People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- August 22, 2012
By FCA Policy Director Francis Thompson
We will soon be three months from the start of the fifth session of the FCTC Conference of the Parties – a significant milestone, because it is the deadline for most of the official COP documents to be made public in all official UN languages.
This session of the COP promises to be particularly full of important issues. We can look forward to:
1. Adoption of the Illicit Trade Protocol – the only major document that has been available for several months.
The key question is what decisions Parties will take on preparing implementation of the Protocol, particularly with respect to capacity building and training. With only five years' lapse between the Protocol's entry into force and implementation of key global provisions on tracking and tracing, preparations will need to start immediately.
2. Article 6 guidelines – it took some strong advocacy even to get a working group created about Article 6 (tax and price measures), but once it was set up, it became the most 'popular' one (in terms of Parties participation) in the history of the FCTC. But will the draft guidelines provide clear, strong advice on implementing what is widely regarded as the most effective tobacco control measure? And will the Parties adopt guidelines, despite efforts by the tobacco industry to block them?
3. Articles 9 and 10 (product ingredients and emissions) – at the last COP session in 2010, the industry-funded growers' lobby, the ITGA, ran a noisy but ineffective campaign against adoption of guidelines on Articles 9 and 10, attempting to block recommendations on banning or restricting additives that make cigarettes more attractive (particularly to children/teenagers). This time round, the working group will likely be proposing recommendations on reduced ignitition propensity, and may comment or provide recommendations on addictiveness, toxicity and public disclosure of emissions and ingredients information.
4. Articles 17 and 18 (economically viable alternatives / protection of the environment and health of persons) – the long-standing working group on sustainable alternative livelihoods is set to present draft policy options and recommendations on Articles 17 and 18. The working group's recommendations are not yet public, but that hasn't stopped the ITGA from campaigning hard against what they think the document might contain.
FCA continues to emphasize the importance of concentrating government efforts on those growers and farm labourers who wish to exit the sector, but find it difficult to do so because of debts to leaf companies, lack of access to capital and/or markets for alternatives. Enforcement of human rights and labour legislation are critical to dealing with abuses in the growing sector, particularly by cigarette manufacturers and leaf companies.
5. Article 19 (liability) – this 'sleeper' article of the Convention has received relatively little attention over the years, but that could change at this session, with a report from the Secretariat about how Parties might wish to approach future work on how to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its misdeeds.
6. Financial resources and mechanisms of assistance – the FCTC Secretariat is due to present a progress review at COP5. These are crucial issues, particularly for implementing the FCTC in low-income countries. FCA has repeatedly called on both donor and recipient countries to discuss specific challenges and find effective solutions to unlock international resources for tobacco control. This time around we hope to see a working group on this topic be established at the time of COP5 and possibly inter-sessionally. All Parties need to come to COP ready to accelerate implementation of the Convention.
7. Reporting arrangements – apart from the usual task of improving the official reporting instrument, discussions at this COP may include the advisability of some type of implementation review mechanism – a long-time FCA recommendation.
8. Parties will also need to decide on a budget for the Convention and its Secretariat. We expect to see intense discussions which will need to address how limited resources should be spread across work mandated by COP decisions. Topics such as reduced support for travel and delays in Parties' payments to the FCTC budget will certainly add complexity to these deliberations.
There are several other issues that will almost certainly come up at COP5, such as the relationship between the FCTC and international trade and investment agreements, or that between the FCTC and global efforts to control non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Perhaps the easiest way to summarise is to say that with the (likely) adoption of the Protocol and Article 6 guidelines, the focus at this COP session, and at future ones, will increasingly be on the nuts and bolts of treaty implementation. Enormous work has been done to get detailed guidelines on Article 5.3, 6, 8, 9/10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, but many countries have not generated the resources (or the political will) to actually fulfil their FCTC obligations. Closing this gap, in various ways, is likely the key challenge of this and future COP sessions.