The United Nations and its agencies, and their relationship with tobacco industry - an analysis of positions, policy and practice
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International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A8
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Since the early 1990s, UN agencies have been encouraged to generate resources from the private sector. Owing to a lack of exclusion criteria and standards for partnership and participation, companies largely responsible for causing the NCD epidemic have ironically become development partners with UN agencies. The tobacco industry has historically offered substantial financial assistance to public health initiatives, being cognizant of the significant political mileage these partnerships. In June 2012, at the Rio +25, the UNDP conferred its highest prize to a tobacco company for environment protection. This set-off a strong backlash from tobacco control advocates after which the UNDP Administrator admitted to the oversight. Tobacco control advocates have since urged all UN agencies to exclude tobacco industry.

Intervention or response:
This survey analyzes the position taken, policies proposed and practices undertaken by United Nations and its agencies since Rio +25, with respect to the tobacco sector (farming, investment, manufacturing and marketing).

Results and lessons learnt:
While most United Nations agencies have a stated policy to exclude tobacco industry, there are instances when local offices and partners of United Nations or those working through their grants continue to engage and partner with tobacco sector. Two agencies (FAO, ILO) have no stated position on tobacco and continue to engage with tobacco sector.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
The respectability gained by that tobacco companies by associating with the UN system fundamentally distracts the focus that the global public health community needs to maintain on the growing epidemic of NCDs. Through the influence that the multilateral system exerts on national governments, tobacco companies effectively influence health policy at a global level while obfuscating the focus of their responsibility for aspects of the NCD epidemic and achieving the SDGs. Civil society needs to sustain its efforts to advocate for tobacco exclusion and alert of potential conflicts of interest.

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