Anti-Tobacco Advocates Get Tips on Strategy, Tactics
CHICAGO (Reuters Health) - Successful leaders of environmental and peace advocacy groups offered advice on strategy and tactics to delegates last week at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Chicago.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, who led the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said that one key to building their global coalition of organizations and governments was to keep the unifying goals broad and basic: ``Get rid of the weapon, help the victims, get rid of the mines in the ground. But let each (non-governmental organization) in each country decide how they were going to contribute to that agreement. We had no Secretariat, we had no central office, we had nobody in this campaign telling anybody else how to achieve this goal.''
Williams said even if they had wanted to control coalition members, it would not have been possible; and that in any case, each organization best understood their local political situation.
Later this year, the United Nations and the World Health Organization will begin international negotiations on a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Williams stressed a central lesson from her experience working with governments on the treaty to ban landmines. ``I would suggest that you fight strongly for NGO involvement in the negotiating process,'' she counseled the anti-tobacco delegates on Thursday. ``If you let them say one thing to you outside the doors, and then they go in the door and you're left out; they will then do whatever they want and come out and give you excuses as to why they did it. You must insist on being part of it.''
Before heading home from the largest-ever anti-tobacco conference, delegates to the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Chicago met to decide what steps to take next.
Delegates from Asia pointed out how much they need to accomplish in order to catch up to the United States. While about one-quarter of US adults smoke cigarettes, more than two out of three people are smokers among certain groups in some Asian nations.
Malaysian delegate Mary Assunta complained that as tobacco marketing is increasingly restricted in the west, companies are shifting advertisements and sponsorships, such as those for Formula One auto racing. ``When Europe kicked 'Formula One' out, it kicked it right into Asia,'' she said.
A Saudi Arabian delegate pointed out that even though his home country bans tobacco advertising, officials have not found a way to block ads beamed to home satellite TV dishes. The limited ability of individual nations to regulate multi-national tobacco companies is one reason tobacco control activists are focusing attention on preparations for an international treaty sponsored by the United Nations World Health Organization.
Formal negotiations on a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are set for this fall. In addition to discussing how to have input to the talks, the conference delegates prepared to react to industry lobbying. ``Industry will be working for a bad treaty, rather than no treaty at all,'' said Canadian delegate Eric LeGresley. He said tobacco control advocates need to decide what their ``bottom line'' position will be, and what potential treaty language would be unacceptable.