Recognizing the importance of encouraging understanding of both the benefits and the risks of alcohol beverage consumption, the Dublin Principles of Cooperation among the Beverage Alcohol Industry, Governments, Scientific Researchers, and the Public Health Community were designed to provide guidance for mutually acceptable means of cooperation, based on ethical principles, among all those concerned with alcohol consumption and its effects. They were adopted at a three-day meeting in Dublin, organized by the National College of Ireland (formerly National College of Industrial Relations) and the International Center for Alcohol Policies. The former is a university-level institution whose programs are accredited by the Irish National Council for Educational Awards, and the latter is a non-for-profit organization based in Washington, DC, and funded by major international drinks companies.
All those concerned with beverage alcohol accept the fact that alcohol misuse is associated with a variety of health, social, and safety risks to the individual drinker, to others, and to society as a whole. The Dublin Principles seek to identify the appropriate roles of the major actors in combatting misuse and minimizing those risks. They also implicitly recognize the freedom of individuals to drink alcohol in a responsible manner or to abstain from drinking, based on their own moral and cultural norms, as well as their right to make such choices.
The Principles do not attempt to bridge the gap between those who seek to reduce alcohol-related problems through reducing overall consumption, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those who see moderate, responsible drinking as not only compatible with but even capable of contributing to good physical and mental health. Nor do the Principles attempt to address every issue that may be of interest to the beverage alcohol industry or the public health community, such as protecting the environment, eliminating corruption, ensuring an adequate level of government funding for healthcare, or mitigating any inappropriate political influence that may be exerted on government by special interests.
The Principles do, however, attempt to identify the common ground that exists among those who produce and sell alcohol, those who regulate and tax its use, those who scientifically study its effects, and those who are primarily concerned with preventing or treating alcohol misuse.
Prior to the May 1997 meeting in Dublin at which the Principles were adopted, drafts of the Principles were sent for comment to a wide range of persons and organizations interested in alcohol-related issues and the conduct of scientific research. As noted in the brief introduction to the Principles themselves, the 24 experts who participated in the Dublin meeting acted in their individual capacities in revising and eventually approving the Principles. At the same time, however, the participants were broadly representative of the major sectors concerned with alcohol-related issues. It is hoped that the strong consensus reached on the text will be followed by its subsequent acceptance by individual companies, trade associations, relevant professional societies, academic institutions, and public health advocates, as a basis for future cooperative action.
Participants in the meeting felt that it was premature to adopt specific recommendations for follow-up activities or to monitor implementation of the Dublin Principles. However, it was agreed that the National College of Ireland would serve as a focal point for any such future work, and that ICAP would serve as a clearinghouse for information related to the Principles. The hope also was expressed that the process of consultation through which the Principles were adopted might serve as a model for the broader involvement of nongovernmental actors in health promotion generally. Such involvement was one of the goals of the World Health Organization's Fourth International Conference on Health Promotion, "New Players for a New Era: Leading Health Promotion into the 21st Century," which was held in Jakarta in July 1997 and at which the Principles were discussed in a symposium on “New Ethical Challenges”.
A Commentary on some principles was written by Professor Hurst Hannum of the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, who prepared the initial drafts of the Principles and participated in the Dublin meeting. However, it should be emphasized that the Commentary is solely his responsibility and does not necessarily reflect the views of other participants. The full text of the Principles (including a list of participants in the Dublin meeting) is available in English, French, Hungarian, Japanese, and Spanish.