Contributing to a better understanding of the role of law in preventing NCDs

The Law & NCD Unit has worked on a wide range of legal issues relating to NCD prevention. Beyond the work our members have conducted on specific projects, we have contributed more broadly to a better understanding of the role of law in preventing NCDs.

    Promoting law as a tool of NCD prevention

    The Law & NCD Unit has played an important role in helping define the multifaceted contribution law can make to the NCD prevention agenda. we have developed specific expertise in supporting the public health community's advocacy work, together with assisting governments both anticipate and defend legal challenges.

    • The Unit has been instrumental in the international community's recognition that law is a crucial discipline to promote healthier societies. In particular, our members have participated in a range of key expert meetings on law and NCDs - such as the thematic Session on Law and the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable diseases organised by the International Development Law Organization for memebrs of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on NCDs, held at the UN Headquarters in New York on 9 February 2016. Similarly, we have responded to major expert consultations - such as our response to the consultation in August 2017 on the outcome document for the WHO Global Conference on NCDs (Montevideo, 18-20 October 2017), which paved the way for the Montevideo Road map of October 2018, the first international instrument to explicitly and unequivocally recognise the role of law in the prevention at national and global levels of NCDs, and to mandate the WHO to lead on the development of legal capacity building.
    • We have supported the increasing efforts that the WHO and its regional offices, as well as NGO federations, have made over the last five years to build legal capacity on NCD prevention, not least through diverse training initiatives. For example, the Unit participated in an "Intensive Legal Training and Capacity-Building Workshop on Law and Noncommunicable Diseases", organised by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and held in Moscow on 30 May - 3 June 2016. 
    • The Unit has organised a range of conferences which have supported these efforts and which have been attended by many WHO members and other international actors. These have included "Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Trade and Human Rights Law" (July 2016), "Nutrition Information as a Tool of Consumer Empowerment and Public Health Protection?" (January 2018), and International Investment Law and NCD Prevention (May 2018).
    • Between February - June 2013, amandine Garde worked on NCD prevention at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva after securing a Follow On Impact Grant from the Economic and Social Research Council. In addition to the specific work she conducted during this time on the regulation of food marketing to children, she also used this opportunity to reflect more broadly on the role that law can play in preventing NCDs. For example, in June 2013 she acted as academic expert at the 8th Global Conference on Health which focused on Health Promotion: Health in all Policies and was organised jointly by the Finnish Health Ministry and the WHO; and, in April 2013, she participated as an external temporary advisor at a WHO regional meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs and risk factors in Kuwait City.
    Protecting public health from conflicts of interests

    Mandating transparency in conflicts of interest is a necessary, but insufficient, safeguard to protect the public interest from undue industry interference in the development and implementation of effective NCD prevention strategies.

    Article 5.3 of the Framework convention on Tobacco control (FCTC) contains a specific prohibition against the involvement of the tobacco industry in the development and implementation of tobacco control policies. by contrast, many other policy instruments are unclear regarding the role that they envisage for private actors in the prevention and control of NCDs. Importantly, the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013 - 2020 explicitly refers to 'the management of real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest' as one of its overarching principles. However, significant work remains to be done to ensure that this principle is both well understod and effectively implemented.

    Apart from the important fact that the Law & NCD Unit does not accept any funding from the tobacco, alcohol and food industries, our members have reflected on the role that these industries might be expected to play in NCD prevention strategies at regional, national and global levels.

    The Law & NCD Unit has researched the extent to which industry self-regulation may be incompatible with States' international human rights obligations to protect and fulfil the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and related rights.

    • In March 2017, the Unit organised a seminar, given by Dr Garrath Williams (University of Lancaster), which explored conflicts of interest and the role of the food industry in relation to the development and implementation of obesity prevention policies. Garrath Williams made a presentation on "Healthy food provision: stranded between corporate power and corporate powerlessness", which was discussed by Amandine Garde, Simon Capewell (University of Liverpool, Public Health Policy) and Neville Rigby (International Obesity Forum).
    • In November 2016, Amandine Garde took part in a Policy Provocations event hosted by the Heseltine Institute on "Shaping the City: What's the Best Way to Provide a Healthy Food Environment for Our Children to Grow Up In?" This event examined the actions that policymakers could be taking to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the Merseyside area and beyond.
    • In December 2015, the Law & NCD Unit supported and participated in a one-day workshop organised jointly by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN, a global network of 273 citizens groups in 168 countries) and Baby Milk Action on "Conflicts of Interest: An Assessment from a Corporate Accountability Perspective" at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in London. The aim of this event was primarily to facilitate the exchange of experiences between actors from the corporate accountability, health and development and academic communities concerned with the protection of public health policies from undue corporate and other problematic influences.
    • The reflection on the extent to which conflicts of interest may hinder public health protection is integral to our teaching too, and constitutes the core of a specific pathway on Regulating the Tobacco, Alcohol and Food Industries to Promote Health and Sustainable Development on our LAW212 Law and Social Justice module. For more on our teaching see our Courses and Supervision page.
    The relationship between international trade and investment law and NCD prevention

