Four COPs and counting: achievements, underachievements and looming challenges in the early life of the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties

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As the governing body of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Conference of the Parties (COP) is mandated to ‘keep under regular review the implementation of the Convention and take the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation’. The COP has a range of critical roles to play spanning the setting of normative standards, the building and dissemination of knowledge, the monitoring of implementation, the facilitation of international cooperation and the mobilisation of resources to support implementation. The COP has met four times to date. It has made significant achievements in the setting of normative standards, with the adoption of a number of high-standard implementation guidelines and a declaration recording the commitment of Parties to prioritise the implementation of health measures in the context of concerns about the effect of international trade and investment obligations. Less progress has been made in other areas, including a general lack of support for the conduct of needs assessments by developing countries—though needs assessments have been designated as a prerequisite to the mobilisation of funding support—and a reluctance to consider the adoption of a robust system of implementation review. Much remains to be done to build the FCTC's implementation support structure. Other looming challenges include maintaining the voice and influence of developing countries against priorities being overly dictated by wealthier Parties and in the face of recent cutbacks to travel support pushed by the European Union, and managing the likely resource demands and other risks of the proposed illicit trade protocol.

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