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A recurring theme during plenary discussions on the opening day of COP7 was tobacco industry interference.

From Uruguay and Australia’s landmark legal victories against tobacco giants like Philip Morris International, to plain packaging taking root in countries like the UK and France, Parties’ resolve to stand strong against Big Tobacco’s aggressive attempts to block, weaken, and delay the life-saving measures of the FCTC is stronger than ever.

One of the main focuses of Parties’ statements yesterday, however, was how the tobacco industry interferes in sessions of the COP themselves – whether it’s mobilising front groups to attempt to re-frame the debate, infiltrating the space dedicated to increasing public engagement with the FCTC negotiations, or even getting seats on Party delegations.

Article 5.3 and its guidelines are unambiguous about the participation of the tobacco industry on Parties’ delegations: per recommendations 4.9 and 8.3, Parties should not nominate the tobacco industry as part of its delegations to COP and other FCTC meetings. But at least 11 Parties have done so in recent years, according to an analysis by the Secretariat. Not only that, but a documentary by the BBC revealed late last year that BAT engaged in corporate espionage and bribed politicians and policymakers in the name of buying political influence and undermining tobacco control policies. This included payments to FCTC officials, including an official who was representing a Party at negotiations on the Illicit Trade Protocol.

The good news is that the vast majority of delegations take their obligations under Article 5.3 very seriously, and some at this COP have even voluntarily signed declarations stating they have no conflict of interest with the tobacco industry. This is great progress.

FCA strongly supports the guidelines for Article 5.3. FCA commends the Convention Secretariat for addressing this issue of importance in its report to COP7  (FCTC/COP/7/30), and supports the establishment of a mechanism to enforce adherence to FCTC guidelines on this issue.

If Parties would like to give further consideration to the type of process best suited to bringing sessions of the COP in line with Article 5.3 and its guidelines, FCA suggests that the COP delegation nomination process might involve a declaration of implementation of Article 5.3.

And what about the public? The industry has also infiltrated the very mechanism designed to increase democratic participation in COP sessions – the public gallery. Rule 32 of the Rules of Procedure states that sessions of the COP should be held in public, unless the COP decides that they shall be open or restricted. But, of course, the public badge enables these tobacco industry representatives to walk the halls of the COP to misinform delegates, influence the negotiations, obtain sensitive internal documents, intimidate delegates and NGO observers, and more.

FCA believes that the industry should be prevented from infiltrating COP sessions through the public badge, and recommends that Parties apply a pre-screening process for members of the public to screen out tobacco industry representatives from bona fide members of the public in advance of COP sessions.

FCA also recognises the importance of media attendance at COP sessions and recommends Parties apply a pre-screening process for members of the media to ensure the tobacco industry cannot infiltrate FCTC meetings through the media.

John Stewart and Shuo Peskoe-Young
Corporate Accountability Internationsal

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