It has been some time since we reported news on #FCTCCOP, but has it been quiet for the FCTC Secretariat?
Silence can mean things are being quietly cooked and indeed, we are back here to report on developments following last year’s secretive COP9. Eventually – almost five months after the meeting – the FCTC Secretariat published the final report of the COP9. The sixty-eight page report reaffirmed the decision taken pre COP that “substantive discussions of and decisions” on some of the agenda items (including articles 9 and 10 and “novel” products) are deferred to COP10, due to be held in Panama in 2023.
However, it is evident there is a lot more in the report than was discussed during the meeting. In particular, FCTC Secretariat has included some suggestions on the regulation of “novel” products – such as the consideration of expanding the definition of “tobacco products” in the Convention to include novel products (page 12) – even though Parties had decided to defer those discussions to COP10.
Last but not least, even the head of the FCTC Secretariat recognised that some discussions literally got lost in translation during COP9 (here). Is this why the verbatim records of the plenary meetings have not been published, as they usually are?
In addition to being shut out from attending the meeting, it seems we are not permitted to know what was said or discussed.
Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
A very special event happened today, COP9 livestreamed its final session! The public was afforded a rare glimpse into the secret meeting that we are not allowed to attend. All decisions had already been made by then, of course.
The main announcement was that the next COP meeting will take place in Panama in 2023. The Panamanian Minister for Health delivered a speech while a video played showing some of the sights of the country.
Panama City via unsplash, image credit Yosi Bitran @ybitran
Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo was re-elected as Head of the FCTC Secretariat and gave a speech which acknowledged that COP9 had experienced many technical issues, saying that sometimes discussions literally got lost in translation. She also spoke about the exciting possibilities for the FCTC now they are able to “invite investors” to help with their funding. She boasted that COP9 had allowed journalists “from around the world” to sit in on their meetings, something that should really go without saying. For the FCTC, it seems transparency is a privilege to be granted rather than a right. It was interesting that she also affirmed that it is the parties who make the decisions.
The EU spokesperson announced that the Italian Ministry of Health is donating 130k euros to fund work into the Expert Group on Articles 9 &10 and also for the knowledge hubs.
Elections were held for officials to serve up to COP10, with Eswatini made Chair and Oman, Netherlands, Uruguay, Sri Lanka and Australia filling the other committee places.
All that is left for this COP is for the FCTC to hold a press conference which we understand will take place later today, presumably secretly and in front of the accredited journalists in their bedrooms with their pyjamas on. Published articles are still as rare as hens’ teeth.
Keep watching the main documents page. And, if time permits we will write a wrap up article, summarising the decisions, after those have been published.
Huge applause to the THR community – to everyone who tweeted, commented, cared about the potential impact of COP9 on human beings – despite us having the door slammed shut in our faces.
A special thanks must go to sCOPe, for streaming brilliant content and ensuring the consumer voice is heard.
We’ll leave you with some of our favourite tweets. COPWATCH is now off to the pub.
DAY 5 UPDATE #1
Good morning COP WATCHERS. We are now into what we hope is the last day of COP9.
FCTC has recently tweeted to announce it’s the last day and to promise some live streaming
According to the 5th Journal, the 7th plenary this morning will see the adoption of the revised “Declaration on WHO FCTC and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic” (the Iran declaration – see our update from yesterday for more on that). This is followed by item 7, date and place of COP10 (we are guessing it won’t be the Philippines), then item 8 sees the election of the of the President and the Vice-Presidents of COP, item 9 is the adoption of the provisional report of COP9, item 10 is the closure of the session.
The usual regional and committee meetings are also taking place today.
New documents: the 3rd report from Committee B has been published (LINK); it seems that Adriana Blanco Marquizo will get re-elected as head of the convention secretariat.
The Philippines has been awarded it’s THIRD ashtray award by the FCA. Yesterday we reported that the Philippines delegation is being lauded at home for its work at COP9, yet the FCA continues to brief against it. We are reminded that there is currently an investigation in the Philippines into foreign interference (from Bloomberg funded groups) into domestic policy.
