COP6 broke new ground on tobacco taxation, implementation

05 Sep 2016

The first momentous decision of the week was the adoption of Article 6 guidelines, which should be a turning point in global tobacco control.

If governments follow through on the goodwill shown on the tobacco tax issue this week, tobacco taxes and prices should rise sharply in the coming years, with more efficient tax structures, better tax administration and higher revenues.

30-percent target

Most importantly, national implementation of Article 6 guidelines should save millions of lives. This needs to be an immediate priority if we are to have any hope of the world reaching, by 2025, the 30 percent tobacco use reduction target it set itself at the 2013 World Health Assembly.

It was particularly heartening to see a number of finance and tax officials attend this COP session, many of them with stories to tell of the successes they have achieved with tobacco tax reforms in their respective countries.

There were also helpful discussions on the Illicit Trade Protocol: how to achieve its entry into force and how to prepare for implementation.

This has the potential to support Article 6 implementation by Parties. On the Committee B side, a different type of milestone was reached in discussions about FCTC implementation.

Focus on implementation

At COP5, Parties collectively acknowledged that COP decisions and guidelines would not, by themselves, lead to full implementation of the FCTC; at COP6, they advanced a further step in tackling implementation problems.

First, they debated a helpful first report from the Working Group on Sustainable Measures to Strengthen Implementation of the FCTC. Second, they adopted recommendations from the working group, particularly requesting the World Bank, WHO and the UNDP to put a price tag on FCTC implementation — both the cost of action and inaction.

The Committee also agreed to extend the mandate of the working group, with a focus on moving beyond diagnosing problems towards planning specific solutions, including how to bring all departments of government on board with tobacco control (in other words multi-sectoral coordination as per Article 5.2) and crafting an implementation assistance strategy to be discussed at COP7.

Second, the COP is now on track to step up the usefulness of its reporting system, by streamlining its reporting arrangements and laying the foundations for an implementation review mechanism (IRM).

IRMs are common in environmental and human rights treaties, and ensure that Parties reports are used not only to compile a global overview on progress with tobacco control, but also to help Parties achieve better implementation. In the case of the FCTC, this is definitely a work in progress — but we have taken an important step in the right direction.

A few hours to go

There were, of course, many other positive decisions at COP6 — too numerous to go through here. However, COP6 still has a few hours to run.

For today’s Committee B session, which runs from 0:900 to 10:00, and the plenary, which starts at 10:30, here are three thoughts:

  • Agreeing on the FCTC budget and workplan for 2016-2017 is essential, but before doing so the Committee will need to address Palau’s proposal to establish dedicated travel support for government delegates to attend FCTC-related meetings. Ensuring participation of low-resource Parties at future COP sessions is closely related to governance. Two-thirds of Parties (currently 120) are required to be present at the COP to adopt decisions; with participation of 78 Parties significantly affected, travel support is not a mere issue of solidarity, but an essential matter to achieve progress on the FCTC.
  • Committee B is also expected to return to Djibouti’s proposal on transparency with regard to Party delegations. There is no greater threat to tobacco control than industry interference. An impressive number of Parties spoke in favour of this proposal and we hope an agreement on the decision can be reached. A nod from a single Party is all that it will take to be clear on who represents industry views at COP7. Our advice is simple: do not let this opportunity slip through your fingers.
  • Committee B might also need to reflect on the budget one more time. In particular, Parties may wish to hear the Secretariat’s views on which activities are likely to attract extrabudgetary resources and what steps the Secretariat plans to take to mobilise funding to deliver on all items of its workplan. It will be equally important that Parties offer their views on the same point and provide active support to the Convention Secretariat to raise all necessary funds.

Last, but not least, the COP is likely to review and adopt a decision that will be subsequently referred to as the Moscow Declaration. Let’s go out on a high note!

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