UN System supporting Article 5.3 about non-interference of tobacco industry

12 September 2017

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The Board of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) showed strong support of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), when considering UNGC integrity measures at its meeting on 19 July 2017.

The Board strongly supported measures to align the organization’s exclusionary criteria with the UN system in the spirit of WHO FCTC, in case of tobacco, as expressed in the UNGC Board Meeting Report:

“It was also agreed that when communicating about the decision to exclude tobacco companies from participation in the UN Global Compact, it should be made clear that the decision was taken in line with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, but not as a direct result”

This proposal by the Board might result in a reconsideration of the organization’s practice to engage with the tobacco industry and remove the 4 tobacco companies from its list, and hopefully in the adoption of internal policies to prevent tobacco industry interference.

This decision follows the recent historical resolution from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) calling on all UN agencies to develop and implement policies to prevent tobacco industry interference bearing in mind the model policy developed under the auspices of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.

The Convention Secretariat, and also WHO, promoted the provisions of the Convention and the recommendations of the respective guidelines with the UN Global Compact on many occasions. In fact, the Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 recommend that Parties to the Convention should not endorse, support, form partnerships with or participate in activities of the tobacco industry described as socially responsible.

Tobacco companies have been undermining, on all levels and at every occasion, the Parties’ efforts to promote development and improve the health of their populations. They should therefore not be viewed as stakeholders in the development of any tobacco control policies.

In another recent development, the UN Resident Coordinator of Peru also showed strong support of the Article 5.3 by raising awareness of the tobacco industry’s participation in a Forum on Responsible Communication, in relation to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its Goals. The Resident Coordinator came to know about a meeting co-sponsored by British American Tobacco, and ensured that no UN agencies were associated with the event.

Similar events were set to take place this summer in eight different cities of the Americas region, all but one taking place in countries that are Parties to the WHO FCTC, thus bound by its provisions.

The Convention Secretariat is once again calling upon all Parties to be vigilant of events that are organized by or take place with the participation of tobacco companies, therefore creating conflict of interest if attended by government officials.

Governments and observers are also urged to follow the positive example set by the UN Resident Coordinator of Peru and advise the UN system to not participate in such events alongside with tobacco companies.