GENEVA – On 13 October the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) will open in Moscow, Russian Federation. The six-day session, which is taking place at the Moscow World Trade Centre, will deal with the most pressing issues in the field of tobacco control.
In Moscow the COP will be meeting for the sixth time since the treaty entered into force in February 2005. The number of Parties to the Convention has grown steadily over the years, from the 40 Parties that brought the treaty into force in 2005, to 113 at COP1 in 2006, and 179 as of today.
The COP is the governing body of the Convention, which meets regularly to review implementation of the Convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation.
On the opening day of COP6, a global progress report based on the 2014 implementation reports of the Parties will showcase their increasing compliance with the provisions of the treaty. It will also show that Parties continue to face legal challenges from the tobacco industry and front groups when implementing tobacco-control measures, in some cases by opposing domestic legislation and in others by using international trade and investment agreements to challenge Parties’ initiatives in curbing the tobacco epidemic. Therefore, it is not surprising that the interference of the tobacco industry continues to be reported by Parties as one of the most frequently identified barriers to implementation of the Convention.
The agenda of COP6 covers many substantive issues:
- Guidelines for implementation of Article 6, devoted to price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, will be proposed for adoption by the Parties; recommendations on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO FCTC) will also be presented, with policy options to be considered.
- The COP will discuss and provide guidance to the Parties on trade and investment issues relevant to implementation of the WHO FCTC, as well as liability.
- Decisions are expected to be adopted on globally emerging products, which include smokeless tobacco products, waterpipe, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).
- Several budgetary and institutional matters, including the adoption of the next workplan and budget for 2016–2017, will be decided.
The status of ratification of the first protocol to the WHO FCTC, to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products, which was adopted at the previous COP in Seoul, will be reviewed in Moscow. The COP will also provide guidance on promoting this treaty and accelerating progress towards its entry into force. So far, three countries have ratified the protocol; it requires ratification by 40 Parties to enter into force.