People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Global support for tobacco control has greatly increased since the 2011 United Nations (UN) High-level Meeting on NCDs recognised the role of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
In 2012, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP) stressed the need to take action on tobacco control at the national level. These initiatives have increased awareness of and political support for tobacco control. Yet, how this translates into national-level action remains to be seen.
The ECOSOC resolution and FCTC COP decision requested that the UN integrate FCTC implementation into UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs). And in a 2012 letter to UN country teams, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and WHO Director General Margaret Chan emphasised the importance of addressing NCDs within UNDAFs to ensure better health outcomes and promote development.
That letter and the ECOSOC and COP initiatives provide advocates with strong tools and opportunities to engage UN teams and policy makers to mobilise support for tobacco control at the national level.
UNDAFs guide the local delivery of UN assistance. They detail priorities and activities to ensure better coordination among UN funds, programmes and agencies, and identify available funding. Several countries are expected to review their UNDAFs in 2013-2015, giving advocates the opportunity to engage with local UN offices and contribute to this process, first by introducing the FCTC to UN country teams.
Case-studies from Bolivia and Honduras show that TC advocates and civil society groups play a key role in raising awareness about tobacco control within UN agencies. The case studies also highlight how advocates can take advantage of the prospects presented by the UNDAF and global discussions about NCDs to build support for FCTC implementation.
The timeline for discussions on UNDAF priorities varies by country. Advocates should contact their local UN office and policy makers to identify key dates. The list of countries that are expected to review their UNDAF in 2013-2015 can be found here.
As reported by the UNDP’s Dr. Douglas Webb at the recent global tobacco control conference at Harvard University, only a handful of countries have included the FCTC/NCDs in their national planning and UNDAFs. Thus, it appears that a more sustained national-level advocacy strategy is needed to ensure multi-sectoral support for FCTC implementation.*HealthBridge Foundation is a long-time partner of the Framework Convention Alliance via its tobacco control programme.