16 June 2017:
New York: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has adopted a resolution for members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on NCDs to develop and implement policies that prevent tobacco industry interference. This ECOSOC resolution is important because in the past tobacco industry affiliated groups have turned to the ECOSOC for international recognition.
The new Resolution has a paragraph that says:
- Encourages members of the Task Force, as appropriate and in line with their respective mandates, to develop and implement their own policies on preventing tobacco industry interference, bearing in mind the model policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference, in order to ensure a consistent and effective separation between the activities of the United Nations system and those of the tobacco industry;
This para forms part of a wider resolution adopted by members of the Task Force to reflect NCD-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals in their work in countries. Tobacco control remains central to the Task Force’s activities. The ECOSOC also urged Task Force members to create smoke-free campuses and further develop and adopt model policies on preventing tobacco industry interference.
Two tobacco industry affiliated groups that have recognition from ECOSOC are: CORESTA (Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco) and ECTL (Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing) Foundation.
CORESTA is a Paris based industry association set up in 1956. It has 180 full members largely from the tobacco industry and related affiliates. CORESTA’s consultative status with the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) enabled it to be listed automatically with ECOSOC. This predates the adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
TobaccoTactics lists CORESTA under the category of “Influencing Science”, while Tong and Glantz’s paper published in 2004 documents how CORESTA lobbied government officials and United Nation organisations to prevent tobacco control from becoming a developing country issue, and countering WHO health advocacy programmes and regulation on issues such as pesticide.
More recently, the ECLT Foundation, funded by Big Tobacco, obtained consultative statuswith ECOSOC in September 2015. The ECLT used this status with the ECOSOC to attend SDG related meetings and associate itself with its goals. Needless to say, ECLT ignores Goal #3 which calls for the implementation of the WHO FCTC which includes Article 5.3 on halting tobacco industry interference.
The ECOSOC has 4,507 NGOs listed as having consultative status with it. Two tobacco control groups, the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) and Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, have consultative status with the ECOSOC along with a host of medical and health professional institutions.
The ECOSOC however does not have a policy to reject groups funded by tobacco money or affiliated with the tobacco industry. With this new resolution, to achieve policy coherence and avoid conflict of interest issues, it would serve the ECOSOC well to review its list of NGOs that have links with the tobacco industry.