Director-General, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The entry into force of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is a milestone in the history of the World Health Organization, and I dare say a historic event, well worth celebrating.
I am sure that we all share a feeling of pride and satisfaction that in the future, millions of lives will be saved thanks to this unique instrument. WHO, by initiating and bringing the Convention to a successful conclusion has again demonstrated its ability to lead the global community in its struggle for better health and development for all.
Almost two years ago we were all excited, just having adopted, unanimously, the world’s first public health treaty.
It is fitting to highlight today the skilful leadership of the Ambassadors Amorim and de Seixas Corrêa, supported by an active bureau, work group facilitators and WHO staff, to achieve this remarkable result. Collective efforts have made it possible to realise what many considered to be a utopian dream when the idea of a convention was first launched.
While negotiating, all delegations had their constraints. These constraints were, however, never allowed to block the negotiations. We are grateful for the good will that was displayed by all delegations participating in the negotiations to find constructive solutions to complex and difficult issues.
An effective Convention is a Convention that guides and commands the united efforts of all Contracting parties. The effectiveness will be measured by the way it is implemented. We
envisage a dynamic process headed by a forceful Conference of the Parties, and encourage all countries that have not yet ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible.
The process of creating this instrument has already served as the foundation for ambitious plans and activities. In my country, it has provided support to an Act prohibiting smoking in every single restaurant, café and pub throughout the country. The introduction of this legislation gave rise to passionate debate in our society and the implementation was expected to cause some opposition. But that did not happen and it is fair to say, I think, that the implementation process has been a success. The preliminary evaluation shows that the public is supportive of the smoking restrictions, and that compliance is almost total.
As mentioned by the Chair, Norway was the first country to ratify the Convention. We did so on the very day that the Convention was opened up for ratification – a rare performance for us and one we will probably not repeat any time soon! Norway felt that it was important to ratify as early as possible in order to contribute to uphold the momentum created both from the final negotiations in February 2003, and the adoption of the Convention by the World Health Assembly in May the same year.
Madame Chair, a globalisation of the tobacco epidemic means that no country can combat it alone. Even countries with advanced regulation and policy can risk to lose against multinational advertising, smuggling and unlawful trade with tobacco products. The globalisation of the epidemic has forced us to engage internationally to protect existing and future generations. We need strong instruments to curb this very serious health problem. Appropriate protocols might further enhance the implementation of effective tobacco-control policies.
We would like to give credit to WHO for the efforts undertaken to assist countries in the process of signing and ratifying the framework convention. These are necessary but not sufficient steps. The hard work comes afterwards, when the written commitments are to be translated into concrete acts. In this endeavour, we must build on the constructive partnership which was created in this very room during the negotiations and support each other by exchanging experiences, knowledge and best practices towards what I personally believe should be the ultimate goal - a tobacco-free world.
Thank you for your attention!
Read more about the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control here: www.who.int/tobacco/framework/en/