The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

ECOSOC resolution challenges tobacco lobby

At first glance, tobacco control is one of the most successful fields in public health policy. Since 2003 there has been a unique international treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been embraced by almost every UN member state, and the dangers of smoking are undisputed.

However, when it comes to national tobacco control, policy makers have long cited tobacco industry interference as a major obstacle to achieving progress on implementation of the FCTC. This interference is not limited solely to national policy processes and institutions. The tobacco industry has also engaged with intergovernmental organisations and UN institutions in attempts to enhance its public image and position itself as a legitimate stakeholder in public health policy-making.

Policy coherence needed

Increased efforts and policy coherence among the many state actors and international agencies to limit this interference would go a long way to increasing the FCTC’s effectiveness.

In June 2017, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) shone a light on the need for greater coherence amongst UN agencies concerning FCTC implementation, calling on the agencies to act to prevent the tobacco industry from interfering in their policy-making processes or other activities. ECOSOC adopted a resolution that called on members of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force (UNIATF) on NCDs, a working group comprised of many UN agencies and key international bodies, to develop and implement policies that prevent tobacco industry interference.

The text of the decision reads as follows:

10. Encourages members of the Task Force, as appropriate and in line with their respective mandates, to develop and implement their own policies on preventing tobacco industry interference, bearing in mind the model policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference, in order to ensure a consistent and effective separation between the activities of the United Nations system and those of the tobacco industry;

Based on FCTC Art. 5.3

The resolution refers to a model policy developed by the UNIATF on NCDs, which will be provided to members to guide their efforts. The model policy is based largely on the principles and policy measures outlined in the FCTC’s Article 5.3 and its guidelines, which recognise the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health. The model policy proposes that agencies adopt measures such as limiting interactions and avoiding real or perceived partnerships with the tobacco industry, undertaking education and awareness-raising initiatives among staff at various levels, as well as rejecting permission for the use of UN agency logos by the tobacco industry.

This development is also good news for the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP), which counts many of its own intergovernmental organisation (IGO) observers as members of the UNIATF. At the seventh session of the COP in November 2016, Parties called for a review of the accreditation of IGOs with the status of observer to the COP (decision FCTC/COP(17)). The decision recognises the important contributions made by IGO observers, while at the same time seeking to ensure the alignment of efforts to advance global implementation of the Convention.

The COP’s decision requested in particular that IGO observers consider adopting their own policies to prevent tobacco industry interference.


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