The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Progress on NCDs insufficient: Why?


Three years ago, the tobacco control community prepared for the first ever United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – the UN Summit on NCDs. The rationale was simple:

“Tobacco use is the one risk factor common to the main groups of NCDs; accelerated implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is an essential way to tackle these diseases and save lives”.*

Ahead of the meeting, world leaders were exhorted to travel to UN Headquarters in New York and take strong action on NCDs. Many of these calls singled out tobacco control as a key priority.

Since the UN Summit, NCDs have been repeatedly labelled as one of the key challenges to sustainable development in this century. Unfortunately, as the latest report of the UN Secretary-General concludes, the world is largely failing to address this challenge.

Steps taken

To date, as a direct result of the NCD Summit, the World Health Organization has taken steps to establish a global coordination mechanism on NCDs; the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has set up the UN NCD task force; and the World Health Assembly adopted an updated Global NCD Action Plan with specific targets and measurable indicators.

But one essential element is still missing: resources to enable substantial action on NCDs. As of 2013, only 50 percent of countries have operational, funded policies for at least two or more NCDs and/or risk factors. Many more countries have policies and plans on paper, but no budget to work on them. Discussions on the global NCD coordination mechanism stalled last November also because of resources.

Lack of sufficient resources is also being addressed concerning the FCTC. With 178 Parties, the Convention has widespread acceptance from the global community. Yet the treaty’s implementation has lagged.

FCTC working group

In 2012, FCTC Parties set up a working group on sustainable measures to strengthen implementation of the Convention, to identify barriers to implementation, and propose strategies to overcome them. The working group is also looking into strategies to mobilize additional resources for tobacco control. Its second meeting is set for April 2014, and it is expected to submit its recommendations to the Conference of the Parties in October.

This year provides other opportunities to raise concerns about resources for tobacco control. The following discussions are scheduled to take place in New York:

  • In February, the UN General Assembly will discuss the Secretary-General’s report mentioned above, and will decide whether to have a second NCD Summit, and if so, when;
  • In March, experts on sustainable development financing will meet to propose recommendations on mobilizing resources for challenges that undermine sustainable development.

Another, separate, track of discussions is ongoing at the UN that could influence the availability of resources for NCDs, and by extension for tobacco control.

Consultations on new development priorities to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are already underway. It is expected that an Open Working Group will propose possible goals and targets for these priorities by September 2014. Its proposal will then need to be reviewed by countries, before being agreed in 2015.

These and other events provide strong opportunities to remind world leaders of their promises on NCDs, and to advocate for more resources for tobacco control and other efforts to fight these diseases. It is important that all of us continue to highlight accelerated FCTC implementation as a development strategy to tackle NCDs and other threats to sustainable development.

*From the documentNCDs, tobacco control and the FCTC


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