Missing in Action: The Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol and the WTO
This article addresses the question of how the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol (Global Strategy) and its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) have been used in the context of discussions about alcohol and tobacco measures, respectively, in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.
The article finds considerable differences not only in the extent to which the FCTC is used compared to the Global Strategy, but also in the ways in which the two global health instruments have been used in the WTO context.
The article proffers three key reasons for these differences:
- the legal status of the instrument;
- the content of the instrument in terms of whether it contains guidance as to the use of detailed, evidence-based measures; and
- the role and legitimacy that the instrument accords to the relevant industry interests.
The article considers how the insights from the research can inform the developments in global governance of alcohol that are underway in WHO policy. It also positions its findings in terms of the wider international law debates about hard law versus soft law, and whether different types of international regulatory instruments and the legal status of these instruments impact their effectiveness in supporting domestic public health measures.