130 public health and sustainable development organizations from more than 60 countries have called on the International Labour Organization (ILO) not to renew or extend contracts that currently tie the ILO to an industry whose products kill more than 7 million people each year.
Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) cautions the ILO against the renewal or extension of contracts with “Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing” (ECLT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) set to expire in June 2018 and December, respectively.
It is wrong to renew or extend the contracts of ECLT (a tobacco industry-funded group) and JTI before the ILO governing body has made a decision on whether to stop accepting money from the industry.
FCA supports ILO document GB.332/POL/5, “An integrated ILO strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector,” which proposes that the ILO no longer rely on tobacco industry funds, suggests the use of regular budget funds upon the expiry of tobacco industry funded projects in 2018 and encourages partnerships with other United Nations (UN) agencies and international development banks, notably the World Bank.
Over the past year and at the 332nd Session of the governing body in March 2018, the ILO has repeatedly failed to end its interactions and partnerships with the tobacco industry, despite recommendations from the UN Interagency Taskforce (UNIATF) and Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The ILO partnerships with the tobacco industry do not address the root causes of child labour. Tobacco farmers remain trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, illness and exploitation. Notwithstanding the limited results of its projects funded by the tobacco industry to end child labour in the tobacco growing sector, the ILO has continued to defer a decision on ending cooperation with the industry.
The result of such inaction is that the ILO has risked its reputation being tarnished and has become an unwitting pawn in the tobacco industry’s cynical corporate whitewash, with the industry having a foothold in the UN system. This is ultimately bad for tobacco farmers.
With all that being said, when the ILO governing body convenes again in November, they should cut ties with the tobacco industry once and for all and embrace an integrated strategy to end child labour in tobacco growing. This does not require the use of tobacco industry money.