People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Civil society will play a key role in a coordinating mechanism set up by the Government of Palau to fight the death and disease caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs)*.
The mechanism was announced in May.
Its 10 duties and functions include to “facilitate the implementation, integration, and alignment of the Palau NCD Plan, and related NCD plans and commitments, with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its guidelines, with the Ministry of Health’s strategic plan, and with national development plans and policies”.
Engaging ministries other than health is key to advancing tobacco control as well as to addressing NCDs.
FCTC Article 5.2
One task of a working group set up to strengthen implementation of the FCTC is to develop options for countries to create mechanisms for coordinating tobacco control within their governments, in line with Article 5.2(a) of the Convention.
The Convention Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme are working on a guidance tool on implementation of Article 5.2(a), according to a recent report to the UN Economic and Social Council.
Civil society in Palau, a small Pacific Island country, worked with the Ministry of Health on the mechanism, and to develop a new national five-year NCD plan, and several NGOs are expected to be formally invited to join the current government members of the mechanism. These include Coalition for Tobacco Free Palau (CTFP), Palau’s NCD Coalition (UAK) and Palau’s Cancer Coalition.
Civil society expertise
“We have been working in harmonious partnership with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to agree on the best way to align our efforts to combat NCDs, and would suggest that government agencies seek the experience and advice that civil society can offer to determine what would work best for your particular country,” says CTFP Vice Chairman Kambes Kesolei.
“At the same time, I would urge civil society organisations to do their homework on FCTC implementation and potential solutions to the NCD epidemic, become involved, offer your expertise, and seek to be invited to work with the government to be part of the solution,” he added.
The Palau group is also tasked to develop an explicit code of conduct for how all members of the Committee interact with industry representatives. Article 5.3 of the FCTC already recommends that Parties to the Convention exclude the tobacco industry from policy discussions.
*NCDs cause nearly 2/3 of global deaths, and it is estimated that they will cost the world economy US$30 trillion by 2031. Tobacco use is the one risk factor common to four major NCDs: cancers, cardiovascular and lung disease, and diabetes. NCDs already cause 78 percent of deaths in Palau, and indications are that NCD-related mortality and morbidity are rising.
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