WHO FCTC Parties Meet in Jordan to Discuss Illicit Tobacco Trade Protocol

Amman, Jordan
18 May 2017

Eleven Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have met in Jordan to discuss the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products and efforts to accelerate the day when it takes effect.

The meeting in Amman came shortly after the 27th Party acceded to the Protocol, which means that only another 14 Parties are needed for its entry into force. The Protocol’s first Meeting of the Parties (MOP) is tentatively scheduled for October 2018.

Participants at the meeting discussed means to encourage Parties to join the Protocol and the barriers to doing so, including tobacco industry interference. Industry representatives and their allies are seeking to block the Protocol, offering sham alternatives to its requirements.

The meeting was the first Protocol workshop to be held since the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties’ seventh session in 2016, and was thus informed by and sought to build on the decisions taken there. The participants – Afghanistan, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia – were from the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. While all 11 attendees are Parties to the WHO FCTC, only Iraq has so far adhered to the Protocol. Saudi Arabia, which was not present in Amman, is the other regional member to have adhered.

The meeting opened with a strong statement of support for the Protocol from Jordan’s Health Minister, Dr Mahmoud Sheyab, after which the Parties heard expert presentations on becoming a Party, the obstacles and the role expected of various sectors of government in accession and implementation. Participants also heard about international experience in dealing with the illicit trade and engaged in bilateral meetings with officials from the Convention Secretariat, the WHO Regional Office and members of the Protocol Expert Panel.

Participants heard that if the Protocol had been in force, Parties would have been able to foil major international smuggling networks which were costing millions of dollars in lost revenue. As it was, attempts to investigate the networks were stymied. Those attending highlighted the need for urgent action to implement the Protocol.

Protocol workshops have been organized by the Convention Secretariat around the world since 2014 as part of an outreach programme designed to inform and encourage WHO FCTC Parties. The Amman meeting on the Protocol is the second to be held in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Illicit trade in tobacco products is a widespread and serious problem in many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. The Protocol represents a powerful tool to combat this trade, which contributes to the six million lives lost annually from tobacco-related disease and costs governments around the world US$ 31 billion in lost tax revenue annually.

Note to editors

Jordan and Egypt are among 15 countries recently selected to participate in the Convention Secretariat’s FCTC 2030 project, which is designed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by advancing implementation of the Convention.