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October 2nd, 2016:

Why delegates are barred from UN anti-tobacco meeting

Delegates representing dozens of countries may be barred from participating by the United Nations (UN), as the world’s global health establishment will gather in New Delhi to consider new tobacco taxes and regulations that will impact nearly every country in the world.

The five-day meeting, which functions as an international parliament that makes decisions about tobacco control efforts, is billed for India from November 7-12 and could feature delegates from over 180 nations. The UN’s public health arm, the World Health Organisation, holds a tobacco control conference every two years through a sub-agency called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

To avert a compromised outcome, the FCTC hopes to ban certain “appointed and elected officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches” from the meeting.

In a document obtained from the FCTC, the organisers ask for support to “ensure the exclusion of representatives and officials from…fully or partially state-owned tobacco industries, including state tobacco monopolies.”

In the bid to assert independence, uphold public interest and equity, careful efforts will be made to exclude delegates with associations with tobacco production. it will almost certainly prohibit finance ministers, economic development secretaries, public health officials, and even presidents and prime ministers representing countries that operate state-owned tobacco growing or manufacturing operations, or engage in marketing and trade efforts.

Available statistics at the FTCT show that governments are responsible for over 40% of the world’s tobacco production, while many nations maintain tobacco research centres and fund promotional agencies to support tobacco exports.

Consequently, countries including China, Cuba, Egypt, Bulgaria, Thailand and the convention’s host country, India, may have a hard time having delegates approved to attend the event and vote on issues that impact their citizens.

The FCTC justifies this possible exclusion of countries who pay dues toward the event because representatives from tobacco-producing countries “may have prevented public health interests from prevailing in the policy discussions” at previous conferences, according to the document obtained from FCTC.

Blackballing participants and observers from its conference is nothing new for the FCTC. The FCTC has a long-standing mandate to prevent tobacco industry workers, including farmers, from attending. In fact, all possible negative influence of outcomes of the meeting against public interest, including the media,have a history of being thrown out of the conference.