On the 3rd of July, seven civil society organisations, including COFACE-Families Europe, left the European Platform for Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
This course of action was prompted by the Platform’s inability to address key problems that civil society organisations brought up repeatedly over the years. While the Platform provided opportunities for civil society to voice their concerns and meet key organisations and policy makers among which the World Health Organisation and representatives from relevant Ministries of the Member States during High Level meetings, it was also unfit to meaningfully address the issue of childhood obesity. The concerns voiced by NGOs include the following :
- The Platform failed to prove that it had any meaningful impact on curbing childhood obesity.
- The system of voluntary commitments which were self-reported and evaluated made it impossible not only to thoroughly review whether they were fit for purpose, relevant, and especially, whether they were genuinely « new » and were not simply part of the regular activity of the stakeholders (basically, recycling corporate social responsibility actions)
- The Platform was used as a deterant for alternative courses of action such as regulation. Many actors used it as an example of « successful » self-regulation, which was far from the case.
- The Platform was promoted internationally as a “model” and indirectly put pressure on international civil society organisations in other countries to engage in a similar scheme, even though the situation in their country was not comparable to that of the EU.
- Civil society organisations were also obliged to engage in voluntary commitments which detracted them from their key role as watchdogs and lobbyists for defending the public/general interest.
The civil society organisations went on to meet with Commissioner Andriukaitis on the 11th of July. The Commissioner deeply regreted the decision of the civil society organisations, underlining that the Platform was nevertheless an important instrument in tackling public health issues. While the decision to leave the Platform was final, the civil society organisations remain open for a constructive dialogue with the Commission and proposed several solutionsand alternatives including the set up of task force meetings centered around a specific topic such as marketing, product reformulation or front of pack labelling, and where civil society organisations would have the time and space to present their proposals in order to help shape the policy agenda and recommendations of the Commission. The High Level Group meetings with the representatives of the National Health Ministries should be continued as they also provided for a good opportunity to present the policy recommendations of civil society.
COFACE-Families Europe looks forward to further discussions and exchanges with the Commission in order to serve, as best as possible, the public health interest of the millions of families it represents.
For more information, please read the joint letter sent to the Commission on the 3rd of July here : http://www.coface-eu.org/consumers/civil-society-organisations-leave-the-eu-platform-for-diet-physical-activity-and-health/
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