People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
By John Stewart and Tamar Lawrence-Samuel
Corporate Accountability International
*The COP has been very tough about excluding the public. Justifiably so, as the public badge was being carried by so few genuine members of the public it might as well have been renamed ‘tobacco industry representative’.
The problem is that the industry is already inside the COP with a seat at the table on many delegations.
As Parties debate the need for inter-sessional work to strengthen Article 5.3 implementation, and changes in the rules to require screening of the public for tobacco industry links, it is time for Parties to take a good look at themselves.
If the public can be forced to declare whether or not they have tobacco industry links, surely Parties too should be called to account. After all, a tobacco industry advocate inside a delegation has to be more powerful than one on the outside.
Put your own house in order
While more action on Article 5.3 is important, for instance to develop guidance for international organisations and amend the rules of procedure to prevent the tobacco industry coming in as members of the public, the COP must also put its own house in order. As the saying goes, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
In other words, what’s needed is more transparency. If the public and observers have to declare any affiliation with the tobacco industry, why shouldn’t delegates too? Of course, Parties have the right to choose who they want on their delegations, but they need to be transparent about it.
Principle 2 of the Article 5.3 guidelines is very clear: “Parties, when dealing with the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, should be accountable and transparent.” In fact, read into the body of the guidelines and they are even more explicit.
Recommendation 4.9 states: “Parties should not nominate any person employed by the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to serve on delegations to meetings of the Conference of the Parties, its subsidiary bodies or any other bodies established pursuant to decisions of the Conference of the Parties.”
The very least Parties should do is ensure that any delegates with tobacco industry links are required to be transparent about it.
We understand that today in Committee B, during the discussions on agenda item 6.7 about public participation, there will be a proposal that attempts to address this problem. It will suggest that when Parties are filing their credentials for meetings of the COP and other subsidiary bodies, they include information about whether any members of their delegation are affiliated with the tobacco industry, and the extent of such affiliation.
But as the Thai proposal, which goes to Committee A tomorrow shows, there’s more to comprehensive implementation of Article 5.3 than the COP. Thailand will be asking for support for its draft decision urging Parties to strengthen implementation of Article 5.3 and its guidelines throughout government, particularly diplomatic missions, as well as internationally.
There are already good examples of Parties that meet some if not all of the standards set in the Thai proposal on Article 5.3.
*This article was first published in the FCA Bulletin at COP6.