People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the FCTC is mandated to keep the implementation of the FCTC under regular review and take the decisions necessary to promote effective implementation, and towards this end shall establish such subsidiary bodies as are necessary to achieve the objective of the FCTC (Article 23). In accordance with this mandate, the COP has established a study group to undertake work on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing, taking into account Article 17 and related provisions of the FCTC.
The study group on alternative crops was established by the first session of the COP (Geneva , Switzerland , 6-17 February 2006). In establishing the study group, the COP took into account and recognized the importance of Article 17 and related obligations dealing with research (Article 20.1(a)), cooperation in the provision of technical, scientific, legal and other expertise (Article 22.1(b)) and financial resources (Article 26.3), noting that ‘hundreds of thousands of families, particularly in developing countries, are engaged in tobacco agriculture and that, in a medium to long term, there is likely to be a reduction in demand for tobacco products'. The COP noted the important work being undertaken under the umbrella of the UN Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control, and mandated the study group to cooperate with the Task Force and to work closely with competent international organizations, in particular the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank.
The stated objectives of the study group were:
- summarizing the uptake of existing economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers and, as the case may be, individual sellers;
- recommending to the COP mechanisms to assess the impact over time of the tobacco companies' practices;
- reporting on initiatives that are being taken at national level in accordance with Article 17; and
- recommending cost-effective diversification initiatives.
The study group held its first meeting in the period between the first and second sessions of the COP ( Brasilia , Brazil , 27-28 February 2007). Parties from all six WHO regions participated in the meeting. Representatives of international intergovernmental organizations, including the FAO and the World Bank, and representatives of Non Government Organizations (NGOs), including the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), participated in the meeting as observers. A one-day public hearing on agricultural diversification and crop alternatives to tobacco, at which statements were made by a range of public and private sector organizations, was held prior to the meeting. The study group presented a report on its work to the second session of the COP ( Bangkok , Thailand , 30 June – 6 July 2007 ).
At its second session, the COP decided to mandate the study group to continue its work, extending the scope of its mandate and renaming it the ‘Study group on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing'. Taking into account Articles 17 and 18 and reaffirming the need to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts, the COP requested the study group to submit a report to the third session of the COP, addressing particular matters including aspects of economically sustainable alternatives in crop diversification measures and possibilities of alternative livelihoods.
Parties from all six WHO regions participated in the second meeting of the study group ( Mexico City , Mexico , 17-19 June 2008). Representatives of international intergovernmental organizations, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and representatives of NGOs, including FCA, participated in the meeting as observers. The study group will submit a report to the third session of the COP.