First meeting of the working group on assistance and cooperation of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

Opening address by the Head of the Convention Secretariat

Dr Sara Pilar Aucancela Sánchez, president of the bureau of the MOP.

Representatives of the host country, Ecuador;

Key Facilitators of the Working Group, Benin and India;

Distinguished delegates from the countries that are members of the Working Group and observer countries that have not yet ratified the Protocol;

Representatives of IGOs and NGOs;

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the first meeting of the Working Group on assistance and cooperation under the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

I would like to start by thanking the Government of Ecuador for their gracious efforts to host this meeting in this beautiful city.

Ecuador was always an important partner to the Convention Secretariat, and this is a particularly important time, as the president of the bureau of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Protocol is from Ecuador. This way Ecuador has the opportunity to lead the work in developing the modus operandi of the Protocol, including the development of guidance to Protocol parties in various areas of their implementation of the Protocol and decisions from the First session of the MOP (MOP1).

The MOP decided in its first session to establish this Working Group to deal with matters related to a series of legal issues contained in the Protocol. These areas cover enforcement of information sharing (Article 21), assistance and cooperation (Article 23), investigation and prosecution of offences (Article 24) mutual administrative assistance (Article 28) and mutual legal assistance (Article 29). Additionally, the WG was requested to discuss how good practices related to free zones and international transit could be promoted in the spirit of Article 12 of the Protocol.

International assistance and cooperation among Parties are the essence of any international treaty. This is also the case for the Protocol as we address here the global challenge of illicit trade in tobacco products. In these three days we will be discussing six core articles of the Protocol that related to country assistance and international cooperation and coordination.

Having said that, I look forward to your inputs and guidance in proposing priorities for, and establishing the basis of future assistance and cooperation among Parties to the Protocol, by setting up a framework allowing Parties to exchange enforcement information and to provide mutual administrative assistance, with due consideration to requirements of confidentiality of information.

Provision of assistance to and promoting cooperation amongst Parties of the Protocol is the primary aim of the Convention Secretariat – this is the reason why we put together such a strong team from the Secretariat to represent us in this meeting. Teams dealing with development assistance, information exchange, governance and external relations are all represented in our delegation. We look forward to a fruitful discussion with you all to pave the way to putting these articles of the Protocol into practice.

Let’s not forget that the group will need to report back on its deliberations to the next session of the MOP that will be held in the Netherlands in November 2020. To develop such report you will be meeting for a second time in the first half of next year.

The Convention Secretariat will continue to provide support to this Working Group, to support your endeavors to come up with guidance to MOP in these important areas of the Protocol. We also stand ready to engage with you when you strengthen your efforts in implementation of the Protocol.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations in the following three days.

Thank you.