200 human rights organisations seek expulsion of tobacco companies from ILO

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and nearly 200 other public health and human rights organisations have asked the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to drop tobacco companies from its membership.

A letter from the organisations to the members of the ILO governing body described how tobacco companies victimise farmers and other workers through practices that include unfair pricing strategies, abusive contracts and child labour.

The group told the ILO that companies employing these predatory tactics have no place in a United Nations agency concerned with fair labour practices and human rights.

The governing board of ILO will meet on October 26 in Geneva to decide whether to bar tobacco companies from participating in the activities of the agency.

A statement by Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged the governing board to delist tobacco companies from participating in ILO.

“If the ILO is to live up to its promise of promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities and enhancing social protection, the decision should be an easy one: The governing body must prohibit all members of the tobacco industry from participation in the ILO,” Hurley said.

He pointed out that tobacco companies use membership in respected organizations like the ILO to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens when in fact they are the root cause of a global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century.

According to Hurley, tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, to mislead the public about the health risks of their products and to attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

He insisted that tobacco companies that spread death and disease across the globe should have no place in a UN agency or any responsible organization.

    He urged the ILO to join other international organizations and agencies acting to cut ties with tobacco companies.

    Last month, United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) delisted tobacco companies from participating in its initiative of involving corporate leadership to achieving the UN development goals.

    UNGC had explained that the exclusion of tobacco companies was to align with the policies of the broader UN system.

    The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states that the tobacco industry’s interests are in clear conflict with public health goals and recommended that countries should implement proven strategies to reduce tobacco use.

    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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