The World Health Organization is currently holding its sixth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or COP 6. The conference is taking place in Moscow and its declared aim is to agree more steps to reduce tobacco consumption worldwide. However there are alarming stories emerging from the conference, and now it’s being widely reported that following the expulsion of all public and media observers the delegates are planning a sweeping new worldwide tax on anything even slightly related to tobacco.
COP 6 was mired in controversy long before it even began, after the WHO took the startling decision to bar the global police agency Interpol from sending observers. This set alarm bells ringing among pro-democracy campaigners, because if the conference was really about passing worldwide laws then Interpol is the agency that would be called on to enforce them. Bizarrely, the WHO justified this move by claiming that Interpol is part of the tobacco industry.
The conference opened on Monday, October 13, with delegates from 175 countries. For once the US government showed some backbone and refused to send delegates, on protest against the WHO holding the event in a quasi-totalitarian state that currently has its troops fighting an illegal war on the territory of its neighbour Ukraine. Canada also refused to take part. Unfortunately it seems the WHO has been infected by the Stalinist ethos of the Putin regime, because the banning of Interpol was just the first stage in a very sinister series of events.
Despite being the world’s leading public health organization the WHO has never been too keen on letting the actual public see what they’re doing, so they make it as difficult as possible for ordinary people to get in to their conferences. The press can reserve places in advance but the public can’t. The only way to get in is to turn up on the day; a limited number of seats are available on a first come, first served basis. In theory.
The event had barely started when delegates from a few countries that don’t exactly have a great record of good government started complaining about ordinary people being allowed to sit quietly at the back and watch. Libya’s Mohammed Dagani – a former member of the Gadaffi regime – announced that “We don’t need the public here” and was quickly backed up by delegates from Uganda and a few other borderline dictatorships. A vote was called, and within minutes the public had been ordered out of their seats and expelled from the hall.
Obviously this didn’t go down well with the media observing the event, and on Monday evening stories began to appear criticizing the heavy-handed tactics. Incredibly the WHO didn’t reconsider the expulsion; instead, when the media reps arrived on Tuesday morning they were met by guards borrowed from Putin’s notorious Interior Ministry and told that, accreditation or no, they were being excluded from the event.
Now that witnesses have been removed the delegates are discussing a massive tax that WHO will try to force on every government in the world despite the people never having had a chance to vote on it. For now the US government wants nothing to do with COP 6, but it may be time to look into other WHO activities and decide how we want to deal with this secretive and totalitarian body in the future.