Establishment of Expert and Working Groups to advance global tobacco control

To achieve the objectives of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), and of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (the Protocol), the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (COP), and the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP), as the governing bodies of these treaties, have the prerogative to establish subsidiary bodies, such as expert groups and working groups.

At its eighth session, the COP, and at its first session, the MOP decided to establish a number of expert and working groups with specific mandates relating to the implementation of different provisions of the treaties.

The composition of the expert and working Groups includes members nominated by Parties from all WHO regions, and observers from international intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations with expertise relevant to the mandate.

The Secretariat to the WHO FCTC, which is also the Secretariat to the Protocol (Convention Secretariat), has been tasked to facilitate the establishment of these groups and make the necessary arrangements for the groups to complete their work.

The work of expert groups and working groups in a nutshell

An expert group studies the evidence and scientific data to elaborate reports and recommendations to be further considered by the governing body which established it. Parties nominate individuals in accordance with the decision of the governing body, and the Convention Secretariat further supports the establishment of the expert group as per specific terms of reference and under the guidance of the Bureau of that governing body.

A working group’s mandate will result in proposals of guidelines or policy recommendations to facilitate the implementation of given provisions of the WHO FCTC or the Protocol, to be considered for adoption by the respective governing body. After notification by the Convention Secretariat, Parties to the WHO FCTC or the Protocol, as relevant, can express interest to participate and nominate representatives.

International intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations with expertise relating to a given mandate may also be invited to participate in the expert and working groups as observers, as decided by the governing bodies.

Currently, the Convention Secretariat is supporting the establishment and work of one expert group, and three working groups.


Expert group on Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC

In the 2018 Global Progress report on the Implementation of the WHO FCTC, Parties reported facing particular challenges in implementing Articles 9 and 10 due to the intensified attempts by the tobacco industry to influence the work carried out in product regulation. In response, in decision FCTC/COP8(21), the COP decided to suspend the mandate of the working group on Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC, established at the first session of the COP and amended through subsequent COP decisions, and to establish an expert group to examine the reasons for low implementation of Articles 9 and 10, and related partial guidelines, in relation to the regulation of contents and disclosure of tobacco products, including water pipe, smokeless tobacco and heated tobacco products. The expert group was mandated to prepare a report to be submitted to the ninth session of the COP and recommend ways the COP could use their findings.

Working group on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS): depiction of tobacco in entertainment media

In decision FCTC/COP8(17), the COP established an intersessional working group to develop specific guidelines to address cross-border TAPS and the depiction of tobacco in the entertainment media under Article 13 of the WHO FCTC, taking into account technological advances over the past decade such as the Internet and mobile communications. The working group shall submit for consideration of the ninth session of the COP draft specific guidelines on this matter. The COP specified that the existing guidelines for the implementation of Article 13 remained fully relevant and shall not be examined by the working group.

The Protocol

Working group on tracking and tracing systems

In decision FCTC/MOP1(6), the MOP established a working group for the development and implementation of tracking and tracing systems in accordance with Article 8 of the Protocol, including the global information-sharing focal point (Article 8.1) and unique identification markings for cigarette packets and packages (Article 8.3), to further elaborate on the next steps. The working group will elaborate a comprehensive report compiling good practices and experiences on the implementation of tracking and tracing systems, as well as unique identification markings for cigarette packets and packages at national or regional level, and will prepare conceptual work in view of creating the global information-sharing focal point.

Working group on assistance and cooperation

In decision FCTC/MOP1(10), the MOP recognized the importance information sharing to the strengthening of implementation of the Protocol by its Parties, and established a working group to deal with matters related to enforcement information sharing (Article 21), assistance and cooperation (Article 23), mutual administrative assistance (Article 28), investigation and prosecution of offences (Article 24) and mutual legal assistance (Article 29). The working group was also mandated to promote the exchange of good practice to implement Article 12 of the Protocol, regarding free zones and international transit. The working group was requested to report on the outcomes of its work to the second session of the MOP.