The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

The WHO FCTC at 10: making a very big difference

Dr Judith MackayDr Judith Mackay
Senior Policy Advisor, WHO
Policy Advisor, World Lung Foundation/ Bloomberg
Initiative *

Along with the late Ruth Roemer and Allyn Taylor, I was privileged to be part of the birth of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 1993, when the idea of a Convention was thought to be an impossible dream.

The initial reaction by many was cautious, ranging from neutral to negative: it was unprecedented and just too difficult, would not get the support of Member States, would run into strong opposition from the tobacco industry, and would take at least ten years.

As with all United Nations Conventions, the lengthy process and the interminable meetings and discussions were often wearisome, but had the advantage of a gradual but firm and sustained ‘buy-in’ from the key players. The saying of Zen poet Ryokan (1758–1831) well describes the contribution of many individuals and organizations towards the WHO FCTC: ‘In this one bowl, there is rice from a thousand households.’ These contributors included WHO, other UN agencies, Member States, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) especially the Framework Convention Alliance, academia, the media, and even the tobacco industry had their say.

Evidence-based, and works

At the age of 10 years, the WHO FCTC is still some distance from adulthood, but has shone in its early, formative years. The Convention is evidence-based and it works. It has elevated tobacco to a new level within governments. It has strengthened countries’ resolve to tackle the epidemic, and it has made it much more difficult for the tobacco industry to pick off countries one by one. It has made the tobacco control community a global family.

There are challenges ahead in getting the few remaining states which have yet to adopt the treaty to do so; to fully implement the treaty after becoming a Party; to develop and implement multiple protocols, and to provide appropriate funding, especially from national governments. But there is no doubt that the FCTC is maturing into making a very big difference to the global tobacco pandemic.

This is one of a series of articles written by health experts to mark the 10th anniversary of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is 27 Feb. 2015.The views in this article are those of the author alone and not necessarily endorsed by FCA. 

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