A report in a prominent U.S. newspaper Sunday said the United States bullied and threatened nations in an effort to water down a World Health Assembly resolution supporting breastfeeding.
The New York Times said the U.S. delegation at the assembly in Geneva this spring embraced “the interest of infant formula manufacturers” and “upended the deliberations.”
The resolution had been expected to be approved “quickly and easily,” the newspaper said. Instead, the U.S. delegation “sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.”
Ecuador was slated to introduce the breastfeeding resolution, but after the U.S. threatened to “unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid,” according to the newspaper, Ecuador “quickly acquiesced.”
The Times said more than a dozen participants from different countries at the assembly confirmed the “showdown over the issue.” Many of them, however, asked to remain anonymous because they fear U.S. retaliation.
Health advocates had trouble finding another sponsor who did not fear U.S. “retaliation.”
Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action told the newspaper, “What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health.”
Finally, the Russian delegation stepped in as the resolution’s sponsor. The newspaper said that “the Americans did not threaten them.”
The Trump administration’s contentious behavior at the health assembly was seen as similar to approaches it has taken with other long-standing international alliances and blocs such as NATO and the G-7.