Yesterday we reported that the FCTC official Twitter account had deleted a tweet declaring that Parties are sovereign. We were pleased to see that tweet has now been sent out again.
We wondered why this basic information was deleted considering it was not at all controversial. We are glad that the FCTC has now confirmed it is still the case that parties are sovereign at FCTC COP.
It has been a quiet afternoon for watching COP, with little news emanating from the black hole. We can only hope that they got through the main items on the agenda and are on track to tie everything up tomorrow.
There has, however, been a backlash from the Philippines about the two “dirty ashtray” awards the Framework Convention Alliance handed the country in its bulletins this week. The Philippines Department of Health objected to the video statement made by the lead of its delegation, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, but Locsin has had forthright backing from his government in two articles published today.
The Inquirer reported that “Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano and Surigao del Norte, 2nd District Rep. Ace Barbers … lashed out at “extremist critics” of Locsin and his team for their disrespect of our country’s sovereignty.”, the high-ranking officials went on to say “We support the Philippine delegation to the WHO FCTC ninth Conference of the Parties headed by Sec. Locsin for pushing for an inclusive and participative decision making in crafting global policy recommendations. Tobacco control approach cannot be one-dimensional.”
The Manila Bulletin covered the story too, quoting Savellano further, “We support and commend Sec. Locsin for safeguarding the rights and welfare of all stakeholders and carrying the Philippines’ position to adopt a balanced and evidence-based regulations in tobacco control”.
Peter Dator of consumer association, Vapers Philippines, sent a supportive message to the Philippine delegation, which was first shown on sCOPe
It was curious to discover that the FCTC had deleted a tweet posted on November 8th stating that it is the Parties to the Conference which are the governing body of the FCTC. As the tweet states, this is basic information on the treaty, so it is puzzling why it was removed. Is there any reason why this is no longer the case?
On a matter of housekeeping, links for the FCA daily bulletins have moved, so we have changed them in our COPWATCH live articles. Each bulletin is provided in PDF format which can be saved locally should you wish to ensure they do not get lost again. We do.
Before we show you our favourite tweets of the day, it has been encouraging to see the conference hashtags dominated by an eclectic mix of pro THR tweets. #COP9 and #COP9FCTC are overwhelmingly supportive of the consumer position, and it is interesting to note that even FCTC does not use the official #COP9FCTC tag which they have been urging on delegates throughout the conference via the daily journals. Lately, the FCTC account seems to have abandoned the hashtags it previously promoted.
Our favourite tweets:
Now you’ve read this, do go and catch some more of the fantastic sCOPe streaming, on YouTube here.
See you tomorrow for what we hope is the final day of COP9.
DAY 4 UPDATE #1
Good morning. Day 4 of COP has begun. From Journal 4 and the FCA bulletin we learn that the morning’s business is regional meetings, followed by the Committee B’s Fifth Committee meeting and then the Fifth plenary. There are new additions to the main documents page, the First report of Committee A (decision on NGO’s maintaining their observer status) and the Second report of Committee B (deals with the investment fund, do see our update from last night for discussion of their first report). Today should see a decision on who is to host COP10 (it will not held in Geneva). Of course, there is no publicly available information on which parties have applied for the task (as if taxpayers would have any interest in that!).
As seems to be customary, the FCA bulletin is giving more information than is in the official documents (the FCA is just a NGO, with no formal powers).
Yesterday the Iranian president of COP invited the Iranian delegation to consider the draft declaration on WHO FCTC and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Following an invitation from the President, the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran introduced the draft declaration and comments were invited from the floor. Iran’s state media outlet has reported on that here – giving much more of a focus to Iran’s ownership of the declaration than the FCA – which doesn’t mention Iran at all. https://en.irna.ir/news/84535684/Iran-reminds-nations-of-shared-responsibility-towards-outcomes
While we are on the FCA bulletin, the NGO has used its privileged position this morning to again slap down the Philippines delegation. (As we reported on 9 November: A robust statement came out in a video from the Philippines last night, with a call for active participation from all Parties and inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. It stated that the Philippines will not be banning e-cigarettes and recognises the fundamental differences between various tobacco and nicotine products”) . The FCA is also passing judgement this morning on the Brazilian government’s choice of delegation. Parties nominally hold all the power at FCTC COP – in light of that, how can this level of interference from FCA be tolerated?
