How the world is supporting implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?
The tobacco product is deemed unique because it is the only consumer product that kills half of its users when used as intended by its manufacturers. The tobacco industry, which continues to produce such a lethal product, is also deemed unique because a tobacco treaty makes it so. Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) creates an obligation on the part of governments to take steps to protect public health against the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. It is the only private sector organization identified in treaty law as one whose interests are diametrically opposed to public health and interest, and thus, cannot be considered a partner of governments. Article 5.3 of the FCTC is a testament to the fact that governments are not alone in fighting the tobacco industry. Increasingly, international organizations, concerned groups of civil society organizations from all over the world, and governments have stood together to denounce tobacco industry interference in its many forms.
A. INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
United Nations (UN): Recognize the Conflict of Interest with Tobacco Industry
According to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), (2011 Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases), all governments “recognize the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.”
In September 2015, the 193 member states of the UNGA also agreed to adopt as one of its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)1 the prevention of non-communicable diseases, among which is “Goal 3.a Strengthen the implementation ofthe World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate.”
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): No Engagement with Tobacco Industry
The UNDP adopted a policy on partnerships with the private sector which identified sectors in which engagements should be avoided because their goals are incompatible with the UN (classified as exclusionary). The manufacture, sale, or distribution of tobacco is identified as one of such sectors along with manufacture of controversial weapons, pornography, objects subject to international bans, or to the protection of endangered species, gambling, violations of treaty law, use and tolerance of forced or child labor. (Policy on Due Diligence and Partnerships with the Private Sector, 2013)
UN Global Compact: No Funding from Tobacco Industry
Despite criticisms revolving around the tobacco industry’s ability to indirectly participate in the UN Global Compact, the UN Global Compact Office pronounced that it does not accept funding from tobacco companies.
World Bank: No Support for Tobacco Industry Front Groups
In April 2015, the World Bank decided not to participate or financially support the event (12th Annual Asia Pacific Tax Forum) of the International Tax and Investment Centre (ITIC), an organization with a board that included tobacco company executives. This is despite that fact that ITIC, on its website, had already thanked the bank for “supporting” the event with “technical contributions and the participation costs of several governments.”
B. GOVERNMENTS AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODIES
Conference of the Parties and Subsidiary Bodies of the WHO FCTC: No Participation from the Tobacco Industry
In 2012, the Conference of the Parties to the FCTC deferred the consideration of the Interpol’s application as observer to the FCTC COP based on the information that the organization received funding from Philip Morris.
In 2009, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) negotiating on the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade decided to ask the observers in the gallery, comprised primarily of the tobacco industry, to leave the room after voting on the issue when governments raised concerns that tobacco company representatives were lobbying in the hallways. Subsequent meetings upheld the same protocol of not allowing the tobacco industry to observe the negotiations.
Governments Negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): No benefit of investor-state dispute settlement to tobacco companies
Twelve governments (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam) created a new standard in free trade and investment agreements by incorporating a special provision in the TPP on denying benefits of investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in relation to tobacco control measures. This allows governments to deny tobacco industry the benefit of suing governments for damages, a benefit granted to all other foreign investors in many other investment treaties. This marks the first time in the history of tobacco control that countries have negotiated a substantive provision relating to tobacco control in a trade and investment forum. Other countries in the SEA region interested in TPP membership include Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand.
C. INTERNATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS
International Red Cross: No Funding from Tobacco Industry
<>In June 2015, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies elaborated on their policy to refuse funding from the tobacco industry, specifically urging the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “to refrain from accepting funds from the tobacco industry…” (Red Cross and Red Crescent non-engagement with tobacco companies, Internal guidance brief, June 2015)
“Accepting tobacco money harms IFRC’s reputation and credibility and impedes its efforts to be a leading organization in NCD prevention and control. NCDs share the highest burden of diseases, and there is consensus among all countries to add NCD prevention and control as a key goal for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Avoid Conflict of Interest with Organizations Headed by Former Tobacco Company Executive
In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, renowned for its contribution to global public health, withdrew its funding to IDRC (International Development Research Centre), a public corporation that funds research in developing nations, when it was revealed that its chairperson is a former director of Imperial Tobacco Canada (a subsidiary of British American Tobacco and one of the world’s largest tobacco transnational corporations).
Badminton World Federation (BWF)
Since 2013, the BWF has adopted a clear policy of protecting the integrity of badminton tournaments by shunning tobacco sponsorship or revenue alongside funding from illegal products and pornography. The BWF regulations state that: “The BWF are [sic] unable to grant sanction to tournaments which receive sponsorship or revenue from any individual or company whose brand relates to the sale of tobacco products, pornographic material or products that are illegal to sell or distribute in the applicant member association.” (Handbook II 2015/16 Laws and General Competition Regulations).
D. FINAL NOTE
Documented instances when the tobacco industry is prevented from interfering with public policy (or simply from increasing its access to policymakers, e.g., through tobacco funding or sponsorships) create precedents that make it easier for governments to prevent tobacco industry interference, and consequently, improve tobacco control measures.
Despite milestones reached in countering the tobacco industry at the global level, much more remains to be done in order to completely protect global health from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Government commitments to implement the FCTC, including Article 5.3 as well as the clear guidance provided by the Article 5.3 Guidelines, are further enhanced by the COP6 Decision on the Implementation of the FCTC which seeks to intensify collaborative action to address tobacco industry efforts internationally, and provides an opportunity to develop tools that systematically address tobacco industry interference including those at the global level.