332nd Session of the Governing Body, 8–22 March 2018

Dr da Costa e Silva
Head of the Convention Secretariat

Speech of Dr da Costa e Silva during ILO's 332nd Session of the Governing Body
14 March 2018

Good afternoon Mr President and thank you for given us the floor

We are here as the World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC to share the perspective of the treaty and its Guidelines regarding decent working conditions in the tobacco sector and the future of a public-private partnership between ILO and the tobacco industry.

We would like to start our intervention by thanking the director general of ILO for document GB.332/POL/5. WHO and the Convention Secretariat commend the approach presented in the document to address An integrated ILO strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector.

Let me be very clear from the outset. Decent work deficits in the tobacco sector must be addressed through an integrated strategy and we have been working with the office of ILO to join efforts in protecting the interests of tobacco growers and workers involved in the production chain. Child labor must be eliminated everywhere, including in tobacco growing areas. Nevertheless, the treaty does not recognize the tobacco industry having a legitimate role to play. The tobacco industry is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

This is a unique debate about a uniquely legal but deadly product. The industry that is behind the production and promotion of tobacco has a long history of working towards the promotion of its own interests at the cost of consumers, governments and workers.

That is why governments have decided to negotiate the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: an international legally binding treaty that is solely dedicated to ending the global tobacco epidemic. There are 181 countries that are Parties to the WHO FCTC, including 174 ILO member states. This means that only 13 ILO member states are not legally bound to the treaty.

Let me also be clear, the WHO FCTC is about tobacco. The action that is being taken with respect to the tobacco industry’s funding to ILO will stand alone and will not set any precedent for work with other industries. Around the world, tobacco is regulated by governments in a way that is unique. For example, legal measures were put in place on a majority of countries to ban tobacco use in closed environments in order to protect workers and the public from second hand tobacco smoke. Alternative livelihoods to tobacco growing are promoted according to article 17&18 of the WHO FCTC and the Policy options and recommendations on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing. Taxes and prices increase generate revenues to support the sustainable development agenda 2030 while decreasing consumption.

Tobacco is not just a heath issue. Tobacco harms the environment and has significant impacts on economy and society. Ultimately, tobacco is a barrier to national sustainable development.

What we are calling for today is for policy coherence.

The countries that are Parties to the WHO FCTC have treaty obligations to protect the implementation of the treaty from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. The Parties to the WHO FCTC have developed and agreed implementation guidelines that clearly set out that partnerships with the tobacco industry must be rejected. The same guidelines also call for an end to all corporate social responsibility activities, of which this is a clear cut case.

And, this is the very basis of the debate we are having today.

Last but not least, like all international treaties, the WHO FCTC was agreed through international consensus. I call on this governing body to give equal prominence to treaty obligations set out in the WHO FCTC as the obligations set out in other international treaties and in line with the UN agencies mandates.

The Convention Secretariat and WHO remain at the disposal to advance this agenda in a constructive way and look forward to work with ILO, FAO, UNDP, other UN agencies and partners from the civil society in the promotion of decent working conditions for all and alternative livelihoods for tobacco growing in line with SDG 2030 agenda.