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UN Week – 3/26/12

March 27, 2012

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey www.unweek.blogspot.com

Contents of this issue:Australia sued for trying to control tobacco use; UNESCO funding by US debated; online dispute resolution (ODR).

On March 22nd the WHO’s Director-General applauded Australia’s determination in fighting tobacco industry intimidation. Dr. Margaret Chan turged the world to “stand shoulder to shoulder” against the tobacco industry’s attempts to overturn Australia’s new tobacco control law. The law requires tobacco products to be sold in drab packages with images of tobacco-related diseases.

At the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore, Dr. Chan said that, “If we stand shoulder to shoulder, together, no tobacco industry can survive. The fact that they are so desperate, I take it as an indication that the industry sees the writing on the wall. This is the death throe of the addicting industry.”

Two days earlier Dr. Chan had stated that, “Tactics aimed at undermine anti-tobacco campaigns, and subverting the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, are no longer covert or cloaked by an image of corporate social responsibility. They are out in the open and thay are extremely aggressive.

“The high-profile legal actions targeting Uruguay, Norway, Australia and Turkey are deliberately designed to instill fear in countries wishing to introduce similarly tough tobacco control measures.”

Dr. Chang pleaded with young people to “use your power” with online social networking to support Australia, which is being sued by Philip Morris Asia. It is not clear how Philip Morris is dealing with the problem of Australia’s sovereign immunity.

UNESCO funding by US debated.

          The Jerusalem Post reported on March 21st that US Ambassador Susan Rice had urged a Congressional sub-committee to resume funding that had been cut off from UNESCO after recognition of Palestine as a UNESCO member state.

          The cut-off had been triggered by a law requiring the US to defund any UN agency that recognized Palestine as a full member state. Rice told the sub-committee that Qatar and China had helped to fill UNESCO’s US-caused funding gap.

          Rice made the point that the US cut-off punished the wrong target, UNESCO rather than those countries that voted in favor of Palestine’s recognition.

Online dispute resolution (ODR).

 Working Group III (Online Dispute Resolution) of the UN Commission on International Trade Law, in preparation for its 25th session, sched-uled for May 21-25, 2012, has received in preparation for the session a Secretariat note, A/CN.9/WG.III/WP.113. Under a heading of Principles for resolving ODR disputes, this appears:

“16(A) As consumer protection was an important public policy consideration, legislation in that field was highly specific in particular jurisdictions, and care should be taken that any approach to ODR not detract from consumer rights at the national level. Non-interference with the rights of consumers under national consumer protection laws would help inspire a climate of confidence in ODR among consumers, and it was not within the remit of the Working Group to address harmonization of national consumer protection laws.

“(b) The goal of the current work was to create a separate global system for the resolution of cross-border disputes involving high-volume low-value cross-border transactions. In such cases, consumers were unlikely to exercise any rights they might have as the cost of doing so was prohibit-tive in relation to the value of the purchase and furthermore, enforcement of an award would prove difficult.

“As at present in the case of most cross-border consumer transactions consumers had, in practice, no rights, the creation of an ODR standard could have the effect of creating such rights.” Id. at 5.

But rights are not the same as recovery. How claimants could enforce any judgment obtained through these newly created rights remains to be seen.

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