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UN agency shelves vote on ties with Big Tobacco

The governing body of the International Labor Organization, which has taken millions of dollars in funding from Big Tobacco, has shelved a decision about whether to cut ties with the industry.

http://cumberlink.com/business/un-agency-shelves-vote-on-ties-with-big-tobacco/article_e5b47bd9-0f4a-5c55-8bff-c1043cb174c9.html

The ILO body voted Wednesday to delay until November a decision about whether to join other U.N. agencies that have pledged to fight tobacco-industry influence in policymaking.

The Geneva-based body is trying to calibrate its mandate to help ensure proper working conditions, particularly in an industry linked to child labor, amid a broader U.N. fight against the harmful health effects of tobacco use.

ILO has received over $15 million through two partnerships that aim to fight child labor in the industry with Japan Tobacco International and nonprofit group linked to some of the world’s biggest tobacco companies.

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Why delegates are barred from UN anti-tobacco meeting

http://thenationonlineng.net/delegates-barred-un-anti-tobacco-meeting/

Delegates representing dozens of countries may be barred from participating by the United Nations (UN), as the world’s global health establishment will gather in New Delhi to consider new tobacco taxes and regulations that will impact nearly every country in the world.

The five-day meeting, which functions as an international parliament that makes decisions about tobacco control efforts, is billed for India from November 7-12 and could feature delegates from over 180 nations. The UN’s public health arm, the World Health Organisation, holds a tobacco control conference every two years through a sub-agency called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

To avert a compromised outcome, the FCTC hopes to ban certain “appointed and elected officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches” from the meeting.

In a document obtained from the FCTC, the organisers ask for support to “ensure the exclusion of representatives and officials from…fully or partially state-owned tobacco industries, including state tobacco monopolies.”

In the bid to assert independence, uphold public interest and equity, careful efforts will be made to exclude delegates with associations with tobacco production. it will almost certainly prohibit finance ministers, economic development secretaries, public health officials, and even presidents and prime ministers representing countries that operate state-owned tobacco growing or manufacturing operations, or engage in marketing and trade efforts.

Available statistics at the FTCT show that governments are responsible for over 40% of the world’s tobacco production, while many nations maintain tobacco research centres and fund promotional agencies to support tobacco exports.

Consequently, countries including China, Cuba, Egypt, Bulgaria, Thailand and the convention’s host country, India, may have a hard time having delegates approved to attend the event and vote on issues that impact their citizens.

The FCTC justifies this possible exclusion of countries who pay dues toward the event because representatives from tobacco-producing countries “may have prevented public health interests from prevailing in the policy discussions” at previous conferences, according to the document obtained from FCTC.

Blackballing participants and observers from its conference is nothing new for the FCTC. The FCTC has a long-standing mandate to prevent tobacco industry workers, including farmers, from attending. In fact, all possible negative influence of outcomes of the meeting against public interest, including the media,have a history of being thrown out of the conference.

Advocates gets tobacco industry rep. removed as speaker at UN meeting

http://www.fctc.org/fca-news/opinion-pieces/1428-advocates-gets-tobacco-industry-rep-removed-as-speaker-at-un-meeting

Quick action by tobacco control advocates resulted in a representative from Japan Tobacco International (JTI) being dropped as a speaker at a meeting on investment policy hosted by the United Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Mr Ulle Geir, JTI director of international trade, was to speak at UNCTAD’s biennial investment forum in Kenya on 19 July. However, as advocates pointed out in email messages to UNCTAD days before the meeting, it is highly inappropriate for the tobacco industry to speak at events focused on policy-making, for various reasons.

As explained in a letter to UNCTAD signed by two dozen FCA members, tobacco use is a barrier to development, costing millions of lives and billions of dollars a year.

Strengthening implementation of the FCTC is one of the ‘means of implementation targets’ (target 3a) included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted in September 2015.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly recognised “the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health”. This was a clear reference, by world leaders, to FCTC rules on protecting policy-making from tobacco industry interference.

‘Fundamental, irreconcilable conflict’

Article 5.3 of the FCTC, requires governments to protect “public health policies with respect to tobacco control” from the “commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”. Principle 1 of Article 5.3 guidelines, unanimously adopted in 2008, states: “There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.”

The UN Task Force on NCDs, of which UNCTAD is a member, is currently developing a model policy for United Nations organisations on preventing tobacco industry interference. The policy is expected to contain measures based on FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines.

