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The world prepares for further measures from the UN tobacco control treaty

Geneva, 18 August 2016: Tobacco kills around 6 million people each year. This epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced and leaders from every continent will meet in New Delhi, 7- 12 November, to agree further measures to control it. This year there are expected to be more landmark decisions.

The treaty, officially known as the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations with 180 Parties covering 90% of the world’s population.

The UN tobacco control treaty, is the world’s response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic, and has grown in strengthen since it came into force in 2005. Governments use the treaty to help reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco products. By implementing its provisions, governments protect their population from the heavy social, economic, health and environmental burden attributed to tobacco consumption.

The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO FCTC is expected to review the implementation of the treaty provisions and Guidelines and may take decisions on further steps to help countries curb the tobacco epidemic. With tobacco killing half of its users and nearly 80% of the world’s 1 billion smokers living in low- and middle-income countries, the ambition is to denormalize tobacco use and tackle the causes of that epidemic.

Launch of a global progress report on implementation of the WHO FCTC

This year COP7 sees the launch of the Seventh Global Progress Report on implementation of the WHO FCTC. Parties will be able to evaluate the status of tobacco control measures across the world. It will show that even the lowest performing Parties are making progress. The report will describe what is being achieved and what are the obstacles for implementation in all areas of the treaty with the assessment designed to help improve implementation of the treaty across all its articles.

Legal challenges

After an international tribunal upheld the sovereign authority of states to protect health through tobacco control earlier this year, Parties to the WHO FCTC are more confident in implementing the Convention. In that light, COP7 will consider ways to better support countries facing new legal challenges.

Recently, the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) confirmed tobacco control measures applied by the Government of Uruguay did not violate the terms of an investment agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, under which the dispute was initiated.

The decision was informed by a joint submission from the World Health Organization and the WHO FCTC Secretariat.

The Convention Secretariat is the administrative body of the WHO FCTC whose main function is to support Parties, the governing bodies of the treaty, such as the Conference of the Parties and the subsidiary bodies established under the convention. The Secretariat is hosted by WHO in Geneva.

New areas for the treaty

COP will discuss for the first time how to better address gender-specific risks when developing tobacco control strategies. Parties will also debate how human rights are intrinsic to the implementation of the treaty. Linkages to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as health, education, sustainable environments and poverty eradication are also included among the agenda items. Delegates will debate the impact of the treaty to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and how to monitor its target 3.a that refers to the implementation of the WHO FCTC.

Background facts on the WHO FCTC

The WHO FCTC is the first public health based internationally legally binding treaty and has successfully helped to co-ordinate and energize the global struggle against tobacco consumption. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the Convention’s governing body and regularly reviews the implementation of the treaty and takes action to promote its effectiveness. The regular sessions of COP are held at two yearly intervals.

COP7 has been jointly organised by this year’s host nation, the Government of India and the Convention Secretariat, and will take place at the India Expo Centre in Greater Noida, 7-12 November 2016.

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