Committee B endorsed the Secretariat’s proposal to establish an Investment Fund. It states that it “may also receive financial inputs from other public and private sources that meet the requirements of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC”. This means that the FCTC is seeking funding from outside its usual channels and the only criteria is that those funds cannot come from what the FCTC defines as the tobacco industry. That does not include pharmaceutical interests or, indeed, Bloomberg Philanthropies. It also opens up the possibility of private businesses with no connection to the tobacco and nicotine debate becoming financial stakeholders in the FCTC, while relevant businesses and consumers are totally locked out.
Interesting to see that SEATCA is this morning celebrating increased transparency at COP, with the inclusion of accredited media. We can’t see that those journalists are doing any reporting. Last night we reported that there is a target to invite just one new NGO application for Observer status, by 2023. We see no evidence that FCTC COP is working towards increased transparency.
A quiet afternoon for us. Our highlight has been to read through the draft First report of Committee B, which was published this afternoon, and which mysteriously grew some extra pages, after it was first posted.
In the report we learn:
That they wish to establish the “total amount of Assessed Contributions of Parties for the financial period 2022–2023 at US$ 8 801 093” (page 2)
Good luck with getting that out of cash strapped governments!
That they have a target for 2023 of getting just one new application for Observer status (page 8):
They could have doubled their target today, if they had accepted NNA UK and INNCO’s applications.
How much they are budgeting for staffing costs – this is the biennial cost of the most highly paid person (page 15):
That team building retreats are on the agenda for the Secretariat (page 14)
Do read the full document. There is a lot more in it than we have shown here and, for a COP9 document, it’s quite entertaining.
In terms of the agenda, as far as we know they have not yet reached item 7, which is where the location for COP10 will be decided. But, we’ll need to wait for the publication of the ever delightful FCA bulletin and Journal 4 tomorrow for confirmation of where they are up to. Keep an eye on this page for those, and other documents.
The African Harm Reduction Alliance has posted this compelling plea from Dr Kgosi Letlape to COP9 delegates to resist WHO “groupthink”. It is really worth the one minute of your time it will take to watch it:
Three of our favourite tweets from today:
sCOPe is still livestreaming some really interesting content – click here to see that and join the chat if you wish to. The Day 4 content has just started.
Good Night, COPWATCHERS, we’ll be back tomorrow morning.
DAY 3 UPDATE #2 11.55 CET
Unusually for COP meetings, some journalists have survived into at least the second day according to the FCTC. Sadly, when searching for news on COP9 we are unable to find any articles except those written by THR advocates who are, of course, not admitted. If you see anything written by one of these “accredited journalists”, do let us know on our contact form.
The FCA bulletin gave the first mention of the “Omnibus decision”, despite that not yet being available to the public (it is, now – see here). If you can overlook some of the nauseating language, the bulletin has a (we assume accurate) summary of #COP9 day two. The FCA is, again, trying to influence COP9 through its tasteless awards.
This confirms that “substantive discussions of and decisions” on some of the agenda (including the items which concern “novel” products) will be deferred to COP10, in 2023:
“The Committee was reminded that for the reasons discussed in the opening Plenary under Agenda item 1, the five reports under agenda items 4.1 and 4.2 would be provided for the information of the Parties, with substantive discussions of and decisions on these items deferred to COP10. This approach had been agreed by the COP, as reflected in decision FCTC/COP9(2).”
This decision to postpone those substantive discussions and decisions means that there is a lot less for Parties to get through. Will COP finish early?
Has someone has been up to dirty tricks to silence the consumer voice?
SCOPe report that they are back on air, having been temporarily taken down.
Good morning and welcome to Day 3 of our COPWATCH updates.
