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Keywords:

  • Framework Convention on Alcohol Control;
  • international law;
  • non-communicable disease

ABSTRACT

Aims  The perceived success of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in influencing national and global public health policies has led to growing interest in promulgating new international legal instruments to address global health issues—including calls for a Framework Convention on Alcohol Control (FCAC).

Methods  Despite broad support in the public health community, the authors caution that an analysis of the value of lawmaking for alcohol control cannot rest solely on the character of the underlying public health challenge and the similarities between alcohol control and tobacco control. Other factors must be considered, including the relative political feasibility for global health lawmaking. The potential contribution of non-binding international legal instruments to advancing global alcohol control, in particular, deserves strong consideration.

Results  The authors propose a gradual international legal strategy for alcohol control, starting with a non-binding code of practice focusing on areas of critical concern with wide political consensus, leading over time to a comprehensive binding treaty. Although often dismissed as ineffective relative to treaties, non-binding international legal instruments have particular strengths and can create both norms and processes that impact the behavior of states and other actors, overcoming a number of limitations of more rigid legally binding strategies.

Conclusions  Ultimately, the authors contend that the negotiation and adoption of a non-binding international legal instrument as a first step in a long-run legal strategy offers a more politically realistic, and potentially superior, alternative to immediate efforts to achieve a Framework Convention on Alcohol Control.