Protocol at crossroads?

08 Nov 2016

As explained in FCTC/COP/7/5, under the terms of the Protocol up to two years could elapse between entry into force of the ITP and the first session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP1). But the five-year clock on one important time-bound commitment – the establishment of a global information-sharing focal point – begins to run as soon as the Protocol is in effect. If no work is done during this gap period, ITP Parties and the Secretariat will have just three years left to set up the focal point.

During today’s discussion on ITP, Parties will be presented with two options on how to deal with this timing problem. One is to hold the first session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP1) six months after the ITP enters into force, whether or not this happens to match the COP cycle. While this idea sounds good in principle, it is not feasible. As per the text of the Protocol, MOP1 must be held immediately prior or after a regular COP session. And a regular session won’t take place until late 2018. Holding MOP1 around an extraordinary session of the COP seems questionable and adds the extra expense of a one-day COP.

So what is the other option? After the FCTC was adopted in 2003, two sessions of an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) were held in order to prepare for when the Convention entered into force (which it did in 2005). The same approach could be applied for the ITP. An IGWG could be held in 2017 to prepare for 16 more governments becoming Parties to the Protocol, which is when the ITP will enter into force. The IGWG would allow governments to talk to each other about all sorts of issues related to ITP implementation, starting with the architecture of the global information sharing focal point mandated by Article 8 of the Protocol.

Because the ITP IGWG would need to deal with highly technical matters, including the architecture of different national tracking-and-tracing systems and how they could be made to interact, its meeting would need to be carefully prepared by appropriate experts. One plausible choice for this role would be the existing panel of experts on ITP.

There is of course the issue of cost suggested by the Convention Secretariat, but the price-tag of the IGWG is
likely to be more currently set aside for the ITP for 2017. But this expense might be a prudent investment: the alternative is to make the establishment of a global information-sharing focal point into a rushed and
potentially messy business that would almost certainly drive up costs.

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