People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
By Hellen Neima
Uganda National Tobacco Control Association
Prior to COP6, I had attended a number of meetings on the WHO FCTC, but only at regional and national levels. It was therefore hard for me to imagine what a conference of parties would be like, so my expectations were restrained.
My tobacco control (TC) experience has been limited to the areas of policy advocacy, legal drafting and stakeholder engagement at various levels, including with MPs and senior government officials, but not internationally, which is an exposure I gained at COP6.
On arrival, I was awed by the caliber of resources brought together in this single meeting, and was pleasantly surprised to interact with a number of world acclaimed experts in the field of TC. Particularly, I recall speaking with delegates from South Africa about the strategic importance that negotiations play in health matters.
I also learned from those delegates smart ways to negotiate for the inclusion of tax provisions in TC legislation, taking into concern governments’ sensitivities about raising revenue from the tobacco industry. This is very critical for me given that our current legislative proposal in Uganda does not have tax provisions, though we are now negotiating with stakeholders to include them.
Kenyan best practices
Another highlight was my interaction with members of the Kenyan delegation, who within the region have set best practices concerning adoption and implementation of the illicit trade protocol.
This has piqued my interest in Uganda’s efforts in implementing this protocol, and though we have not ratified it, I have been reliably informed that the process is underway. I will therefore use the experience and networks I gained to see to it that Uganda’s efforts are successful.
At COP6 I was privileged to build networks with high-level delegations from all over the globe and with experts in the field. I will certainly be able to benefit from the contacts I made with an array of resource persons. I noted with keen interest the participation of government officials, civil society organisations and professionals. This underscores the exclusive importance of the COP6 as the apex meeting in tobacco control.
I am now doubly determined to ensure that my experience at COP leaves an enduring impact in my role as a TC advocate in Uganda.