Guinness reflects the power in you
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FACTS

Saturated markets in the West together with higher industry concentration and increased market power have led to the expansion of the international alcohol industry in what they term ‘‘emerging markets’’ in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

It is of critical importance that NGOs as well as governments have a well-developed strategy for how to handle vested interests.

Independence from vested interests

Young people in developing countries have been defined as promising markets for the multinational alcohol industry. Several reports have revealed that both traditional and new, sophisticated marketing methods are used to introduce drinking habits and alcohol brands to minors, in spite of the fact that many of the industry’s own codes of conduct ban this type of marketing.

Many developing countries have a relatively positive situation related to alcohol consumption; a lower average consumption than Western countries and a relatively large proportion of non-drinkers or very moderate drinkers in their population. However, the overall positive situation of developing countries may now be subject to change. Saturated markets in the West together with higher industry concentration and increased market power have led to the expansion of the international alcohol industry in what they term ‘‘emerging markets’’ in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In numerous reports to their shareholders and in various market reports, success in these markets is portrayed as key to future profits.

Low and middle income countries often have a high proportion of children and youth in the population, which in economic terms means large potential consumer groups without established consumption patterns or brand loyalties.

If multinationals succeed with their strategy to conquer the markets of the developing world, this will inevitably result in a higher level of alcohol consumption in many countries. That means a higher number of heavy drinkers, more drinking occasions, larger quantities consumed on single occasions and probably even more women drinking. These developments will, each of them but most of all in sum, result in an increase in alcohol-related harm.

It is therefore of critical importance that NGOs as well as governments have a well-developed strategy for how to handle vested interests. The alcohol industry tries systematically to strengthen their position in the market place and secure their profits by also influencing policies and by branding themselves as important partners in prevention. Their main concern is to avoid government regulations which can reduce the sale of alcoholic beverages, like restrictions on marketing, opening hours, outlet density etc.

It is suggested that development NGOs follow this set of guidelines in order to avoid conflict of interests and the undue influence of vested interests in public health policies:

  • Governments should be the proper guardians of public health and should therefore prevent the alcohol industry from getting undue influence over alcohol policy formulation in national and international institutions.

  • Contributions by the alcohol industry to the reduction of alcohol-related harm should be confined only to their roles as producers, distributors and marketers of alcohol. Such interventions by the industry can never replace government regulations, only complement them.

  • Public health NGOs should advocate that alcohol companies must respect and contribute to the effective enforcement of existing government regulations on the production, distribution and sale of alcohol; age limits, licensing systems, sales hours etc. Industry should refrain from any actions that undermine the implementation of public policies and interventions to prevent and reduce harmful use of alcohol.

  • NGOs should be aware of cover-up organisations which are set up and funded by the industry. Such bodies often pretend to operate as independent and science-based think tanks or NGOs. One of their strategies is to discredit independent science and research which support the public health perspectives.

NGOs wishing to protect their independence should not accept any kind of financial subventions or support in kind from the drinks industry; not enter into any kind of bilateral cooperation with the drinks industry; and not participate in multilateral cooperation projects where strategies, contents or interventions are dominated by the industry approach to alcohol prevention.

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