GENEVA, Switzerland – In an important step by the World Health Organization (WHO), the international health body is granting official WHO relations status to Infact, the U.S.-based corporate accountability organization.

In approving the admission of Infact and the International Non-Governmental Coalition Against Tobacco, the WHO’s governing board noted both organizations’ advocacy work in support of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). With a 25-year history of challenging life-threatening abuses of giant corporations, Infact will bring its corporate accountability expertise into its formalized relationship with WHO.

The WHO’s recognition of Infact comes at a time of growing concern about the impact of transnational corporations like Philip Morris on public health.

Commenting on the decision, Infact Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey said, “There is great debate over whether and how the WHO and other public bodies can interact with private institutions without sacrificing the public interest to commercial interests. Infact’s record of standing up to global economic powers sparked some controversy, so we commend WHO for this bold action that creates new opportunities for ordinary people to share their perspectives on the root causes of and solutions to the most pressing health issues of our time.”

Since 1977 Infact has been working internationally to advance public health in the face of opposition from powerful corporate interests. From the aggressive marketing of infant formula to the production and promotion of nuclear weapons to the spread of an industry-driven global tobacco epidemic, Infact has brought about significant changes in corporate practices that threaten human life globally.

In 1981, Infact contributed to the passage of the WHO’s International Code on Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes. In more recent years, Infact founded and helps coordinate the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT), a network of NGOs from more than 50 countries working toward a tough FCTC.

“Through the launch of the NATT, Infact helped facilitate the involvement of NGOs from the Global South in the FCTC process. By opening the door to expanded participation by NATT members, Infact’s official relations status with WHO will strengthen the voice of the Global South in health issues like the tobacco epidemic that are projected to hit the world’s poorest countries hardest,” said Bejon Misra of VOICE (India), the NATT regional coordinator for Asia and the Middle East.