People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- April 12, 2013
It has been almost two years since the status of Parties' mandatory payments (also known as voluntary assessed contributions or VACs) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has been regularly uploaded on the official website. Has the public exposure of unpaid bills made any difference? In general, many Parties remain in arrears, but there are some positive stories to be shared.
When FCA highlighted the status of VACs for the first time in August 2011, the numbers did not look good. Forty-one FCTC Parties had never paid their contributions to the Convention and another 41 were in arrears.
At first glance, the latest status does not provide much reason for optimism. Of the 176 Parties to the Convention, 96 remained in arrears as of 28 February 2013. That is 14 more than 21 months ago. (Timing might exaggerate the situation as FCTC Parties are required to provide contributions for every two-year budget, which begins 1 January).
But looking closely, there are signs suggesting the situation has improved. The number of Parties that have never paid their VACs has dropped to 27 (from 41). And more than half of the Parties in arrears owe payments only for the last biennium: 2012-2013. In other words, 36 Parties paid off what they owed in August 2011.
Many Parties have recently embraced their treaty commitments – including the financial ones – and have cleared their bills, among them Bolivia, Chad, Micronesia, Peru and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a positive story. It was the first country in Asia to ratify the WHO FCTC and one of the first countries to fulfil its obligation by paying its VAC in 2006. Thereafter, due to sheer inattention and lack of proper communication, the country fell into arrears. The situation was repeatedly raised with authorities by civil society partners, and consequently Sri Lanka cleared all arrears before the Conference of the Parties in November 2012.*
While implementation of the FCTC is followed with much interest, the financial obligations of individual countries to the Convention do not attract equal attention. Yet VACs are crucial, as they represent a predictable and vital cash flow permitting the Secretariat to carry out the work plan agreed by the Conference of the Parties (COP).
Parties' assessments follow the World Health Organization (WHO) formula based on national income. Hence, the most affluent Parties can pay up to hundreds of thousands of US dollars, while developing countries pay as little as US$116 biennially.
* Its VAC obligations fulfilled, these days Sri Lanka is battling the Ceylon Tobacco Company over its plan to implement pictorial health warnings to cover 80 percent of the front and back of tobacco packs.