OBSERVER STATUS DECISION
Overnight, the Observer decision has been published. It comes as no surprise that COP has accepted the Bureau’s recommendations. Applications from THR consumer groups have been rejected while several Bloomberg grantees implacably opposed to safer nicotine alternatives are welcomed with open arms (as well as their being spectacularly over-represented in the Participants list)
No explanation has been given for the rejections – there are 5 possible reasons (see 3, here). Adding insult to injury, the rejected applicants have not been notified. They are presumably expected to find out by sitting around and refreshing the official documents page. Especially wrong when – as Louise Ross points out below – these groups are largely run by volunteers.
‘At the New Nicotine Alliance, we were disappointed and surprised not to receive any notification that our application for an observer place at COP9 had been rejected. We are a small educational charity, managed by volunteers, dedicated to informing and educating the general public, healthcare professionals and policy-makers about safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, and we have no ties with any industry. Decisions made at COP affect ordinary people, and we believe we had a legitimate reason for applying. But we were not permitted to observe, and only found out by default.’
Louise Ross, Interim Chair, New Nicotine Alliance
And, here is the reaction from INNCO:
“INNCO has applied, and been rejected Observer Status at COP9. Again. We were rejected at COP8. As usual, no explanation was given. We assume that they assume that anyone who advocates for safer nicotine must be in league with the devil (Big Tobacco). Or maybe this hints that they’re aware that their dogma is flawed, and simply need to make sure everyone with lived-experience who might contradict that dogma is excluded from the conversation. Whatever… Our rejection is a violation of our human rights: Our right to have a seat at the table on policy decisions that affect us and 98 million adults worldwide who use safer nicotine to avoid toxic forms of tobacco.”
Charles Gardner, Executive Director, International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations
It’s the end of day two. We have no more news on what happened at COP9 this afternoon. Our supposition is that the issues which have most concerned THR consumers – whether discussion and decisions on “novel products” will be postponed to COP10 and whether the Bureau’s recommendations on Observer status are accepted – have now been covered.
We will await the official Journal tomorrow to see if any decisions are recorded in there. (See this page for all the COP9 main documents)
We haven’t heard that the consumer groups who applied for observer status have had it granted – so we assume those applications have been denied. It is a shocking failure of transparency and basic decency that at the end of Day 2, after so much discussion, applicants for Observer status are still left hanging waiting to see if they will be permitted to observe. Especially as these groups are mostly run by volunteers. If this was COP26 we would all have passes and be free to wander around. See Clive Bates’ recent post for more on the awful lack of transparency at FCTC’s COP: https://clivebates.com/prohibitionists-at-work-how-the-who-damages-public-health-through-hostility-to-tobacco-harm-reduction
However, the FCTC secretariat tweeted earlier to say that accredited press are permitted to observe.
That’s it for today – we will be back tomorrow with whatever information we can glean from the uber secretive and paranoid COP9.
DAY 2 UPDATE #2 13.10 CET
Agenda item 1.1 has finally been adopted. This means – we think – that discussion and decisions on some issues – including some involving “novel” products – are deferred until COP10. For more on what will be deferred see the provisional agenda (annotated).
The decision on whether to accept the Bureau’s recommendations for which groups should get Observer status has probably now been made, but – as far as we can tell – no decision has yet been communicated to the applicants.
COP should now be breaking for lunch. See today’s Journal for the schedule.
There is far more exciting content being streamed on sCOPe – head over to their YouTube channel to catch that.
DAY 2 UPDATE #1 10.50 CET
Good morning, and welcome to day 2 of the unofficial virtual public gallery for FCTC COP9.
Our last update on day 1 left you with the news that an impasse had been reached on approving the agenda. We understand there have been technical problems with the virtual conference and a whole day was spent on just the one agenda item.
Discussions on item 1.1 are continuing this morning to enable Parties to come to some sort of consensus.
Overnight, the Framework Convention Alliance released their day 2 COP9 Bulletin which you can read here. In a shameless example of bullying, the FCA gives a theoretical award to those Parties who supported actions they approve of, and attempts to shame other Parties by giving them the “Dirty Ashtray” award (see below), in this case for raising amendments which they are entitled to do as Parties to the Conference. https://fctc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/COP9-Bulletin_Day-2_9NOV21.pdf
Here is a reminder of items for the Plenary today from the published journal.
