On 22 March 2018 the ILO Governing Body again postponed the decision due to a strike of the ILO staff. The next opportunity for the ILO to cut tobacco ties will arise in June 2018.

Since 8 March, the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) meets in Geneva. It is the third time that the partnership with the tobacco industry is on the agenda (GB.332/POL/5).

From all over the world, 190 organisations and individuals working on public health, consumer protection, labour rights and development call again on the ILO to break up with the tobacco industry. In their recent letter to governments in the ILO Governing Body, they write about cooperations with tobacco companies like Japan Tobacco International (JTI):

Such 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’ right to collective bargaining.

The treaty parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are obliged to the core tenet of the WHO FCTC, which establishes a firewall between the tobacco industry and public health policymaking. This is ultimately necessary, because internal industry documents show that tobacco companies view the ILO as a gateway to undermine public health.

A new strategy

For the meeting, the ILO office in Geneva has prepared a working document (GB.332/POL/5) which shows a huge shift in strategy towards the tobacco sector.

Now, the strategy does no longer only address child labour in tobacco growing, but also takes into account workers’ rights, poverty and hunger as well as national strategies for sustainable development.

Now, the funds for the programmes should no longer come from private partners – that is the tobacco industry – but from a broad coalition of development partners supportive of sustainable development.

This reflects that tobacco is obstructing sustainable development on all levels and that the tobacco industry cannot be a partner in such programmes.

Commitment of the FCTC Secretariat

Already in January, the Secretariat of the FCTC organised a briefing for UN Missions in Geneva. On the one hand, participants discussed the necessary application of FCTC commitments, on the other hand, they talked about options for alteratnive funding of the ILO programmes.

The FCTC Secretarat also support the issue at the 17th World Conference Tobacco or Health (WCToH) in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference declarations at the closing session contained a reference:

10. We call upon the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to align with the decision of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and end its collaboration with the tobacco industry immediately.

Together with 190 organisations we therefore call upon the ILO to adopt the draft decision and thus break ties with the tobacco industry.

Read here the letter of 190 organisationen and individuals to the governments in the ILO Governing Body.


Third time is a charm: It is time for the ILO to break up with tobacco funds.