Fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC

The fifth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP5) took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 12 to 17 November 2012. The session was attended by the delegations of more than 140 Parties, as well as the representatives of seven States that are not Party to the Convention and 18 intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations accredited as observers. Ambassador Ricardo Varela of Uruguay chaired the session in his capacity as President of the COP.

The Conference reviewed global progress on implementation of the WHO FCTC, based on the progress report prepared by the Secretariat deriving from reports of the Parties. Parties exchanged views on the achievement so far and challenges faced and on ways to further promote treaty implementation in countries and internationally.

Decisions adopted by COP5 can be grouped into three main categories, in line with the agenda of the Conference: (a) treaty instruments and technical matters; (b) implementation, reporting and international cooperation; and (c) institutional and budgetary matters.

As a landmark step in the strengthening of treaty instruments, the Conference adopted the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, following the negotiations that took place in 2008–2012.

The Conference adopted a set of guiding principles and recommendations to support the implementation of Article 6, on price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, and established an open-ended intersessional drafting group to finalize the full guidelines in this area for consideration at COP6. The Conference also amended the partial guidelines on Articles 9 and 10, requesting the working group to continue its work, and established a process for further developing policy options and recommendations on Articles 17 and 18 concerning economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing, in time for its next session.

Regarding the two other areas that were considered under treaty instruments and technical matters, the Conference established an expert group on Article 19 (Liability), and requested WHO to carry out further technical work in relation to smokeless tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems, with reports to be examined at COP6.

In the area of implementation, reporting and international cooperation, the Conference requested the Secretariat to further assist Parties in fulfilling their reporting obligations, by the refinement of the reporting instrument and the development of an indicator compendium, as well by the preparation of recommendations for a mechanism to facilitate the review by the COP of Parties' reports and for an assessment of the impact of the Convention.

The Conference also reviewed the reports prepared by the Secretariat on financial resources and mechanisms of assistance, and on international cooperation. It decided to establish a working group on sustainable measures to strengthen implementation of the Convention, requesting the Secretariat at the same time to further facilitate assistance and support by relevant international partners for treaty implementation, particularly within the United Nations system. In order to tackle an area of increasing importance in recent years, the COP requested the Secretariat to strengthen cooperation with WHO, WTO and UNCTAD in addressing trade- and investment-related issues linked to implementation of the Convention.

Finally, the Conference mandated further work in promoting South-South and triangular cooperation, endorsing five pilot demonstration projects that cover treaty provisions with particular relevance in the context of developing countries.

In the area of institutional and budgetary matters, the COP acknowledged the progress made in the implementation of the current, 2012–2013 workplan and budget, and adopted the next workplan and budget for the period of 2014–2015. The Conference requested the Secretariat to further facilitate the payment of voluntary assessed contributions by Parties and to draw up a report on the feasibility of changing to assessed contributions. The COP separately reaffirmed its previous decision to harmonize the travel support provided to Parties in line with current WHO policies for travel support in favour of least developed countries, extending, in the meantime, the current interim measures for larger-scale support until and including the next session of the COP.

The COP adopted a decision on the role of the Bureau of the COP, extending its intersessional mandate. In another decision, it requested the Bureau to finalize the process for appointment and renewal of term of office of the head of the Secretariat on a provisional basis, with a further report to be submitted to COP6.

The COP elected a new Bureau, with Professor Chang jin Moon (Republic of Korea) as President, and with the following five Vice-Presidents: Dr Oleg Salagaj (Russian Federation), Mr Amal Pusp (India), Mr Yahia Bouzo (Syrian Arab Republic), Mr Denis Choinière (Canada), and Ms Dorkas Kiptui (Kenya).

The COP accepted the offer the Russian Federation to host its sixth session in 2014. The exact venue and dates will be decided by the Bureau in due course.

The Parties also made a collective commitment, in the Seoul Declaration, to accelerate implementation of the Convention and to protect it from interference by the tobacco industry; and to cooperate with each other, with the Convention Secretariat and other international bodies to strengthen their capacity to implement the Convention.