Over 120 organisations call upon governments to protect WHO FCTC from tobacco industry interference

With a week left for inter-governmental meeting of global tobacco treaty (formally called World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or WHO FCTC), more than 120 civil society organisations from India and several other nations globally have endorsed a letter calling upon the governments (that are Parties to the WHO FCTC) to act against the tobacco industry interference in FCTC. We are reproducing this letter below:

Dated: 1st November 2016

To
The Parties to the WHO FCTC
Cc:
Dr. Vera Luiza Da Costa e Silva, Framework Convention Secretariat
JP Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
Amal Pusp, Director of National Tobacco Control Programme

Dear Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC):

As civil society organizations concerned with public health, we write to express our concern over tobacco industry interference in the meetings of the WHO FCTC and its subsidiary bodies. In advance of the Seventh Conference of the Parties (COP) of the WHO FCTC in Greater Noida, India, we urge the Parties to the treaty to commit to adopting a comprehensive policy that would protect the COPs of the FCTC from interference by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco kills more than six million people every year, with more than one million of those deaths occurring in India alone. The total combined direct and indirect economic costs attributable to tobacco use amount to Rs. 1,04,500 crores. It remains the largest preventable cause of death on the planet and is wholly driven by an industry whose revenues dwarf the GDPs of the majority of the countries in which it operates. Big Tobacco’s primary business strategy is resulting in the exportation of the epidemic from the highest-income to the lowest-income countries, where 80 percent of the world’s smokers now live.

Evidence is mounting that tobacco industry representatives are increasingly infiltrating the COPs through both Party delegations and by posing as members of the public – all with the intent of undermining the critical public health outcomes of these meetings.

Recently, a British American Tobacco (BAT) employee-turned-whistleblower confirmed that BAT bribed FCTC officials from Rwanda, Burundi, and Comoros. Most alarmingly, in 2012 BAT bribed a Ministry of Health and FCTC official from Burundi to support BAT’s positions at the final negotiating round of the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP), one of the most important subsidiary bodies of the COP.

The industry has also been aggressive about infiltrating FCTC meetings by manipulating the public badge process. This is why Parties unanimously decided to remove those with public badges from the negotiation spaces during the final round of ITP discussions and at COPs 5 and 6.

This infiltration and manipulation of COP procedures is occurring despite the fact the FCTC has an article dedicated to preventing just such actions. FCTC Article 5.3 acknowledges the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health. The Parties to the treaty have even unanimously adopted guidelines, which oblige Parties to “not nominate any person employed by the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to serve on delegations to meetings of the Conference of the Parties, its subsidiary bodies or any other bodies established pursuant to decisions of the Conference of the Parties.” 

With COP7 taking place in our home country of India we condemn the tobacco industry’s efforts to infiltrate the COP process and we call on our leaders to prevent this, protecting the COPs and public health globally from the undue influence of the tobacco industry.

It is clear that the era of Big Tobacco dictating public health policies and bullying countries to bend to its will is coming to an end. Just recently, Philip Morris International lost a six year battle against Uruguay over the country’s implementation of tobacco control laws that prioritized public health. And Australia won a landmark case against the tobacco industry over plain packaging. But as governments and the public health community increasingly stand up to Big Tobacco, the industry will increase its efforts to directly interfere in the COP process. Continued interference by the tobacco industry will prevent the global public health community from advancing the implementation of the life-saving measures of the FCTC. We cannot let this happen.

Therefore, as members of civil society concerned with public health and democracy, we strongly urge the Parties to take action at COP7 to protect COPs from tobacco industry infiltration and interference by bringing COPs in line with Article 5.3 of the FCTC.

Sincerely,

Note: Endorsements below from India and other countries are listed in the order in which they were received.

From India:

•    Bobby Ramakant, Asha Parivar, CNS and Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT)
•    Rahul Dwivedi, Vote For Health campaign, UP
•    Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)
•    Dr Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India) & National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
•    Third World Network (TWN)
•    Dr Upendra Bhojani, Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, Karnataka
•    HRIDAY, Delhi
•    Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), Delhi
•    GC Mathur, Binty, Delhi
•    Dr Rakesh Gupta, Rajasthan Cancer Foundation
•    Dr Indira Hirway, Center for Development Alternatives, Gujarat
•    Elina K Horo, Adivasi Women’s Network, Jharkhand
•    Sunita Kotnala, Sathi All For Partnerships (SAFP), Delhi
•    Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Gram Bharati Samiti, Rajasthan
•    Prof Pam Rajput, Mahila Dakshata Samiti, Punjab
•    Dr Ashok Rau, Freedom Foundation – India, Karnataka
•    Ajay Jha, PAIRVI (Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights & Values in India) Delhi
•    Luit, Rural Volunteers Center (RVC), Assam
•    Parminder, IT For Change India, Karnataka
•    A Sankar, EMPOWER India, Tamil Nadu
•    Thomas Mathew, SEEDS India (Socio-Economic Educational Development Service), Kerala
•    Family Planning Association of India, Lucknow branch, UP
•    Dr Piyush Gupta, Cancer Aid Society, Lucknow, UP
•    Gramin Development Foundation, UP
•    Yuva Vikas samiti, UP
•    Sarladitya Gram Vikas Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Vivekanand Lok Vikas Sansthan, UP
•    Sahdev Prasad Memorial Charitable Society, UP
•    Social Progress of India, UP
•    Maa Durga Shiksha Evam Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Social Action Network, UP
•    Rajendra Prasad Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Nagrik Parishad, UP
•    Swar Sadhna Culture Training Institute, UP
•    Hindustan Chaturdic Vikas Samiti, UP
•    Akhil Sanskritk Sansthan, UP
•    Lok Kala Sanskrtik Sansthan, UP
•    Gautam Buddha Jagriti Society, UP
•    Sahas Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Jyotish Anusandhaan Sewa Trust, UP
•    Shri Vishram Shikshan Evam Sewa Samiti, UP
•    Gujarati Smarak Shikshan Seva Sansthan, UP
•    Preeti Mahila Evam Bal Vikas Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Krishak Development Society, UP
•    Kisan Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Jivan Jyoti Sansthan, UP
•    Krishna Charitable Trust, UP
•    Jan Chetna Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Yuva Jagrukta  Manch, UP
•    Samudaik Vikas Charitable Trust, UP
•    Sankalp Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Chaudary Charan Singh Smarak Trust, UP
•    Bantla Yuvak Mangal Dal, UP
•    Bantala Mahila Mangal Dal, UP
•    Add Race India Foundation, UP
•    Pratham Lok Klyan Samiti, UP
•    Gramin Mahila Klyaan Samiti, UP
•    Social Organization for Community Harmony, UP
•    Sahyog Foundation, UP
•    Sptrang Lok Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Shikti uddhyog Samiti, UP
•    Sanklp Sewa Samiti, UP
•    Shri Saryu ji Manav Sewa Sansthan, UP
•    Adharsh Gramotthan Sewa Samiti, UP
•    Human Integration trust, UP
•    Nav Durga Seva Sansthan, UP
•    Maa Dakshin Kali Shodh Sansthan, UP
•    Lok Adhikaar Seva Samiti, UP
•    Poornya Charitable Trust, UP
•    Vashnavi Seva Sansthan, UP
•    Rhythm Foundation, UP
•    RACE Basti UP
•    Vigyan Foundation, UP
•    Hope Initiative, UP
•    Mange Ram Adhana, Association for Promotion of Sustainable Development, Hisar
•    Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organization (BPHRO), Tripura

From other countries:

•    Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT)
•    AHM Bazlur Rahman, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
•    Parvati Sunam, Jagaran Media Center, Nepal
•    Sor R, Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), Thailand
•    Farida Akhter, UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh
•    Inspirator Muda Nusantara, Indonesia
•    Tahmina Rahman, Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation (BAWF)
•    Sayyida Akhter, TABINAJ Anti-Tobacco Women’s Alliance (a women’s network against tobacco), Bangladesh
•    Naveed Walter, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP)
•    Ravadee, Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand
•    Prof M Ismail, RISE Pakistan
•    Md Harun, Light House Bangladesh
•    Gulalai Ismail, AWARE GIRLS, Pakistan
•    Naveed Walter, Human Rights Focus, Pakistan
•    Ripan Chakma, TUS (Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha), Bangladesh
•    Shahzado Malik, ARTS Foundation, Pakistan
•    Urantsooj Gombosuren, Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
•    Barbara McGaw, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica/ Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control
•    Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)
•    Hosne Ara Hasi, JAGO NARI, Bangladesh
•    Mahbul Haq, Bangladesh Centre for Human Rights and Development (BCHRD)
•    Zia ur Rahman, Awaz CDS Pakistan
•    Dandu Dhokpya, Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN)
•    Atta ul Haq Khaderzai, Youth Association for Development (YAD) Pakistan
•    Muhammad Saud, Human Development Foundation, Pakistan
•    Labram Musah, Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) Ghana
•    Miguel Asqueta, Centro de Investigación para la Epidemia del Tabaquismo, Uruguay
•    Esperanza Cerón, Educar Consumidores, Colombia
•    Alejandra Garrón, Fundación Interamericana del Corazon, Bolivia
•    Nélida Glico, Coalición Panameña en contra del Tabaquismo, Panamá
•    Teresita Arrieta, Red Nacional Antitabaco, Costa Rica
•    Chris Bostic, Action on Smoking & Health, USA
•    Carlos Farias, Comisión Nacional Permanente de Lucha Antitabáquica, Perú
•    Víctor Herrera, Investigador, Panamá
•    Beatriz Champagne, Executive Director InterAmerican Heart Foundation, USA
•    Sonia Covarrubias, Chile Libre de Tabaco, Chile
•    Belén Rios, Fundación Interamericana del Corazon, Argentina
•    Sarojeni V Rengam, PAN Asia and the Pacific, Malaysia
•    Beatriz Stamato, Instituto Giramundo Mutuando, Brazil
•    Omoyemen Lucia Odigie-Emmanuel, Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research, Nigeria

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