Internationally, NGOs (service
organizations more than constituent groups) have been increasingly
vocal in international policy debates and in health-related international
Their contribution has been
particularly strong in establishing health conventions and standards.
For example, trade unions have campaigned on hazardous chemicals.
The International Baby Food Action Network - established in 1979
by five NGOs - played an important role in developing the International
Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Trade unions
in southern Africa promoted and participated in a tripartite
dialogue in the Southern African Development Community to adopt
a regional code of practice on HIV/AIDS and Employment.
These civic actions have taken
a number of forms, including:
- urging governments to support
conventions and standards
- monitoring and exposing industry
abuses before and after their adoption
- sharing information on the
issues involved in developing the codes
- garnering international media
attention and public support
- applying direct pressure,
such as through boycotts
- providing a critical counterweight
to industry lobbies.
Internationally, this 'watchdog'
and advocacy role has led to a proposal to form a Global Health
Watch. This collaborative NGO structure aims to stimulate the
political will to develop improved health policies and to monitor
how well governments implement them.