WHO denies members failing to pay UN tobacco agency

The WHO fears that the tobacco industry intends to “interfere” ahead of a crucial FCTC meeting in India. [Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is fuming over an NGO report which claims that members do not pay their contributions to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the UN’s tobacco agency.

Adopted in 2003, the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to protect present and future generations from the consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to smoke.

A new report published by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) found that nearly 80% of countries, which are part of the agreement, were refusing to pay their obligations to the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization in Intensive Care report claims that the vast majority of members have opted to not pay their obligations (subscription) to the World Health Organization FCTC.

“As of July 15, 2016, 142 of the 180 FCTC member nations – a shocking 79 percent – owed outstanding voluntary assessed contribution taxes. 13 Those 142 countries had yet to pay more than $7.3 million in assessed fees. As a result, the FCTC has generated only 19 percent of the voluntary assessed contribution funds it needs to operate during the current cycle,” the report noted.

The report says that among the EU countries that have not paid their contribution are Germany, France, the UK as well as the European Union itself.

UN backs tobacco tax to finance sustainable development

The Addis Ababa action plan recommends raising taxes on tobacco to finance sustainable development. In the Philippines, a 340% tobacco tax hike helped fund a universal health insurance programme. EURACTIV France reports

TPA’s President David Williams told euractiv.com that his organisation suspected that the reason that so many countries don’t pay their subscriptions to the WHO is because of a wider dissatisfaction about the way the WHO operates.

“It is essential that during the election campaign for the next Director-General of WHO (which has just started) that the candidates face up to the very serious questions about transparency, funding, accountability and malpractice, which the WHO must answer,” he stressed, adding that the world’s taxpayers deserve clear answers and “not prevarication and political posturing”.

The report also stressed that the FCTC had faced criticism for banning journalists at its meetings, malpractice, stifling debate, a lack of transparency and being profligate with public money.

“These criticisms are part of wider fraud allegations against the WHO,” the report concluded.

WHO’s reaction

EURACTIV contacted the WHO on the issue and asked for a comment.

Samuel Compton, Media Coordinator of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, said that the report produced by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance was “inaccurate” and failed to account for the payment schedules adopted by many member states.

Compton went further, saying that the tobacco industry is behind the TPA.

“In attempting to present itself as an independent institute it fails to report its own association with the tobacco industry,” he noted, adding that the TPA had a history of supporting the tobacco industry’s attempts at delaying and reducing the effectiveness of tobacco control measures.

The WHO fears that the tobacco industry is stepping up its efforts to “interfere” ahead of a crucial FCTC meeting in India.

The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) at the WHO FCTC will take place on 7–12 November in Delhi, and the UN agency sees growing signs that the tobacco industry is attempting to influence the work being planned.

The Head of the Convention Secretariat, Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, recently wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post and attacked the tobacco industry, underlining that it is targeting member delegations attending the world’s largest intergovernmental meeting solely dedicated to tobacco control.

“At the last Conference of the Parties in 2014, letters were sent representing tobacco industry interests petitioning finance officials on taxation,” she said.

“We cannot sit at the negotiating table with the people who caused this global disaster because one thing is crystal clear – this industry lies. Publicly it speaks in a mild voice, while behind the scenes it executes policies in absolute opposition to its public statements, ultimately killing one in every two regular users of its products,” she emphasised.

The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history.

The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The Convention represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation.

  • 7–12 November: Conference of the Parties (COP7) at the WHO FCTC.

Subscribe to our newsletters