Convention Secretariat celebrates 50th Needs Assessment Mission for the implementation of the WHO FCTC as Zambia mission ends

WHO FCTC Secretariat

The 50th needs assessment mission for the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has completed its visit to Zambia, marking a milestone in efforts to assist Parties with their obligations under the treaty.

The international team, led by the Convention Secretariat, and comprising WHO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were in Zambia to work with officials from the Ministry of Health and other government ministries and agencies. The mission also met national stakeholders, the WHO country office and members of the UN Country Team to identify the needs and barriers in the implementation of the Treaty and discuss measures to aid moving forward, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each of the different sectors.

The visit was completed on 24 November 2017, eight years after the first needs assessment mission in Lesotho in October 2009.

The Needs Assessments are undertaken as a joint activity between the Convention Secretariat and ministries of health upon request from Parties. While it is clear which tobacco control measures work, some Parties have still constraints to fully implement these, revealing a requirement for individually tailored measures to assist them. Needs assessments have then filled an important gap.

“WHO FCTC joint needs assessments exercises have been a critical source of support for low- and middle-income Parties to the treaty and one of the most important mechanism of assistance to Parties,” said Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat. “It is part of a tide that lifts all ships - this process helps the individual Party while also adding to the effectiveness of the treaty worldwide.”

The needs assessment missions have been involving WHO, UNDP, World Bank and UN Country Teams headed by the UN Residence Coordinator: The missions promote the inclusion of the WHO FCTC implementation into the national health and development agenda and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.

The programme has also created unforeseen benefits. Face-to-face meetings have been conducted not just with ministers of health, but also with other significant individuals including heads of state and other government ministers. This has helped significantly to move implementation of the WHO FCTC up the agenda in many countries while increasing political buy in and by increasing visibility and priority of the treaty in governments’ agenda.

It has also assisted key efforts like the establishment of intra-ministerial working groups to ensure the involvement of all the major government departments, including the ministry of finance, agriculture and customs.

As part of the needs assessment exercise, seed grants post needs assessment assistance has been provided to Parties in accordance with the needs and priorities identified during the mission.

Major milestones have been achieved as a result of the needs assessments such as adoption of new legislations, increase of tobacco tax and establishment of a Health Promotion Fund to the implementation of the WHO FCTC as well as establishment of a tobacco control programme with full time staff and dedicated budget.

The formal evaluation conducted on the processes and outcomes of the needs assessment exercise coincides with the anecdotal observations and feedback received by the Convention Secretariat. These missions have proven to be an invaluable advocacy tool in most cases and have been a clear promoter of multisectoral cooperation at national level for the implementation of the WHO FCTC.

Given the positive outcome, the Conference of the Parties (COP), the governing body of the WHO FCTC, has mandated the Convention Secretariat to continue the conduct of needs assessments missions using extrabudgetary resources. The methodology developed has shown to benefit Parties from every region and at any level of development.

The needs assessment missions have been funded initially by the Convention Secretariat in the pilot phase and then scaled up with the generous support from Australia, European Union and the United Kingdom. Norway also indicates its future support in this important exercise.