15 Years have gone by since the Millennium Summit. Ten days from today the UN Sustainable Development Summit (25.-27.9.2015) will kick off. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) shall be replaced by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the beginning of this century, the global community declared at the UN Millennium Summit their intent to combat hunger and poverty. Hence eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were developed in 2001 and their implementation was aimed exclusively at the Global South.

Tobacco use in the new century

Nearly at the same time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank publicly aknowledged, that the rapidly increasing tobacco use has already triggered a global epidemic.

The answer was the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and went into force in February 2005.

Inbetween, the WHO published a report (2004) analysing the MDGs in relation to tobacco use. The conclusion: tobacco use is a barrier to all MDGs.

Sustainability in place of Millennium

The work to achieve the MDGs has been constantly reviewed, numerous reports compared the countries’ efforts. Some criteria have been gradually adjusted, and now the time has come to present half a success story to the global community. Basically, it’s a question of face-saving.

Since the Rio+20 Summit the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a follow-up to the MDGs have been discussed, framed and finally included in the declaration to be adopted on 25th September 2015 in New York.

It is new, that the SDGs take a much more comprehensive approach than the MDGs and show the attempt to take the ecological issues of the planet seriously. And: the SDGs apply to all states, not only to the Global South. Therefore, Germany has also to live up to these goals.

Another novelty is, that tobacco control has been included as an integral part of the SDGs. The WHO FCTC is designated as the first of four instruments to achieve a healthy life for all. Civil society organisations like the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) have contributed largely to this success.

But if the history of the MDGs should not repeat itself, it is important to name the responsible actors, to create independent monitoring mechanisms and to really challenge the world economic system. Unfortunately, the new UN declaration named Agenda 2030 barely provides these three elements.

What next, Germany?

Nevertheless, the Agenda 2030 provides the working ground for Unfairtobacco.org, because Germany has excelled at framing and developing the SDGs. In the area of tobacco control, there is certainly much to do for the German government to strengthen the implementation of the FCTC. In practise, that means to

  1. Implement a comprehensive advertisement ban: In Europe, only Germany and Bulgaria still allow tobacco advertising on billboards. Good examples are Spain and Turkey who have been attested best practises in tobacco advertising bans by the WHO. Furthermore, the world’s probably largest tobacco trade fair is hosted annually by a German municipal exhibition corporation, the Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH. There is urgent need to change.
  2. Ratify the protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products: illegally sold cigarettes are cheaper than officially traded ones. Tobacco smuggling leads to an increase in tobacco consumption, exacerbates the associated health hazards, reduces tax income of states and funds criminal and terrorist groups. Global networks of smuggling can only be effectively combated on an international level.

  3. Promote alternative livelihoods to tobacco growing: In Columbia, Peru and Myanmar, the German government explicitly supports alternative livelihoods to drug cultivation. The projects are about growing coca and poppy. In countries like Malawi it’s about tobacco – a “legal drug” whose cultivation is far more toxic than coca or poppy. Programmes on rural development could be tailored easily to fit the needs of tobacco farmers to switch to food crops.

In the years to come, Unfairtobacco.org will work actively on these issues – to ensure, that the SDGs are more than business as usual.

Further information:

Tobacco: antisocial, unfair, harmful to the environment [pdf, 1 MB]

Infographic: Tobacco in the post-2015 agenda [pdf, 1MB]

World map of tobacco industry’s strategies

Strategien der Tabakindustrie: Werbekampagnen, Klagen, politische Einflussnahme [pdf, 1 MB] (German)

World map of alternatives to tobacco

Alternative Livelihoods to Tobacco [pdf, 1 MB]