Once item 1.1 is resolved, the next decision will be on whether to accept the Bureau’s recommendations for which groups should be granted Observer status.
The provisional list of participants is now published, 2 days into the conference. It is astonishing that this information was not made public sooner. Looking through the list, we see no consumers, but lots of representatives from Bloomberg funded organisations.
Only one consumer group – to our knowledge – had been officially given the names for their delegation before COP started.
A robust statement came out in a video from the Philippines last night, with a call for active participation from all Parties and inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. It stated that the Philippines will not be banning e-cigarettes and recognises the fundamental differences between various tobacco and nicotine products.
sCOPe is streaming 24 hours a day for the week that COP9 is on. Watch sCOPe on YouTube here, or on Facebook here. The schedule is in CAPHRA’s pinned Twitter post, here.
Debate is in a deadlock over a draft decision on the deferral of decisions to COP10 written by the FCTC Bureau. It includes wording that would allow the Bureau discretion to expand the remit of an expert working group which could mean dragging novel and emerging products into articles of the FCTC that they have no business being in. Some Parties are being persuaded by the Bureau to support their land grab but others argue that not only should no substantive discussion take place, but also no decisions of this kind should be made on the current incomplete and preliminary WHO reports, and that discretion should remain with the Parties, not the Bureau.
It seems clear discussions will be deferred to COP10, but what form those discussions will take and what products the discussions will be about is effectively being decided here.
No final decision is expected tonight as Parties will most likely discuss further amongst themselves and their regional groups.
Join us for more live updates on day 2 tomorrow.
sCOPe live is streaming 24 hours a day throughout this COP week, so do visit their YouTube channel to catch some of that.
DAY ONE UPDATE #6 AT 16.00 CET
Parties are still discussing wording of a potential draft decision to adopt the provisional agenda, including the recommendations of the Bureau to:
defer substantive discussions on novel and emerging products to COP10 along with items identified for deferral in pre-COP documents
note the reports provided for information and defer discussion and decisions on those to COP10
extend the mandate of the current expert Working Group with a view to discussing an updated report at COP10
In particular, debate surrounds whether or not to maintain the terms of reference contained in a decision made at COP8. It is being driven by the desire of the Bureau to be in charge of the ‘apparent’ expert group, a group that has shown itself to be extremely biased against novel products. The Bureau is rallying countries to support its efforts to grab authority over the work plan for the expert group, despite the fact that it should be determined by the COP – the national governments.
Discussion for 1.1: We are hearing that Parties are debating amendments to the omnibus decision, that would ensure that substantive discussions on novel and emerging nicotine products are deferred to COP10. The Secretariat is proposing that the mandates for expert groups 9 and 10 are extended.
Proceedings have taken a break with no decision yet taken.
He stated that “although the technology on which we rely at this time is not always kind to us, I promise you that we will use every means to ensure that technical nuances rob no-one of their voice”
Although this would appear to be a commitment to openness and transparency, there has been no option for the public to make their voice heard, and we now hear that the press feed has been cut, so accredited media are no longer able to view proceedings.
“The WHO’s secretive international tobacco conference COP9 starts today, online only and with the public barred from watching, let alone participating. COPWATCH will be doing its utmost to find out what’s going on. Keep an eye on it.”
One of the video statements posted at the weekend was from Korea, and looks to be suggesting substantive discussions should take place on reduced risk products at COP9.
They propose to “Expand the definition of tobacco products, stipulated in the article 1F of the WHO FCTC, which does not include tobacco products manufactured from tobacco stems, woods, and synthetic nicotine, etc., to proper regulate novel and emerging tobacco products.”
This means Korea expects COP9 to serve as a starting point for discussions on expanding the definition of tobacco products. It is important that other Parties adhere to the FCTC Secretariat recommendation to postpone discussions until COP10 so that Korea’s proposal will fail.
Watch the Korea statement below.
DAY ONE UPDATE#2 AT 11.00 CET
To give you a flavour of the diverse range of opinions towards tobacco harm reduction that will be taken to COP9 by the Parties, the FCTC has been publishing short video statements from Health Ministers of countries which will be sending delegations.
