Maximizing transparency and tobacco industry accountability
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Welcome to the resource center for upcoming meetings of the global tobacco control treaty for Party delegations, representatives of observer organizations and the general public. This web page is a collaboration between the non-governmental organizations listed at the bottom of this page
Here, you will find a variety of resources on important issues surrounding the Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), taking place on 20-25 November, 2023, and the Third Meeting of the Parties (MOP3) of its Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (The Protocol), taking place on 27 – 30 November, 2023 in Panama City, Panama.
First-time delegates: We encourage you to download and review this helpful guide to the WHO FCTC.
These upcoming meetings provide a critical opportunity to strengthen global tobacco control implementation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and to rein in the tobacco industry’s ongoing attempts to interfere in, weaken, and delay the lifesaving measures of the WHO FCTC.
Prior to COP10 & MOP3: safeguarding against industry interference
All delegations are encouraged to submit declarations of interests. Parties can find a sample declaration-of-interest form here, should they choose to use such a format. (Download the document and scroll to page 6; non-Party States may also use this form.)
Big Tobacco has a long and well-documented history of interfering in public health policy around the globe to protect its own profits—including infiltrating meetings of the WHO FCTC by interfering with delegations and posing as members of the public or the media.
For this reason the WHO FCTC includes a groundbreaking provision known as Article 5.3, complemented by its guidelines for implementation, which contains a legal obligation for Parties to protect public health policymaking from the influence of the tobacco industry.
At COP8 and MOP1, Parties decided to strengthen Article 5.3, enhance transparency in negotiations, and protect the treaty from tobacco industry interference by requiring observer organizations, the media, and the public to submit declarations of interest.
Parties further decided to require government delegations to declare their participation to be in accordance with Article 5.3 and its guidelines. You can find the full text of the “maximizing transparency” decisions here: COP8 and MOP1.
Before COP9 and MOP2, many—but not all—governments around the world submitted their declarations. And the region of the Americas issued a formal statement at COP9 (section 1.2.19) and MOP2 (section 1.2.12) encouraging all other Parties to do so, for the sake of protecting the integrity of the treaty. Furthermore, given their historic and precedent-setting nature, more than 120 public health organizations from around the globe came together to urge Parties to fully implement these decisions in advance of COP9 and MOP2. Download the letter to Parties, including the list of signatories, here.
Prior to COP10 and MOP3, all delegations are encouraged to submit these declarations in conjunction with submitting their registrations.
For more information on the importance and groundbreaking nature of these decisions for Parties, download our one-page guide to the “maximizing transparency” decisions.
Parties can find a sample declaration-of-interest form here, should they choose to use such a format. (Download the document and scroll to page 6; non-Party States may also use this form.) Please note that the final decision text (annexes 5, 6, and 7) includes template forms for observers, the media, and the public.
During COP10 & MOP3
Monitoring & challenging industry interference
It is critical that Parties take all measures possible to protect the treaty from industry interference during COP10 and MOP3. If you become aware of industry attempts to interfere before or during the meetings, reach out to [email protected], as well as to the WHO FCTC Secretariat.
Tobacco industry interference was rampant during COP9 in 2021. But thanks to quick action by Parties and civil society, industry interference was exposed in the media from Colombia to the Philippines to Zimbabwe.
A 2021 exposé revealed how British American Tobacco (BAT) engaged in a systematic scheme of questionable payments across 10 African countries, with the apparent aim of interfering in WHO FCTC delegations and stalling progress on treaty implementation.
Moreover, in 2017, Reuters published an in-depth exposé of the tobacco industry’s tactics for interference at COP7. (These revelations helped spark Parties to take decisive action through the “maximizing transparency” decisions at COP8 and MOP1.) All attendees of treaty negotiations—Parties, observers, media, and the public alike—can benefit from understanding the depth of the industry’s tactics by reading the research and analysis here and here.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry’s interference in public health policy around the world has continued unabated. For more, read the global tobacco industry interference index.
Of course, this interference is longstanding, happening since the inception of the treaty. Read more on the tobacco industry’s past use of front groups to interfere in WHO FCTC negotiations.
COP10 and MOP3 will be the first in-person meetings of the Parties to the WHO FCTC and the Protocol, respectively, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is no doubt the tobacco industry is already preparing to return and interfere. Given the industry’s history of undermining the WHO FCTC and The Protocol, and its current and ongoing attempts to thwart lifesaving tobacco control policy around the globe, it is critical that Parties take all measures possible to protect the treaty—including by submitting their declarations as soon as possible.
Corporate Accountability and our partners will be monitoring tobacco industry interference during the COP10 and MOP3 negotiations. If you become aware of industry attempts to interfere before or during the meetings, reach out to [email protected], as well as to the WHO FCTC Secretariat.
