The 16th Global Forum on Nicotine that took place in Warsaw on June 17th and 18th had three main themes: Evidence, Accountability and Transparency. This meeting gave an opportunity to e-cigarettes users, public health experts, civil society activists, alternative nicotine consumption advocates, electronic nicotine delivery systems manufacturers, tobacco industry representatives, etc. to share their views and experience.
Professor Julian Morris of the University of Buckingham (UK) and the vice president of research at Reason Foundation, took part in the event and he addressed passionately all the Forum themes in his presentation: Unaccountable and non-transparent: is the FCTC a threat to public health?
Prof. Morris explained that the FCTC violated important UNDP Good Governance Principles like participation, accountability and transparency. According to him, 26 observers invited by FCTC are too little when the equivalent Framework Convention on Climate allows about 2000, arguing that it is outrageous that the media couldn’t follow the proceedings and that the civil society groups present in the gallery were also removed at the last COP, the 6th Conference of the Parties.
“The problem is that they intentionally excluded people who don’t follow their « quit or die » approach, and they are not open, they didn’t open the process to alternative views. Public health would benefit if the FCTC Framework Convention on Tobacco Control allowed representatives of vape organizations and harm reduction experts from civil society and from academia to participate as observers in the meetings and thereby provide input into the process”.
“Those who are affected by the decision of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are not able to be represented and so their views are not taken into consideration which is a strict violation of the UN’s principles of governance.”
In regards to transparency, Prof. Morris mentioned the coming Conference of Parties (CO7), due to take place in New Delhi, India, in November 2016. He told the audience that a report was being prepared in secret while there should be a review process of those reports which incorporates some input from experts from academia and civil society who understand harm reduction.
The issue of conflict of interests mentioned in article 5.3 of the FCTC (which seeks to limit the degree to which parties with a conflict of interest are able to influence the decision making) was a legitimate concern to Julian Morris but not a sufficient reason for the automatic and complete exclusion of some interested and knowledgeable organizations.
To avoid suspicions about FCTC fairness, accountability and transparency, he recommended that the next meetings proceedings be live streamed the way other similar international negotiations are already made public and that all stakeholders - including the tobacco industry - be represented.