MOP1 Bulletin Day 2 – Tuesday October 9
Slow down, we just got here!
Parties had barely got their bearings in Committee A yesterday when the issue of co-operation with other intergovernmental organisations came up under agenda item 4.2. As a result, they missed their first opportunity to discuss a critical subject for this MOP: how can the ITP Secretariat mobilise existing organisations and international arrangements to effectively help implement the Protocol?
If the ITP is implemented in isolation, the Secretariat will find itself constantly re-inventing the wheel. For example, the Protocol will involve governments sharing sensitive information about criminal investigations, which may require secure channels of communication. It would of course be much more efficient to call on the expertise of one of the intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) that has been dealing with this type of issue for decades.
In short, MOP requires effective coordination, and the skills and expertise from law enforcement, customs agencies and tax authorities. That means a number of IGOs need to be involved up-stream in planning for implementation, and work in partnership with the ITP Secretariat, not merely be consulted from time to time on an ad hoc basis.
At MOP1, measured answers will have to be found to important questions. For some of these, such as establishing a global tracking and tracing regime and agreeing on legislative options for free zones, the clock is already ticking. This does not mean that MOP has to rush into decisions without thinking through potential consequences, and ensuring full participation of all Parties – including non-English speakers.
Discussions at MOP1 will be technical and at times complicated; this will not come as a surprise to any Party to the Protocol. Technical discussions are the expectation, but they are deemed to be worthwhile in order to address the illicit trade in tobacco products, which is a pervasive form of tax evasion and contributes to a global tobacco epidemic that kills 7 million people annually.
However, discussions at MOP are not valuable by default, especially if they occur at lightning speed and without adequate participation from Parties. When guiding discussion and gavelling through decisions, there needs to be careful consideration for both the varying technical capacities of delegations and linguistic differences.
The initial documents for MOP – including important technical reports – were not provided to delegations within the 60 day timeline. This gave limited time for delegations to review the material, especially for non-English speaking Parties who experienced further delay. The effect of this is felt most strongly among Parties from low and middle-income countries who may not have access to a team of experts well-versed in these technical matters and available to review at the 11th hour. This also puts them at a disadvantage in MOP discussions compared to higher income countries.
To further exacerbate this, documents have been presented to Parties during MOP in white paper form and available only in English. This anglo-centric method of operating is against the spirit of international cooperation – which the ITP should exemplify!
Decisions should not be made at MOP until materials are available in all relevant languages and Parties have had time to review and participate in discussion among other Parties.