People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
When the COP broke into committees A & B this week, the public was excluded to keep out the tobacco industry. However, was the industry truly excluded?
Here is a quick audit of the industry’s interference at COP 5.
It appears the industry had many ways to exert influence on government officials and the negotiations themselves. BAT, for example, is alleged to have written to governments prior to the COP recommending its positions for COP 5.
Two Vietnam Tobacco Association executives joined the delegation and a suspiciously industry-friendly intervention was heard from the floor.
On Thursday, the Brazilian Government recalled members of its delegation who represent the Health Ministry. Four health delegates were ordered to return to Brazil immediately while those representing the Ministry of Agriculture remained. With the sudden recall, the Brazilian delegation is left with more people representing other ministries (mostly Agriculture) to finalize negotiations. Industry representatives lingering outside the negotiation rooms were sending a lot of misinformation to the Brazilian media on developments here.
Brazil is not the only country whose delegation received communiqués from senior officials. BAT Kenya seems to have obtained detailed information about the negotiations, which they used to file a complaint with the Kenyan government.
A former BAT -UK executive, now a consultant to the industry was spotted moving around talking to people to elicit information.
Zambia had a delegate affiliated with the International Tobacco Growers Association.
Both Japan and China had their customary tobacco industry representatives on the delegations, though China increased the number to four representatives at this COP .
A 12-year former executive of the Italian Tobacco Producers’ Association, who only recently joined the government service, is on the delegation to COP 5. Needless to say, having a delegate with clear ties to the tobacco industry posed challenges during negotiations.
However, acknowledgement must be given to all Parties that made efforts to prevent industry interference. FCA recognized the Philippines on the first day with an Orchid for excluding the National Tobacco
Administration from its official COP delegation.
Throughout the week several Parties, including Australia, Costa Rica and Djibouti, reminded the COP of Article 5.3 and the need to be wary of the tobacco industry.
Surely, the crown belongs to WHO DG , Dr Margaret Chan, who continues to inspire and lead the way in industry watch.
While the COP acted quickly to boot the industry out of the public gallery, the loudest message on this issue was sent via the COP decision to defer approval of INTERPOL’s application for observer status in view of the fact that it was “appreciative of the financial support provided by PMI.”
It has been four years since the Guidelines to Article 5.3 were adopted and governments have an obligation to address industry interference. Was enough done to keep the tobacco industry away from the COP and the negotiations? Probably not!
- This story was sourced from the Bulletin Issue 122, which was realeased on the final day of COP6