The Good – UK: “We will continue to move smokers to less harmful products, including NRTs and regulated e-cigarettes, under robust regulatory framework to prevent young people and non-smokers from using them”
The Bad – European Commission: “”We will update the Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments to take account of novel products.”
The Ugly! – Brazil: “Industry reinventing itself through new products such as electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco cigarettes, and vaporizing instruments targeting young people.”
Welcome to COP WATCH LIVE. This is the first in a series of articles we are running every day this week, to bring you news and views on #COP9FCTC. We will be reporting on what we can discover about what is going on in this secretive meeting and also highlighting some of the unofficial fringe events.
We will bring you updates throughout the day, so do keep checking back here.
The Preliminary Journal, published on 26 October, suggests that this morning will see whether the Bureau’s recommendations for who is granted or denied Observer status are accepted. This is important for tobacco harm reduction supporters because consumer groups INNCO and NNA UK had both applied for Observer status, and the Bureau had recommended rejection of their applications – see this document. You will notice that there are 5 possible reasons for denying Observer status, but the Bureau has not specified which reason applies to which organisation. Will the Parties do the right thing this morning, and allow the key stakeholders in?
More on transparency – the Preliminary Journal also indicates that the “provisional list of participants will be available and posted on the WHO FCTC website”. Bizarrely, although tax payers worldwide fund this conference we have to wait until it starts to find out who will be representing us there.
COP9 documents, including the provisional agenda, are all here:
This COP will be virtual, with the FCTC website noting that “Special Procedures need to be adopted so that the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the WHO FCTC can pursue its work in a virtual format”. COP involves a lot of participants from all over the world, so this is likely to be difficult to manage.
Where can we watch it? We can’t. In stark contrast to the United Nations COP on climate change, held in the UK this week, FCTC’s COP is shrouded in secrecy. Most of the public will be unaware that COP9 will be taking place or even what it is, COP9 discussions will not be broadcast online and the public are barred from even observing. It will be interesting to see if this secrecy can be maintained this time, given the virtual format. See our https://copwatch.info/whats-wrong-with-fctc-cop/ article for a transparency comparison between the United Nations COP on climate change and FCTC’s COP.
What will be discussed? “Due to the virtual nature of the meetings” the Secretariat has recommended that several issues are deferred for discussion until COP10, in two years time. However, this is only a recommendation and only one party would need to ask for discussion at COP9, for that discussion to take place.
The Preliminary Journal – 27 October 2021 includes the information that “The programme and timetable of meetings will appear in the Journal of the Conference, which will be issued on a daily basis”. The Journal also includes a “tentatively envisaged” working schedule for day one – which will be “subject to the decision of the Conference”.
The Framework Convention Alliance will be distributing a daily bulletin, more on those here.
The organizations that support tobacco harm reduction have come together to ensure that we are not ignored again during the 9th Conference of the Parties of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which will be held from 8 to 12 of November.
The idea is that, as of November 8 (the day on which COP-9 begins), this original campaign for tobacco harm reduction will start, both physically and virtually. It is about letting us see / hear with LED candles (those little ones with a battery that cost two dollars): for this we ask you to send us a photo or a video – speaking or not – holding one or more LED candle. They can be individual photos / videos or, even better, in a group. Above all, the candles must NOT be made of wick and so there is no combustion, as we intend to symbolize the role of technology in reducing the harm from smoking, which allows us to use nicotine without the smoke produced by combustion, thus allowing us to continue enjoying it, without killing us. In addition, it will be a tribute to all those people who have left us because of smoking and if they had had access to these products, they would surely still be with us.
As of November 8, we will begin to disseminate the photos and videos that you send us on our social networks and in those of all the organizations related to our cause – so we ask that you send them to us well in advance. Obviously, you can also share them on networks yourself using the hashtag #THRworks, together with which they will also use the hashtag: # COP9FCTC, so that our messages can sneak into theirs. If you want to participate through us, please send your photo or video to one of these two addresses: