Explainers

What is FCTC COP? (part 6)

More on WHO regions

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Each Region has a regional office, the office for the European Region (EUR) is in Copenhagen.

Regional Offices/Regional Directors:

  • WHO Member States are grouped into 6 regional groups. Each region has a regional office that enjoys a large degree of autonomy.
  • Regional Offices are headed by a Regional Director (effectively the head of the WHO for his/her Region), managing staff of health and other experts in regional headquarters.
  • The Regional Director is elected by the Regional Committee for the region for a once-renewable five-year term.
  • The Regional Director is also – together with the WHO Director-General – the direct supervising authority of all the heads of WHO country offices (known as WHO Representatives) within the region.

Regional Committee Meetings

  • Each WHO Region has a Regional Committee, which acts as the WHO decision-making body for the region.
  • Consists of Ministers of Health of each Member State in the region.
  • Regional Committees meet separately once a year to set policy, approve budgets and work programmes for each of the six regions. Regional Committees:
    • Formulate regional policies.
    • Elect Regional Directors for once-renewable five-year terms.
    • Are responsible for setting the guidelines for the implementation within the region of the policies adopted by the World Health Assembly.
    • Serve as a progress review board for the actions of the WHO within the region.

Current priorities include:

  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the full spectrum of essential, quality health services without suffering financial hardship.
  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs): UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4 (reduce by one-third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment).
  • Global Action Plan on Health and Well-Being for All (GAP): A joint initiative of Norway, Germany and Ghana, backed by the EU and the Gates Foundation (following the Ebola crisis and criticism of the WHO’s response). Objective is to accelerate country progress on the health-related SDGs.
  • WHO Reform (3 focus areas): programmes and priority setting, governance, and managerial reform.

WHO regions have published reports on “novel” products.  These reports tend to favour a precautionary approach, often calling for bans.   For discussion of two leaked EMRO reports, see this article from Clive Bates:  Leaked papers: WHO to intensify its pointless and destructive war against innovation – expect many dead

WHAT DOES THE WHO FCTC SAY?

The WHO FCTC includes a range of tobacco control measures to reduce tobacco demand (Articles 6-14) and tobacco supply (Articles 15-17), concerning the production, sale, distribution, advertisement and taxation of tobacco products. Although harm reduction is explicitly recognised in the treaty as a tobacco control approach, thus far the COP has not provided any clarity or guidance on specific harm reduction strategies and it remains wholly within the domain of national governments to decide how they interpret harm reduction strategies.

Link to FCTC text: https://fctc.who.int/who-fctc/overview

The core demand reduction provisions in the WHO FCTC are contained in articles 6-14:
Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, and
Non-price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, namely:

  • Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke (Article 8);
  • Regulation of the contents of tobacco products (Article 9);
  • Regulation of tobacco product disclosures (Article 10);
  • Packaging and labelling of tobacco products (Article 11);
  • Education, communication, training and public awareness (Article 12);
  • Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (Article 13); and,
  • Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation (Article 14).

The core supply reduction provisions in the WHO FCTC are contained in articles 15-17:

  • Illicit trade in tobacco products (Article 15);
  • Sales to and by minors (Article 16); and,
  • Provision of support for economically viable alternative activities (Article 17-18).

Article 1 with the terms of reference mentions harm reduction:

Article 1d WHO FCTC:

“tobacco control” means a range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke;” Note that the word “reducing” is significant. It does not say “eliminate” or “quit only” – it recognises a reduction of risk.


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