09 Nov 2016
IGOs play an important role in contributing to and support ing implementation of the FCTC. Their attendance at meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) is critical.
To make sure that IGOs attending the COP really support the advancement of the Convention, there should be a procedure to regularly review the accreditation of these organizations with the status of observers to the COP. The Secretariat’s report to COP7 outlines a potential review process for IGO observers every two years. They would be required to complete and return a survey that would seek to obtain information on IGOs’ participation in FCTC meetings, their contributions to other tobacco control-related events, details on how IGOs work to support FCTC implementation, and information pertaining to each organization’s adherence to the principles contained in Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
When a direct or indirect conflict of interest with the tobacco industry was identified and where the organization lacked a formal policy to address such conflicts, the Secretariat report suggests that the organization would resubmit its application for observer status after having resolved these conflict of interest issues.
COP7 should request that the draft decision include other necessary details. In particular, the draft decision does not clarify what criteria will be applied when assessing IGO observers’ responses to the survey. It is also unclear on what basis IGOs will assess whether their policies and activities conform to Article 5.3 guidelines, as the guidelines refer to obligations of FCTC Parties, not IGOs. Another gap is whether the assessment will be based on real or perceived conflict of interest, and what the criteria for these would be.
Likewise, if a conflict of interest is identified, the draft decision does not specify what will happen to the observer status of the IGO in question while it works to resolve these issues. Also, individual circumstances may need to be taken into account as part of a decision on whether an IGO observer should maintain its observer status, or whether its accreditation should be revoked or suspended in follow-up to the proposed survey procedure.
Given the complexities of this process, FCA recommends that COP7 clarify some of the procedural details of how follow-up to the survey would proceed. When a process to review the observer status of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) was established at COP6, the Bureau was given the mandate to review NGO reports and to make recommendations to the COP (with relevant justifications) about whether to maintain, suspend, or discontinue observer status. COP7 may wish to decide whether a similar measure and criteria should be enacted as part of the proposed IGO review process.
The meeting of the UN Interagency Task Force (UN IATF) on Non-Communicable Diseases discussed a model policy for UN organizations on how to prevent tobacco industry interference. COP should ensure that it seeks updates on this policy before discussing its own IGO review process , and should ensure that any established review process uses the recommendations made via the UN IATF as a minimum standard.