COP10 Day 4: WHO Tobacco Treaty Negotiations


The ASH Policy Team is in Panama for the Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) from February 5 – 10, 2024. They will share updates and progress here for our community to stay engaged and informed throughout COP10.

February 8, 2024 How the Sausage Gets Made

Few of us have ever made actual sausage. But we’ll explain the process anyway, and then compare it to how things get done at FCTC COP.

To make sausage, you need some casing, some meat and spices. You grind everything up, and stuff it in the casing, tying off the ends. Sausage. But key to our point is that even if you make sausage, you don’t see every aspect of the ingredient trail, such as how the meat was processed, or where the spices were grown, or the origin of casing. Actually, the real key to our point is that making sausage is gross, but the end result can be pleasant.

Treaty decision-making resembles almost nothing else in nature. It is highly dysfunctional, often makes little sense or is wholly nonsensical, and takes a long time. But suddenly, almost startlingly, you get a sausage, and it’s a pretty good sausage, too.

First, let’s dispel any notion that the Conference of the Parties (COP) is like a regular conference. There are no cocktails or high-end swag. But you can score a t-shirt if you time it right.

At COP, groups of delegations do an elaborate dance, trying to swing things in their direction without revealing what they actually want. Their true mission is determined behind closed doors before they get there (that’s the part where you don’t know where the casing and spices are from). Three hours of discussion seem to be going nowhere; the text seems to be further away from consensus than when you started. Delegates zig zag across the room for whispered conversations. And then, suddenly, sausage! I mean consensus! The text is adopted. Everybody claps and pretends this is what they wanted all along. There’s a moment of relief and joy. Then the chair announces the next agenda item, and we start making a new kind of sausage.

ASH had several first-timers on our delegation to this COP. Their reaction has been a mix of fatigue, exasperation, joyful wonder, horrified fascination, and incredulity that anything gets done.

But today, we saw movement and had the opportunity to make key statements on protecting human rights and our environment.

ASH highly recommends the FCTC COP to anyone ready to join us in setting global standards that strengthen public health and can save a billion lives this century.


Keep reading about ASH’s COP10 Priorities and Side Events <Return to Day 3 Blog Advance to Day 5 Blog> Read the Daily Bulletin from GATC here