Pacific Islands making tobacco control a development priority

06 Dec 2013

An UNDAF outlines the collective response of the UN system to development challenges and priorities in a country or countries. The Pacific UNDAF includes a Multi-Country Action Plan, which singles out FCTC implementation as one strategy for tackling the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).*

“Emphasizing FCTC implementation in the UNDAF Multi-Country Action Plan gets us closer to mobilizing national and international stakeholders and resources for tobacco control,” says Dr. Caleb Otto, Palau’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The Action Plan and other documents, known as Country Resource Matrices (CRMs), provide further details of UN and country-level priorities for development.

Deadly NCDs

Pacific island countries (PICs) are at the forefront of the tobacco and NCDs epidemic. NCDs are a major cause of death in the sub-region, where daily adult tobacco use is frequently reported as high as 40 percent prevalence, with one country reporting almost 60 percent of the population smoking daily.

But the PICs are fighting back. Health Ministers recently declared their countries would be tobacco free by 2025, and the President of Palau has called for tobacco control to be included in the next set of global development priorities that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

“The recent release of the sub-regional UNDAF further emphasizes the commitment of our region to elevate tobacco control among key development strategies. Civil society is determined to support these efforts,” said Annabel Lyman, FCA’s Coordinator for the sub-region.

FCTC implementation

At its fourth and fifth sessions, in 2010 and 2012, the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP) noted that including implementation of the Convention in UNDAFs would help to ensure the FCTC’s long-term and sustainable implementation.

Unfortunately, FCTC Parties and their development partners have been slow to promote tobacco control in planning documents, such as the UNDAF. A forthcoming report, Integrating the WHO FCTC into UN and national development planning instruments, found that only four of 45 sampled UNDAFs included a specific reference to the FCTC.

One reason could be that these strategic documents, and many other development plans, are usually negotiated for a number of years. It is possible however, to include FCTC implementation in an existing UNDAF. As the report, which was commissioned by the UNDP and the Framework Convention Secretariat, emphasizes, joint annual reviews or mid-term reviews of UNDAFs provide a good opportunity to include FCTC implementation under relevant objectives, such as the fight against NCDs. It can also be included as a stand-alone item, given the FCTC’s unique status as an international treaty.

The countries and territories included in the Pacific sub-region UNDAF are: Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

*Tobacco control is a main risk factor for four groups of NCDs: cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and diabetes.

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