    Over the last thirty years, globalisation and economic liberalisation have greatly increased foreign direct investment in the tobacco, alcohol and food industries. Foreign investors enjoy certain protections under international investment agrements which empower them to bring compensation claims against host states for measures which interfere with foreign investment. Meanwhile, international trade law places restrictions on how governments may introduce taxation, regulation, or limit the importation of goods on the basis of public policy objectives. Thus, state efforts to regulate the tbacco, alcohol ad food industries to prevent NCDs and promote public health can give rise to expensive litigation, as illustrated by recent claims challenging tobacco control legislation in Australia and Uruguay. This raises important and timely questions about how trade and international investment law can affect State regulatory autonomy in designing and implementing measures for preventing NCDs.

    The Law & NCD Unit's ongoing project on Trade and NCD Prevention reflects on the international legal environment in which NCD prevention takes place, considering core obligations under trade, investment, intellectual property and human rights law, and identifying key principles involved in the design, development and implementation of NCD prevention strategies.  

    • On 10-11 May 2018, the Law & Unit hosted a conference on International Investment Law and NCD Prevention at the University of Liverpool London Campus. 
    • In April 2018, the Unit hosted Paula O'Brien (Melbourne Law School) for an interactive seminar on the imposition of alcohol warnings and marketing restrictions.
    • In November 2017, Gregory Messenger participated in the 1st World Conference on Access to Medical Products and International Laws for Trade and Health in New Dehli, jointly organised by the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office and the Government of India, where he spoke on the role of subsidies in government public health policies.
    • In May 2017, the Unit hosted Professor Tania Voon (Melbourne Law School) for a seminar on the topic of "Sustainable Food Choices, Dietary Guidelines and International Economic Law". This seminar considered the tensions between public health and international economic law, while also examining the role of international instruments in supporting domestic dietary guidelines. It also looked at how these guidelines might be challenged in the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization, or under investor-State dispute settlement.
    • In July 2016, the Unit organised a two-day conference at the University of Liverpool London Campus on the topic of "Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Trade and Human Rights Law". 
    • In July 2015, Joshua Curtis co-wrote a report for the Irish Cancer Society evaluating the implications of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on public health policy and associated market regulation in Ireland, which accounted for Ireland's specific socio-economic situation, and which illuminated lessons from the experience of countries from the global South with respect to trade liberalisation and the evolution of investor-State dispute settlement.
    • The Unit regularly provides legal advice to governments, public health agencies, and national and international consumer, public health and other organisations. Such advice is provided on a formal basis, or on an ad hoc basis (e.g. through supporting the development of the Tobacco Control Playbook produced by the WHO Regional Office for Europe).
    Select publications by members of the Law & NCD Unit on Contributing to a better understanding of the role of law in preventing NCDs
    • A Garde, "Global Health Law and Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention: Maximizing Opportunities by Understanding Constraints", in G. L. Burci and B. Toebes (eds), Research Handbook in Global Health Law (Elgar, forthcoming, 2018)
    • A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar, forthcoming, 2019)
    • O Bartlett and A Garde, "EU public health law and policy – on the rocks? a few sobering thoughts on the growing EU alcohol problem" in T Hervey et al (eds), Research Handbook on EU Health Law and Policy (Elgar, 2017)
    • A Garde, 'The "Obesity Risk": For an Effective Use of Law to Prevent Non-Communicable Diseases' (2017) 8(1) European Journal of Risk Regulation 77
    • A Garde and M Sattorova contributed to Key considerations for the use of law to prevent non-communicable diseases in the WHO European Region (Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2017)
    • N Gokani contributed to Every Breath We Take: The Lifelong Impact of Air Pollution (Royal College of Physicians, 2016)
    • A Alemanno and A Garde (eds), Regulating Lifestyle Risks The EU, Alcohol, Tobacco and Unhealthy Diets (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
    • J Curtis, TTIP ISDS and the Implications for Irish Public Health Policy(Irish Cancer Society, July 2015)
    • G Messenger, 'Membership of the World Trade Organization' in M Dougan (ed), The UK after Brexit: Legal and Policy Challenges (Intersentia, 2017)
    • G Messenger & D Sarooshi, 'International Trade and the World Trade Organization' in C Greenwood & D Sarooshi (eds) Oppenheim's International Law: Volume I Peace (10th edition, OUP, forthcoming).