The Conference of the Parties called upon developing country Parties and Parties with economies in transition to conduct needs assessments in the light of their obligations under the Convention. The Convention Secretariat was requested to assist Parties in doing so, upon their request, to advise them on existing mechanisms of funding and technical assistance, and to provide information to development partners that maybe interested in providing assistance to the Party on the needs identified.
In line with the decision of the COP, needs assessments are carried out jointly with the national government concerned. Each exercise has three phases: the pre-needs assessment phase, in which the Secretariat studies relevant documents and Party reports, and prepares a detailed program; the needs assessment mission, during which an international team interacts with the health ministry and various national stakeholders, the WHO country office and the United Nations resident coordinator; and the post-mission and follow-up phase, in which the Secretariat finalizes the needs assessment report in cooperation with national stakeholders and works with the government and international partners to implement the jointly agreed recommendations.
Parties wishing to request the Convention Secretariat’s assistance in conducting a joint needs assessment can send an official request from the Minister of Health or equivalent to the Head of the Convention Secretariat to firstname.lastname@example.org; fax: +41 22 791 5830).
Post-needs assessment assistance
Parties that have conducted joint needs assessments are provided with post-needs assessment assistance. Such assistance is made possible by the grant provided to the Secretariat by the European Commission. Assistance is provided to the countries for technical work in areas where needs have been identified, such as tobacco taxation, surveillance, pictorial health warnings, and for the development of national tobacco control action plans and communication strategies.
Recent needs assessment missions
One further step for the ratification of the Protocol by Costa Rica
A team of experts visited San José, Costa Rica, to conduct a joint needs assessment exercise . The team led by the WHO FCTC Secretariat, included members from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The team met with members of diverse Ministries and with the Legislative Assembly, where their main objective was to discuss the importance of Costa Rica’s ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
Following the mission, on September 6, the judges of the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica once again voted in favour of the ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The ruling is currently in the process of final drafting and reporting to the Legislative Assembly. Costa Rica is a signatory of the Protocol, whose ratification was approved by the Legislative Assembly on August 4 this year, in the first debate.
Bolivia signed the WHO FCTC in February 2004 and ratified it a year later. In 2007, Bolivia adopted Supreme Decree 29376 which helped implement various provisions of the Convention. However both the Ministry of Health and the international mission recognize that there are areas that need to be upgraded and prioritized in order to advance to guarantee the right to health of Bolivians as established by the Constitution of the country in 2008. To address this, the Ministry of Health is working on a draft law on the prevention and control of tobacco products. The positive attitude and responsiveness observed throughout the mission are promising.
El Salvador ratified the Treaty only two years ago in July 2014. However, before being a Party, El Salvador already approved a tobacco control law addressing different aspects the WHO FCTC. The country shows progress and commitment in its fight against the tobacco epidemic. This positive attitude was corroborated in meetings with other non-health ministries and as well as the fact that the President met with the needs assessment team and who committed himself to the creation of a national multisectoral coordinating mechanism for tobacco control.
Lebanon signed the WHO FCTC on 04 March 2004 and ratified the WHO FCTC on 07 December 2005. There are still challenges in order for Lebanon to be fully compliant with the WHO FCTC. With this in mind, a needs assessment exercise for implementation of the WHO FCTC was conducted jointly by the Government of Lebanon and the WHO FCTC Secretariat, with the participation of representatives of the Tobacco Free Initiative Unit of the WHO Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases Department and the United Nations Development Programme. The assessment involved relevant ministries and agencies of Lebanon.
It was recommended that Lebanon strengthens the national tobacco control unit and operationalizes the multi-sectoral committee with the inclusion of civil society. Lebanon needs to raise the alarm on increased tobacco use and conduct broad awareness raising campaigns.
The international team was very pleased to find very committed tobacco control focal points. The proposed amendments of the current regulations (2014) will make the tobacco control act much more compliant with the WHO FCTC. Consumption of locally grown tobacco is rapidly increasing. Research needs to be conducted in this area to be able to monitor and control this type of tobacco. The tobacco industry in the country is strongly attempting to interference with tobacco control measures. It was strongly recommended to adopt the new regulations as soon as possible, finalise the strategic plan on tobacco control and fight the tobacco industry.
Despite the short period of time since ratification in 2014, Ethiopia, under the effective steering of FMHACA has made substantial progress in the implementation of the treaty. Smoking prevalence is relatively low compared to other countries in the Africa Region though there are great differences across regions in the country. This would need to be taken into consideration when developing strategies and interventions. There is need to strengthen tobacco control coordination across sectors and between Federal and Regional levels. The tobacco taxation system will need to be reviewed and improved.
Smoking in public is not culturally accepted in Benin. The reported smoking prevalence is low and often tobacco consumption in Benin was not perceived as an issue. However tobacco products (including illegally imported products) are being sold everywhere.Benin was recommended to develop a strategic plan of action and a multisectorial coordinating mechanism and to amend the tobacco control law.
The mission to Mongolia, was conducted together with the UN Task Force for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. This was the first time that two teams conducted a joint mission. The rationale behind a joint mission is the recognition that implementation of the WHO FCTC is a key component of the prevention and control of NCDs, and that the stakeholders in tobacco control and NCD control are, in the majority of cases, the same.An urgent need in WHO FCTC implementation in Mongolia is the increase of tobacco taxes. The prices of tobacco are very low, and tax increases would contribute to a decrease in tobacco use and increase state revenues at the same time, which will enable the government to re-establish the health promotion fund. Making public places 100% smoke-free by eliminating designated smoking areas is also desirable.
The country has made some progress in implementation of the Convention, including a comprehensive advertising ban that also covers display of tobacco products at points of sales since 1 July 2015, and a requirement for pictorial health warnings covering 50% of the main sides of the pack from 2016. It has been brought to the attention of the mission that a new comprehensive tobacco control bill is currently awaiting parliamentary debate, which will bring the country’s regulatory framework in line with the requirements of the Convention.
The country is engaged in the preparation of a comprehensive tobacco control law, which is currently on the agenda for the next session of Parliament in September 2015 for approval. The importance of including implementation of the WHO FCTC in the National Strategic Development Plan and the National Plan of Health (2016-2020) and the creation of a multisectoral coordination mechanism for tobacco control were underlined during the mission.