FCTC budget: nice work if you can get it

Here Copwatch brings you what you need to know about the COP10 documents relating to the FCTC budget. This covers three documents, all posted on the COP10 main documents page:

FCTC/COP/10/17 Proposed Workplan and Budget for the financial period 2024–2025, 

FCTC/COP/10/18 WHO FCTC Investment Fund, and

FCTC/COP/10/19 Rev.1 Payment of Assessed Contributions and measures to reduce Parties in arrears 

The first thing you need to know is that 59 Parties have not paid their contributions. That’s around one third of the FCTC membership. You should also know that the biggest funder of the FCTC is China. As we know, China is also home to the China Tobacco monopoly, the biggest cigarette company in the world.

Second, in the 2024-2025 period, the FCTC plans to spend some 17 million USD in direct expenses, excluding recovery costs (10/19 Rev1).  Almost half of this is for the salaries of WHO bureaucrats. Some 2 million USD out of the 8 million USD budgeted for salaries is expected to be covered by “extra-budgetary” contributions.  It seems likely that the ‘extra-budgetary’ contributions will come from rich donors, who will set the agenda in line with their interests, not the interests of people who smoke or the countries they reside in.

The single biggest non-salary cost, by far, is… the hosting of COP11 at almost 1.7 million USD. Copwatch is confused! In August, it was revealed that there was outrage in Panama at the revelation that the Ministry of Health (Minsa) had spent “$4,881,732.20 for the organisation of a conference against tobacco.” Is this 1.7 million USD in addition to that?

Now, how do you like that as a taxpayer? Given how secretive COPs are, you certainly won’t be able to judge if you are getting value for your money. 

Third, we are guessing that the investment fund launched at COP9 is not doing well. But, we can only guess, as there is nothing written down about that, instead it is promised that “the Convention Secretariat will provide a verbal update at the Tenth session of the COP (COP10) on the status of investment for the Fund.” (10/18). 

These documents reveal that the FCTC has run into another problem – that nobody wants to serve on the two oversight committees (“it was challenging to attract qualified candidates” – see 10/18). One committee was intended to serve the WHO FCTC Investment Fund and the other committee was for the Investment Fund to support the implementation of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (for which not a single person expressed interest to serve). As a result, the FCTC Secretariat proposes to merge the two committees into one, and will define its purpose, functions, authority, composition and selection, and various other administrative matters.

Here’s the problem with that proposal: the Oversight Committee members are supposed to be proposed by the Selection Committee. Who is the Selection Committee? The President and one Vice-President of the governing body of each treaty, as well as the Head of the Convention Secretariat. In other words, the people with the oversight are appointed by the very same people that they are supposed to oversee. Re-appointment of the Oversight Committee is again up to the Selection Committee.  

But does it really matter? We’re not so sure because the Oversight Committee is purely advisory and has no management, decision-making, or operational responsibility. It need only meet two times per year, and its recommendations can be fully disregarded by the COP and MOP. Finally, in line with the WHO’s ethos of covering things up, the minutes of the Oversight Committee meetings and their recommendations are to be provided to the COP and MOP bureaus only, and not shared with the COP or the MOP, or made public.

In summary:  the FCTC spends almost half of its money on its own salaries. The biggest funder is China, and some salaries are funded by wealthy donors (think Michael Bloomberg). The proposed rules ensure that no meaningful budget oversight will take place in the future. I think that we may have just solved the mystery of what is behind the WHO’s insane war on safer nicotine.