Open letter to the ILO Governing Body

Dear government members of the ILO Governing Body:

The expiration of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) contract with Japan Tobacco International – the organization’s last contract with the tobacco industry – this December creates an opportunity for the ILO to start afresh in 2019. While the world waits for the ILO to align itself with the 181 countries party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), at this 334th Governing Body meeting, we, the undersigned organizations, respectfully request the following decisions be adopted:

  1. No longer accept any funding from the tobacco industry including corporations profiting from tobacco and ancillary groups that receive tobacco industry funds, in accordance with the UN model policy;
  2. Implement the integrated strategy using Regular Budget Supplementary Account funds in the short term;
  3. Work closely with relevant UN agencies, e.g. FAO, UNDP, to assist tobacco farmers and workers to find alternate livelihood; and
  4. Allow current contracts with the tobacco industry to expire, do not negotiate for the renewal of expired contracts, and do not establish any new contracts with the tobacco industry or its proxies.

Collaboration with tobacco companies presents several conflicts of interest for the ILO and risks global public health:

-The ILO’s acceptance of funding from the tobacco industry undermines the ILO’s obligations as a UN entity. Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC makes clear that the tobacco industry’s interests are inherently in conflict with those of public health and, therefore, the industry cannot participate in setting or implementing public health policy. This is the backbone of the FCTC, without which implementation of the treaty cannot succeed.

-Internal tobacco industry documents reveal partnerships with respectable organizations like the ILO are intended to provide cover for egregious tobacco industry abuse.[1] Indeed, tobacco industry investments in the ILO are relatively minor and only have a nominal impact on child labour as they focus on the cycle of poverty of tobacco farmers and neglect to address tobacco industry practices such as the administration of unfair contracts, collusion over leaf prices, and inflation of the costs for farm inputs that perpetuate poverty in the first place. Such projects come at significantly less cost to the industry than paying fair prices for tobacco leaf that would provide sustainable livelihoods for farmers and allow them to pull their children out of hazardous labour. In fact, the tobacco industry has derived nearly twenty times more in economic benefit from unpaid child labour in Malawi alone than it spent on all its social programming [2]

-The ILO’s acceptance of funding from the tobacco industry contravenes the expectation that the ILO is in policy coherence with the FCTC as a UN treaty. There is evidence that the tobacco industry has exploited the ILO to advance its objectives within the UN more broadly. For example, an internal document from British American Tobacco said, “The ILO has a unique role as a UN organisation in bringing together representatives of governments, workers and employers. It thus provides official access to an UN body in a way that is not available from other UN bodies.”[3] Earlier this month (1-6 October) 181 Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) met in Geneva and made a significant decision that is relevant to the ILO: “to further enhance policy coherence within governments and require that all government sectors relevant to the implementation of the Convention, not only the health sector, comply with the requirements of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, and reflect the same in positions put forward in different governing bodies of the United Nations system.”

-The ILO risks tarnishing its reputation and the effectiveness of its work if it chooses to continue accepting funding from the tobacco industry. Such financial relationships contravene the WHO FCTC and enable the tobacco industry to tout its relationship with a reputable institution while continuing to undermine public health policymaking, exploit farmers, and obstruct farm workers’ rights to organize trade unions and engage in collective bargaining.

Last year on 16 October 2017, 154 organizations called on the ILO to end its PPP with the tobacco industry and its collaborators. However, due to extenuating circumstances, the ILO Governing Body has postponed the decision three times (March 2017, November 2017, March 2018). In June 2018, the ILO’s contract with the Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation expired, and this December the contract with Japan Tobacco International (JTI) will terminate. This 334th governing body meeting provides another opportunity for the ILO to make the much-awaited decision to help end the global tobacco epidemic and not accept more funding from the tobacco industry and its collaborators.