Advancing liability & accountability
Stopping industry interference in policymaking is critical. Equally important is stopping Big Tobacco’s abuses and bringing it to justice around the globe. Parties should support the mandate for the Secretariat to create tools and resources to assist Parties with Article 19.
For too long, the tobacco industry has used legal threats to intimidate governments into abandoning the implementation of the treaty’s boldest measures. It is time to shift the burden of tobacco onto the industry, force it to respect the rule of law, and make it pay for the past and future harms caused by its products, including e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and similar devices. And people around the world agree: In fact, thousands of individuals along with experts and organizations have joined in urging Parties to advance liability.
Article 19 encourages Parties to hold the tobacco industry liable for its harms (health care costs, environmental costs, and others). At COP10, Parties have the opportunity to strengthen and advance Article 19 implementation—and in doing so, catapult progress toward realizing the WHO FCTC’s lifesaving potential.
Advancing Article 19 on liability not only allows Parties to hold the tobacco industry legally liable for its abuses, it can also advance all of the lifesaving measures of the WHO FCTC. It has the potential for governments to recover the costs of treating tobacco-related diseases from the tobacco industry, and use their legal systems to ensure their right to do so. And it can help recover environmental costs incurred by governments for tobacco products’ harms to the planet, including cigarette butts—widely known to be the single most littered item on Earth.
The Secretariat has a mandate from prior COPs to create tools and resources to assist Parties with Article 19. Parties can support this mandate by ensuring it is on the agenda for COP10.
At COP10, Parties are also encouraged to support the creation of an expert group to recommend tools and practices to strengthen liability and accountability implementation around the globe, and to dedicate funding to ensure progress on Article 19 implementation can continue. Read more here.
If you would like to discuss ways to support Article 19 before or during COP10, reach out to [email protected]
After COP10 & MOP3: advancing industry liability & accountability
After the negotiations, it will be important for Parties, the Bureau, the Secretariat, and observers to assess the strengths and challenges of the declaration-of-interest process and develop any necessary adjustments for future treaty meetings.
In addition, Parties should build on the momentum from COP10 to continue advancing Article 19, a visionary measure of the WHO FCTC that provides a powerful pathway for industry accountability. In fact, Parties should request the WHO FCTC Secretariat to arrange a regular item on accountability and liability of the tobacco industry for every upcoming meeting of the COP.
Parties, the Secretariat, and experts have created a practical, online toolkit that provides guidance to Parties to advance Article 19. Parties should continue supporting the Secretariat in completing its mandate from prior COPs to create tools and resources to assist Parties with Article 19.
In the meantime, governments at all levels can use the COP10 accountability decision, should it be adopted, as well as the toolkit and other resources to begin implementing Article 19 and holding the tobacco industry accountable around the world. In fact, governments around the world have successfully litigated against the tobacco industry, and many more can do so. If you are interested in advancing liability in your country and would like support, please reach out to [email protected].
Resources at a glance:
- Overview of the WHO FCTC
- Overview of key WHO FCTC Articles and their implementing guidelines
- Tobacco Control Laws Database and major litigation victories in tobacco control which demonstrate the importance of Article 19.
- Full text of “maximizing transparency” decisions: COP8 & MOP1. Template declaration-of-interest forms for observers, the media, and the public can be found here.
- Sample declaration-of-interest form for Parties, should they choose to use such a format. (Download the document and scroll to page 6.)
- One page guide for Parties to the “maximizing transparency” decisions.
- One page guide for Parties on the decision on accountability and liability of the tobacco industry.
- Statement by Parties from the region of the Americas at COP9 (section 1.2.19) and MOP2 (section 1.2.12) urging others to submit declarations of interest and fully implement the “maximizing transparency” decisions.
- WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub bulletin, COP9: “Parties must safeguard the treaty from Big Tobacco by implementing “maximizing transparency” decisions and submitting declarations of interest” (page 5)
- Media coverage of tobacco industry interference at COP9: Colombia, Philippines, Zimbabwe
- Global tobacco industry interference index.
- The Year Countries Made Big Tobacco Pay
- “Two deadly industries, one bold solution: Holding polluting corporations and the tobacco industry liable” Corporate Accountability, 2022.
- For a cleaner healthier world, measures to protect integrity of public policy are critical. Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
- Video and infographic: We need food, not tobacco
- Global Plastics Treaty must align with Global Tobacco Control Treaty
- Resources from Tobacco Tactics by the University of Bath – the latest news on the tobacco industry.
- Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control: Tobacco Industry interference at COP9 of the WHO FCTC.
- Essential elements of Article 5.3
For more resources or support, please contact [email protected].