In its letter, FCA called on UNCTAD, as well as other UN agencies and bodies, to help develop that policy, and to adopt it without delay. It also sought confirmation that, until such a policy is adopted, UNCTAD will quickly put in place, structures and procedures to prevent any tobacco industry employee or representative from acting as a speaker or participant at any event organized by UNCTAD.

Pressure grows for Commission President Juncker to end tobacco lobbying secrecy

Splits occur within European Commission, as European Parliament, Ombudsman and NGOs increase the pressure for implementing UN rules for contacts with tobacco industry lobbyists.

http://www.corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2016/04/pressure-grows-commission-president-juncker-end-tobacco-lobbying-secrecy

In February, European Commission President Juncker took many by surprise by flatly rejecting a European Ombudsman’s ruling recommending full transparency around tobacco industry lobbying. The previous autumn (after an investigation sparked by a complaint by Corporate Europe Observatory), Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly had slammed the Commission’s failure to comply with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as ‘maladministration’. The ruling urged the Commission to publish details of all meetings with tobacco lobbyists online. Four months later Juncker responded by claiming that the Commission “complies in full” with the UN rules, repeating the unconvincing argument that its general rules in the field of transparency and ethics are sufficient.

In her speech “Combating tobacco industry tactics: State of play and a way forward” in the European Parliament a few weeks later, O’Reilly expressed strong regret “that the Commission declined to accept my recommendation to extend proactive tobacco lobbying transparency across all DGs and across all levels of the service.” “And, given the stated commitment of the EU to the Convention”, the Ombudsman added, “I confess to being puzzled as to why that is.” In the conclusions of her speech, O’Reilly offered at least a partial explanation, stating that “the sophistication of the tobacco industry’s global lobbying efforts is still seriously underestimated”.

The Ombudsman, fortunately, has far from given up. Within a few weeks, she will publish a final ruling on the case. O’Reilly is also organising an official hearing in the European Parliament on “Improving transparency in tobacco lobbying”. Among the speakers will be Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health. Andriukaitis has recently voiced strong disagreement with Juncker’s rejection of the Ombudsman’s recommendations. Last month, Andriukaitis revealed at a conference in the European Parliament that Juncker’s response to the Ombudsman had not been discussed in the College for Commissioners. He reported that it was drafted by the Commission’s Legal Services, signed by Juncker and sent to the Ombudsman without consulting other commissioners.

In a resolution approved in a plenary vote last month, the European Parliament added to the pressure on the Commission, stating its concerns about the Ombudsman’s finding that the Commission was “not fully implementing UN WHO rules and guidelines governing transparency and tobacco lobbying”, adding that the Parliament “is of the opinion […] that the Commission’s credibility and seriousness have been endangered”. The Parliament’s resolution “urges all the relevant EU institutions to implement Article 5(3) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in accordance with the recommendations contained in the guidelines thereto”.

In his response to the Ombudsman, Juncker argued that tobacco lobbying transparency is not needed because the number of meetings between top officials and tobacco lobbyists has decreased since decision-making on the Tobacco Products Directive came to an end in 2014. This is a clear example of the European Commission seriously underestimating the lobbying efforts of the tobacco industry. Tobacco lobbyists are now targeting other issues, such as EU trade policy (TTIP and other trade negotiations), the renewal of the controversial agreements with four tobacco giants on combating illicit trade in tobacco, and the battle around the choice of technology for high-tech digital watermarks in tobacco packaging to prevent counterfeiting. New documents uncovered by CEO – see box below – show the tobacco industry is also making full use of the Commission’s flagship “Better Regulation” initiative in attempts to weaken tobacco control measures such as health warnings on cigarette packs. This has included attempts to bypass the health commissioner by lobbying the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Timmermans, who is responsible for ’Better Regulation’.

The European Parliament, the health commissioner and public health NGOs are calling on the Commission to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations. So what is Juncker waiting for?

Tobacco industry lobbyists using the Commission’s “Better Regulation” agenda

After attending a BusinessEurope meeting with the Commission on the Commission’s “Better Regulation” package, Japan International Tobacco (JTI) requested a meeting with the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Timmermans to “discuss a number of specific areas”. When the meeting happened (November 25 2015), the JTI lobbyists only raised “a very specific issue” concerning “the placing of health warning on cigarette packs with bevelled sides”. JTI attempted to use the “Better Regulation” agenda in its lobbying on this issue and went to Timmermans’ cabinet to bypass the Commission’s health department. The cabinet member promised to contact the cabinet of the health commissioner “to hear their side of the story”, but the notes of the meeting also stress that “no further commitments were undertaken”. This meeting was disclosed because it involved a top Commission official, but how many more meetings like this are happening at lower levels?

Promotion of tobacco control goals

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