Should you have any questions or wish to discuss further, please contact Mischa Terzyk at [email protected]

Sincerely, the below-signed public health, development, human rights, and corporate accountability


Action on Smoking and Health (Finland), Finland

Action on Smoking and Health (Northern Ireland), Northern Ireland

Action on Smoking and Health (Scotland), UK – Scotland

Action on Smoking and Health (Thailand), Thailand

Action on Smoking and Health (UK), UK

Action on Smoking and Health (USA), USA


British Heart Foundation, United Kingdom

British Lung Foundation, United Kingdom

Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social de Costa Rica, Costa Rica

Cambodia Movement for Healtj, Cambodia

Cameroon Coalition to counter tobacco, Cameroon

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, United States

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland

Cancer Research UK, United Kingdom

CCSS, Costa Rica

Center for Law and Policy Affairs, Bangladesh

Centro de investigación Para la Epidemia del Tabaquismo, CIET/Uruguay, Uruguay

Ciet, Uruguay


Comité National Contre le Tabagisme, France

Comunidad de Profesionales Cristianos CPC Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana

Corporate Accountability, USA

Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social), Costa Rica

CTR, Dominican Republic

Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Bangladesh

DNF-Pour un Monde Zéro Tabac, France

Doctors Against Tobacco Finland, Finland


EuroHealthNet, European Partnership based in Brussels, Belgium

European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), Europe region

Facultad de medicina, Uruguay

FEMI (Federación Médica del Interior), Uruguay

Fic Bolivia, Bolivia

Fundación Anáas, Colombia

Fundacion Dominicana de Obesidad y Prevencion Cardiovascular, República Dominicana

Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón México, México

Health & Environment Advocacy Leadership Network – Asia, Philippines

Health For All Coalition, Sierra Leone

Health Healing Network Burundi-HHNB, Burundi

HealthJustice, Philippines

Hospital San Vito, Costa Rica


Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network, USA

Indian Cancer Society,Delhi, India

Innovation Management & Business Association – Philippines, Philippines

Institute fo Public Health of R. MACEDONIA, Republic of Macedonia

InterAmerican Heart Foundation, Latin America and Caribbean

InterAmerican Heart Foundation (IAHF), Uruguay

International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, USA

International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), US

International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, France

Japan Society for Tobacco Control, Japan

KADC, Kosovo

Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, Kenya

Kom op tegen Kanker, Belgium

Ligue Sénégalaise Contre le Tabac LISTAB, Sénégal

Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition, Lithuania

Madak Drayba O Nesha Birodhi Council MANOBIK, Bangladesh


Mouvement Populaire pour la santé au Gabon, Gabon

NCD Alliance, Switzerland

NGO NOVI POGLED, Bosnia and Herzegovina

North Karelian Center for Puplic Health, Finland

Norwegian Cancer Society, Norway

Observatoire Contre le Commerce Illicite des Produits du Tabac, Sénégal

One for Nursing Empowerment – Philippines, Philippines

ONG Ecole Sans Tabac = Vie Ecolo (ESTAB), Côte d’Ivoire

OxySuisse, Switzerland

Pratyasha’ anti-drug’s club, bangladesh

PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress), Bangladesh

Red Nacional Antitabaco de Costa Rica (RENATA), Costa Rica

The Romanian Association for Health Promotion, Romania


Samoa Cancer Society Inc, Samoa

Sci Artes MARCIALES uruguay, URUGUAY

Scottish Thoracic Society, UK

Smoke Free Partnership, EU

Sociedad Dominicana de Neumologia y Cirugía de Torax, República Dominicana

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), Thailand

Swiss Association for Smoking Prevention, Switzerland

Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote (TABINAJ), Bangladesh

Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF), Tanzania

The Finnish Heart Association, Finland

The Organisation for Respiratory Health in Finland, Finland

The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, Scotland

The Wellbeing Initiative and Young Professional And Student Assembly- Society for Public Health

Professionals of Nigeria, Nigeria

The World Heart Federation, Global

Tobacco control alliance in Georgia, Georgia

Tobacco Facts – Independent Tobacco Control Think Tank, Sweden

Tobacco Free Association of Zambia, Zambia

Tobacco-free Finland, Finland

UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh

University of Costa Rica, Costa Rica

Venezuela Heart Foundation, Venezuela

Vision for Alternative Development, Ghana

Vital Strategies, US

Youth Communication Centre, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Zambia Consumer Association, Zambia

Zambia Heart and Stroke Foundation, Zambia

Zambia Media Network Against Tobacco, Zambia





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