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The United Nations was formed in San Francisco, USA 1945. One of the issues discussed at the UN was the setting up a global health organization. WHO’s Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948. The WHO has 193 Parties (countries) that meet annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. At this annual meeting, Parties set policy for the Organization, approve the Organization’s budget, and every five years, to appoint the Director-General. The WHO’s work is supported by the 34-member Executive Board, which is elected by the Health Assembly.

The WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It has a total of 172 Parties.

The WHO developed the FCTC to curb the use and supply of tobacco. The FCTC is governed by the Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP promotes and keeps under regular review the implementation of the Convention. The COP comprises all Parties (countries) to the Convention and holds regular sessions every two years. The Convention Secretariat operates within the World Health Organization in Geneva. It supports the Parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention, provides the necessary support to the Conference of the Parties and its subsidiary bodies (working groups) and translates the decisions of the Conference into programme activities.

The FCTC promotes implementation of the articles to the Convention, by establishing work groups that develop guidelines to the various articles in the Convention. These guidelines assist Parties in domesticating the Convention. The FCTC also ensures compliance with the Convention by having Parties report to it on the status of its legislation. The FCTC is therefore able to monitor and review how each Party is progressing. Parties that do not comply are “named and shamed”. Parties to the FCTC therefore have to implement the various articles of the FCTC Treaty depending on their national laws. At a country level, anti-tobacco lobby groups such as NGOs play a prominent in monitoring whether Parties are implementing their obligations to the Convention. These NGOs also ensure that their countries fulfill the obligation under the FCTC by:

  • Highlighting areas where governments need to comply with the FCTC.
  • Compile reports on their respective countries tobacco control laws. These reports are then gathered in a global report called the Tobacco Watch.
  • Lobby governments to implement tobacco control legislation.