12 Aug 2008
The idea of an international instrument for tobacco was initiated with the adoption of Resolution WHA 48.11 in May 1995, requesting the Director-General to report to the Fortyninth Session of the World Health Assembly on the feasibility of developing an international instrument such as guidelines, a declaration, or an international convention on tobacco control. As a result of Resolution WHA48.11, WHO was requested to draft a feasibility study which was presented by the Director-General to the Ninety-seventh Session of the WHO Executive Board (“The Feasibility of an International Instrument for Tobacco Control” (EB97/ INF.DOC.4)). During that same session, the Executive Board adopted Resolution EB97.R8, “International framework convention for tobacco control.”
Later that year, the Forty-ninth Session of the WHA adopted Resolution WHA49.17, “International framework convention for tobacco control”, requesting the Director-General to initiate the development of a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As a result of this resolution, WHO’s first treaty-making enterprise was formally launched.
In 1998 newly-elected WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland made global tobacco control a priority through the establishment of a Cabinet Project, the Tobacco Free Initiative, to focus international attention, resources and action upon the global tobacco epidemic. New multisectoral partnerships reflecting the nature of the action were developed. More importantly, Dr Brundtland worked with Member States to secure a negotiating mandate for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and set about the task of mobilizing public and political opinion in favour of global rules for tobacco control.
In May 1999 the Fifty-second World Health Assembly paved the way for multilateral negotiations on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and possible related protocols. Resolution WHA52.18 established two bodies to draft the framework convention, to complete negotiations and to submit the final text for consideration by the Fifty-sixth World Health Assembly. These two bodies included a technical working group to prepare the proposed draft elements of the Framework Convention; and an intergovernmental negotiating body to draft and negotiate the proposed Framework Convention and possible related protocols. Both bodies were open to all Member States and regional economic integration organizations to which their Member States had transferred competence over matters related to tobacco control.
The working group held two sessions in Geneva (25-29 October 1999 and 27-29 March 2000). Its output was a document with provisional texts of proposed draft elements for the Framework Convention, submitted to the Fifty-third World Health Assembly with the comments of the working group. In Resolution WHA53.16, the Health Assembly called upon the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to commence negotiations with an initial focus on the draft Framework Convention without prejudice to future discussions on possible protocols, to report progress to the Fifty-fourth World Health Assembly, and to examine the question of extended participation by nongovernmental organizations as observers.
The first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (Geneva, 16-21 October 2000) was preceded by a public hearing on issues surrounding the Framework Convention. The Director-General convened this hearing in order to provide a forum for the public health community, the tobacco industry and farmers’ groups to submit their case; records of the proceedings were made available to the Negotiating Body and, through the WHO web site, to the public. At the first session, Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil was elected as Chair, and a bureau was established with Vice-Chairs from Australia, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, South Africa, Turkey and the United States of America. The provisional texts of the proposed draft elements for a WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control , which had been prepared by the working group, were accepted as a sound basis for initiating negotiations. Subsequently, Ambassador Amorim prepared a Chair’s text of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ; this first draft was released in January 2001 as a basis for further negotiations at the second session.
A report on participation of nongovernmental organizations in the work of the Negotiating Body was presented to the Executive Board at its 107th session in January 2001. In accordance with the provisions of decision EB107(2) of the Executive Board, the Chairman of the Board acting jointly with the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Non- Governmental Organizations admitted two nongovernmental organizations, the International Nongovernmental Coalition Against Tobacco and Infact, into official relations with WHO as of 26 April 2001.
In further preparation for the second session of the Negotiating Body, regional intersessional consultations were convened in most regions and subregions. Additional regional and subregional intersessional consultations took place in preparation for each of the subsequent sessions of the Negotiating Body.
At the second session of the Negotiating Body (Geneva, 30 April – 5 May 2001), responsibility for consideration of the proposed draft elements was divided between three working groups. The principal output was the set of three Co-Chairs’ working papers, an inventory of textual proposals made at the session merged with the Chair’s original text. These working papers became the rolling draft text of the Framework Convention. At the third session (Geneva, 22-28 November 2001), two working groups issued revised texts and Working Group One later drafted a text. These documents were used to further negotiations during the fourth session.
Having taken over as Permanent Representative of Brazil in Geneva in replacement of Ambassador Amorim, Ambassador Seixas Corrêa was elected as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control during its fourth session (Geneva, 18-23 March 2002).
It was agreed that Ambassador Seixas Corrêa should prepare a new Chair’s text, which would form the basis of negotiations during the fifth session of the Negotiating Body (14-25 October 2002). The text was released in July 2002. An international technical conference on illicit trade in tobacco products was hosted by the United States of America at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (30 July – 1 August 2002).
The first four sessions of the Negotiating Body had considered numerous textual alternatives. Concerted deliberations at the fifth session narrowed the options, resulting in more focused negotiations. After a first reading, in plenary, of the new Chair’s text, six issues were identified and discussed in open-ended informal meetings: advertising, promotion and sponsorship; financial resources; illicit trade in tobacco products; liability and compensation; packaging and labelling; and trade and health. Informal groups also held discussions on legal, institutional and procedural issues and use of terms. Substantial advances in the negotiations were made and consensus was reached in several areas. On the basis of the outputs of the informal sessions and the intersessional consultations with various delegations and groups of delegations, Ambassador Seixas Corrêa issued a revised Chair’s text of a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on 15 January 2003.
The sixth and final session of the Negotiating Body ran from 17 February – 1 March 2003. The negotiations were intense and broad ranging. Two important issues, advertising, promotion and sponsorship and financial resources, were discussed in two informal groups. At the final plenary meeting, the Negotiating Body agreed to transmit the text to the Fifty-sixth World Health Assembly for consideration for adoption in accordance with Article 19 of the Constitution. It also agreed that the discussion of protocols should be postponed until that Health Assembly, at which there would be time for consideration of the matter. At its final plenary meeting, the Negotiating Body agreed that the Chair of the Negotiating Body should draft a resolution recommending adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by the Health Assembly. The final draft of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control  was thus submitted to the Health Assembly for consideration for adoption, pursuant to Resolution WHA52.18.
On 21 May 2003, the 56th World Health Assembly, unanimously adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Convention was opened for signature, for a period of one year, from 16 June 2003 to 22 June 2003 at WHO headquarters in Geneva and thereafter at United Nations Headquarters in New York, from 30 June 2003 to 29 June 2004. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is a landmark for the future of global public health and has major implications for WHO’s health goals. The conclusion of the negotiating process and the unanimous adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in full accordance with Health Assembly resolutions, represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation.