The World Health Organization (WHO) has been severely criticised in a comprehensive report launched today by former Australian Government Minister, Dr Gary Johns, who claims that a forthcoming WHO international tobacco convention lacks the transparency and dialogue which underpin United Nations values.
The launch of the report coincides with the closing date for nominations for the election of the next WHO Director-General onSeptember 22nd.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which takes place in New Delhi in November, is refusing entry to relevant stakeholders or media to discuss new developments which could save lives around the world.
“The WHO FCTC is a closed shop which uses exclusion to silence debate. This is one of the many issues the next WHO Director-General must urgently address if the organisation is to survive“ said Dr Johns, who recommends that the Convention throw open its doors to all-comers, and to new ideas in a bid to cut deaths from smoking, particularly with vaping products now considered considerably less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
Dr Johns added: “It is my experience, as a former Australian Labor Minister, that the most effective policies incorporate a wide range of stakeholders and viewpoints, even if you disagree. These meetings should be held in a transparent fashion and in public view.“
“The FCTC Secretariat does not have the expertise or resources to deal with two big challenges of the Convention: finding a path for reduced harm alternatives to smoking, and tackling illicit trade in tobacco. As long as the sole strategy is to reduce supply and demand without considering every perspective, there will be little progress.“
Dr Johns is concerned that harm reduction is not a focus of the Convention, and that the WHO has pursued a single strategy of supply and demand reduction despite the evidence that smokeless tobacco products could play a key role in a harm reduction strategy.
The United Nations welcomed world leaders, the media, external stakeholders and the public to the Paris Climate Change Conference in November 2015, hosting 3,000 accredited journalists at its Paris Climate Change Conference. It constantly updated an online news-hub, providing updates on decisions and activity, while also providing an e-mail news update feature. The Paris Conference also posted publicly available drafts of the key texts negotiated at the meeting and webcasts of sessions, debates and press conferences.
The FCTC provides no such window into its decision-making process with the public, media, industry, law enforcement and other key external stakeholders likely to be barred from entry. Decisions for previous conferences have been posted after the fact with no context as to how they were reached.
Dr Johns added: “As a taxpayer in Australia, my taxes support the Convention, but it is not certain that I would be allowed to observe the proceedings, such is the secrecy surrounding the Convention“.
“All interested parties must be allowed to observe COP 7 proceedings, as is standard procedure with other United Nations conferences. The alternative is that tobacco consumers will be exposed to more harm than could otherwise be the case.“