WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control1. An assessment of the situation regarding the principle of “ensuring that no one is left behind” at the global level: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one of the most rapid embracing international treaties in the UN history. In its preamble, the treaty expresses the specific needs of “vulnerable populations”. It includes references to the needs of the poor, women and young girls and youth in general. Parties of the Convention committed themselves to give priority to their right to protect public health. In its Guiding principles, the treaty addresses the specific needs to promote the participation of indigenous individuals and communities, to address gender-specific risks when developing tobacco control strategies and includes provisions on sales to and by minors. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the WHO FCTC and is comprised of all Parties to the Convention. It keeps under regular review the implementation of the Convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation, and may also adopt protocols, annexes and amendments to the Convention according to its priorities and ensuring the Guiding principles are addressed in its decisions. The Convention Secretariat is established by COP and is hosted by WHO. It provides secretariat support to the activities of the governing bodies and assists Parties in complying with the WHO FCTC, its protocols and guidelines and works to ensure that vulnerable groups according to the treaty preamble and guiding principles are covered by the different measures implemented by Parties. The Convention currently has 180 Parties which covers more than 90% of the global population. The Conference of the Parties has 27 International Intergovernmental Organizations and 20 Nongovernmental Organizations accredited as observers. Observers may also participate in the work of the COP. State No-Parties are also invited to attend the COP as observers. After becoming Parties to the Convention, states have engaged in their implementation work. Evidence primarily deriving from Parties’ reports to the COP as well as from other relevant research indicates that the Convention has made a powerful contribution to tobacco control and reducing smoking globally. Parties that have implemented strong FCTC policies have on average experienced greater reductions in smoking prevalence and thus will experience future reductions in smoking-related mortality and morbidity. After the entry into force of the Convention, more than 80% of its Parties have adopted new or have amended their existing comprehensive tobacco control legislations to bring them in line with their obligations under the Convention. Although various articles to the Convention have attracted diverse reported implementation rates, measures to ensure smoke-free environments, effective packaging and labelling of tobacco packs and communication programmes and banning sales to minors have been implemented by more than two-thirds of the Parties. Measures such as plain packaging of tobacco products, extending smoke-free regulations to cover outdoor areas and private cars, banning displays of tobacco products at the points of sale resulted from Parties coordinated efforts to engage in strong measures and innovative approaches in tobacco control. COP established a mechanism of assistance to ensure that all Parties have access to assistance in their implementation work, upon their request. In the eleven years of existence, around 40 Parties have been supported with joint needs assessments to address the needs and gaps from Parties in implementation of the WHO FCTC. Additionally, as part of the global network who supports the Parties in their implementation work six global knowledge hubs have been established and are functional in the six WHO regions. Five observatories to monitor tobacco industry strategies have also been established to monitor tobacco industry strategies and their efforts to interfere with public health policy development and implementation; these observatories will serve as sentinels of a global platform to address tobacco industry interference in line with Article 5.3 of the Convention, one of its key cross-cutting measures. 2. The identification of gaps, areas requiring urgent attention, risks and challenges: The implementation of the treaty has increased thoroughly and steadily. Nevertheless, a number of challenges have been reported by Parties as part of their mandatory biannual reporting cycle. Among the biggest challenges reported some were particularly common:
- Tobacco industry’s interference with the policy making and legislation process is reported as the #1 challenge. The industry promotes its deadly products through aggressive tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, targeting women and girls and vulnerable groups.
- Parties, particularly the developing country Parties and Parties with economic in transition report a lack of financial resources to implement the WHO FCTC. Eleven (11) years after the Convention entered into force, some Parties still do not have designated tobacco control programme and budget in the Ministry of Health to implement the Convention.
- Multisectoral coordination at the national level to meet the obligation under the WHO FCTC remains a challenge as the treaty implementation work still relies very much on the leadership of the health sector.