President of International Tobacco Growers’ Association, Francois van der Merwe wrote a letter to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
We are deeply concerned to hear reports that the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) intends to ban dozens of “appointed and elected officials” representing tobacco-growing countries from participation in the next Conference of the Parties (CoP7) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in Delhi India in November 2016.
The FCTC has already banned tobacco farmers, tobacco manufacturers, respected international law enforcement agencies such as Interpol, the media and general public from previous CoP meetings and is now applying this undemocratic approach to sovereign nation states. The proposed country delegate ban fundamentally impinges on the sacred sovereignty of these nations and undermines important principles enshrined by the United Nations’ Charter.
Decisions taken at CoP7 will directly affect the livelihoods of more than 30 million tobacco farmers, as well as rural workers and their families in Africa and around the world. They make an important contribution to their countries’ economies. It is clear that this proposed ban is a flagrant breach of the democratic principle of consultation with affected parties. How can it be right that negotiations are being conducted by public health officials, who have little or no real knowledge of tobacco growing, the tobacco sector, social and economic importance in sovereign countries?
In papers recently released by the FCTC (FCTC/COP/7/30), the FCTC Secretariat acknowledges that it screens delegates accredited by State Parties to the working group and technical meetings and refuses to issue invitations letters to delegates that it unilaterally decides should not participate.
It also states that if a delegate nonetheless attends a meeting, the Secretariat staff will deny the delegate access to the premises. The FCTC Secretariat is now proposing to extend this practice to other meetings, including CoP itself.
By excluding appointed and elected officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches, the FCTC is in direct contravention of Article 2 of the UN Charter, which states that “[t]he Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”.
The FCTC is in breach of this article by discriminating against elected representatives and government officials in tobacco growing nations, as well as countries where tobacco monopolies still exist. Simply put, sovereign countries have a right under the UN Charter to determine their own representatives at the UN without facing the threat of exclusion or intimidation from a UN agency.
Subsequently, Article 8 of the UN Charter, states that it “shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs”. The FCTC is in breach of the spirit of this principle. Furthermore, under international law, outlined in Article 43 of the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in their Relations with International Organisations, it is expressly stated that in respect of international organs and meetings, “the sending state may freely appoint the members of the delegation”.
The ITGA hereby kindly and respectfully requests that you exercise your authority, as Secretary General of the United Nations and guardian of the UN Charter, to ensure that the FCTC fulfils its obligations under the Charter and operates in an inclusive and transparent manner. To this end, the ITGA is also referring this matter to the Governance Department of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to investigate this clear breach of international law.