambassador Cornado said that on 27 September, the Third High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases was held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. There the representatives of all member States adopted a political statement, which had been negotiated for a long time in New York. The statement was incorporated in a resolution the UN General Assembly passed on 10 October. It represented a positive outcome that led to a unanimous agreement thanks to the constructive approach of all delegations that took part, with Italy playing a leading role.
Ambassador Cornado singled out several attempts to go beyond the consensus the delegation reached by means of the political statement, "reinterpreting" the will of the member States and misinterpreting the commitments the States agreed on, and referring to measures that had been turned down during the negotiations. An example was the press release the WHO issued right after the High Level Meeting, which said: "World leaders agreed on robust laws and fiscal measures to protect people from (...) unhealthy foods and other harmful products." Ambassador Cornado said these words were not in the text of the political statement which refers only to "unhealthy diets" and "unhealthy lifestyles". The ambassador pointed out that the scientific community and UN resolutions have always maintained that there are no healthy or unhealthy foods, but rather healthy or unhealthy diets.
On specific action in the field of nutrition, Italy believes that the most effective way to prevent and control non-communicable diseases would be to develop multi-sector strategies. They would include the promotion of a balanced, healthy and sustainable diet that would not lead to an a-priori exclusion of any given food, while at the same time limiting the total energy intake and encouraging the consumption of fruit and vegetables, and also promoting physical exercise. Director General Ferri said that fiscal measures are inadequate and that there is the risk that they could undermine the fight against NCDs besides being simply useless. Support should instead be given to information and awareness campaigns addressed to consumers, enhancing the importance of healthy diets and healthy lifestyles. Luigi Scordamaglia, president of Federalimentari, stressed the excellent cooperation that exists in Italy between institutions, civil society and the private sectors on nutrition policies. He said he hoped the WHO would not recommend any measure that was not supported by robust scientific evidence. Ambassador Cornado urged the WHO to have a more coherent and transparent involvement with member States and that misleading campaigns which lack strong scientific evidence should be avoided.