People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- December 11, 2012
Among all outcomes of the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), one stands out: creation of a working group on sustainable measures to strengthen implementation of the WHO FCTC.
For the first time, Parties are expected to meet between sessions of the COP to discuss existing obstacles to implementing FCTC measures, rather than to develop guidelines or guiding principles on specific tobacco control interventions.
Not only could this working group set a precedent for future FCTC inter-sessesional activity, it also has great potential to unlock a range of resources for implementing the Convention at the country level. Of course, for that to occur the working group has to meet and deliver its recommendations. Here are some key things that need to happen in coming months:
For a start, the membership of the working group has to be established. With the ultimate decision to set up the working group left for the final plenary meeting at last month's meeting in Seoul, very little discussion took place on logistics. Parties were given until 28 February 2013 to inform the Convention Secretariat about their participation in the working group as partners or key facilitators.
FCA believes that the group should represent a broad spectrum of experiences regarding implementation of the FCTC, including mobilization of resources. In addition, all WHO regions should be represented, as well as high-, low- and middle-income country Parties.
Speaking of income, funds for the working group will need to be raised. As per the COP decision on workplan and budget, meetings(s) of the working group will take place only if extrabudgetary funds of US$260,000 become available. Given the experience of the Article 6 working group, which was also set up without funding, one or more Parties will probably need to provide the initial capital. FCA members should remind their colleagues from governments about this immediate need for funding, and encourage them to approach the Convention Secretariat with potential contributions.
Parallel to these initial steps, it is critical to start thinking about the working group's tasks and deliverables. At COP5, the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Convention Secretariat announced plans for a discussion paper on best practices in promoting the FCTC within national development planning instruments. This publication should certainly provide helpful material for the working group, but more research and materials on different aspects of the group's mandate – accessing or providing development assistance for tobacco control, effective whole-of-government approaches or mobilization of funds through innovative financing – will also be needed.
Finally, upcoming conferences and meetings may serve as platforms to discuss topics within the mandate of the working group. Among many possible recommendations, we would like to see the working group propose options on how to promote the FCTC in international fora. With discussions ongoing on post-2015 development priorities, ideas on what can be done need to be voiced now.