ILO should severe ties with Big Tobacco industry – ERA/FoEN
Following global demand on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to severe ties with Big Tobacco Industry, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has thrown its weight behind the calls, urging ILO to cut any tie with the tobacco giant.
The group insists that the ILO engagements with Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation, a non-profit funded by tobacco companies since 2002 reflects a conflict of interest in the United Nations (UN) system.
The appeal is coming as the governing body of the ILO meets this month (March) to decide whether it would close one of the tobacco industry’s remaining avenues of interference in the UN, making it harder for it to weaken, delay and block live-saving public health and labour policies.
The vote comes two weeks after the Director-General, Michael Moller. issued a report calling on the ILO to end its public-partnerships with Big Tobacco.
The director-general’s report came on the heels of over 150 public health and Labour leaders’ appeal on the ILO to cut ties with the deadly industry and as the Secretariat of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) is demanding the ILO to severe ties.
In a statement made available to The Niche signed by Philip Jakpor (Head, Media & Campaigns), the group noted that “ILO and Big Tobacco’s split is long past-due: The ILO must join other U.N. agencies in casting this deadly industry out for good,”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, the deputy executive director of ERA/FoEN, said, “Big Tobacco has no place in any U.N. space. This month, the ILO has the opportunity to stand on the right side of history and show Big Tobacco the door.”
The group revealed: “To date, the ILO has received more than US$15 million from tobacco corporations for joint programmes, including more than US$10 million from Japan Tobacco International (JTI) for an effort to curb child labor in tobacco farming.
“In Nigeria just as elsewhere, the tobacco industry has been identified with monopolistic practices that have made farmers go the extra mile to meet their demands, including forcing their kids as young as five years of age to work 24/7 on tobacco farms. This is unacceptable.
“Also, British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) is yet to wriggle from anti-labour practices leveled against it by some ex-workers, some of whom now have debilitating illnesses due to poor factory conditions and exposure to tobacco dust. All this must be made to stop”.
Also Jaime Arcila, Latin America organizer with Corporate Accountability’s tobacco campaign said, “The ILO is one of the last avenues of Big Tobacco’s influence into the U.N.”
According to him, “It’s high time the ILO recognizes the harms Big Tobacco poses to public health, workers and the environment and end its partnerships with the industry.”
It is on record that the tobacco industry commonly promotes programmes like these to boost its public image and maintain influence in policymaking spaces.
Philip Morris International recently launched a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, to which it will give nearly $1 billion over the next decade.