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At COP7’s opening plenary, the UK fired the starting pistol on a new era for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by investing £15 million pounds (around US$18 million) into FCTC implementation between now and 2021.

This commitment cements the link between development and tobacco control, which was still emerging at previous COPs prior to agreement on the post-2015 development agenda. As the UK said in its statement to the COP, “The inclusion of the FCTC in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a major step forward and recognises that tobacco use negatively impacts on health and development.”

The funding, which supports a new initiative to promote the implementation of the FCTC in low- and middle-income countries, comes from the UK’s aid budget (the UK is the only G7 country to have met the UN’s target to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on overseas aid). It will be delivered by the FCTC Secretariat to directly support a number of Parties as well as initiatives to promote implementation of the treaty in all low- and middle-income countries.

A key target of the SDGs health goal is to accelerate implementation of the FCTC.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development goes further and states: “Price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective  and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries.” The UK has a lot to offer in tobacco control, with wide-ranging expertise in most areas of the FCTC, including some of the highest taxes in the world combined with a comprehensive and effective strategy to tackle illicit trade.

The Action Agenda also says Parties should strengthen implementation of the WHO FCTC and “support mechanisms to raise awareness and mobilize resources for the convention.” The UK, through its funding commitment, is taking a lead on this and we hope others will follow.

This funding comes at just the right time, as the COP moves from prioritising policy development to implementation. At previous COP sessions the majority of time during the six days of inter-governmental negotiations was dedicated to agreeing on best practices in tobacco control in the form of guidelines for implementation of various FCTC articles. At COP7, no guidelines will be discussed, aside from partial guidelines for Article 9 and 10 (product testing and regulation). At this COP we need to turn our attention instead to developing a coherent and consistent approach to supporting treaty implementation, a process which to date has been ad hoc and underfunded.

The COP will be covering a range of related and overlapping issues: Status on implementation

• Reporting and implementation review (a report from an expert group);
• Impact assessment (which is a key source of information about levels of implementation and gaps and challenges which need addressing for effective treaty implementation).

Mechanisms to support  implementation

• International co-operation for FCTC implementation;
• South-South and triangular co-operation;
• Sustainable measures to strengthen implementation (report of the working group); and
• Financial resources and mechanisms of assistance.

At COP7 we have the opportunity to re-examine how these issues interlink and to develop an efficient and holistic system that will maximise the synergies between them, working in collaboration with other members of the UN family, in particular WHO and the UN Development Programme. Such a system needs to underpin full implementation of the Treaty and provide maximum support to Parties. And we can do this secure in the knowledge that the funding has been provided by the UK to the Secretariat to get the ball rolling.

Deborah Arnott

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