From the 3rd to the 5th of July 2019, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) held the meeting at Munyonyo commonwealth Resort hotel in Kampala- Uganda. The technical meeting was about exchanging views on the development and implementation of an integrated strategy to address decent work deficits in Tobacco working environments.

The ILO is the only UN agency yet to formally cut ties with the Tobacco Industry (TI) having as of 2018 had funding for some of its projects. The Public-Private Partnerships projects are Japan Tobacco International that ended in December 2018 and Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation that ended in June 2018.

These Corporate Social Responsibility projects were designed to end child labour and promoting workers’ rights in tobacco-growing communities in Brazil, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia yet funds depended on the volumes of tobacco product sales. There is a debate to renew but I amply voice for ILO cut ties, find funding from elsewhere.

In Uganda, according to the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT) “For over 13 years, ECLT has strategically invested over 3 million USD to fight child labour and promote sustainable development in Uganda. From 2013 to 2018, ECLT worked closely with local implementing partners, UWESO, to support 80,000+ children and 30,000+ adults to access

quality education, learn about child labour and safe agricultural practices, earn a sustainable income, and generally live better.”

In 2016; a U.N. Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control (TC) issued a model policy replete with measures to protect TC from commercial and other vested interests of the Tobacco industry (TI) across the United Nations system.

The policy includes rejecting partnerships, joint programs, nonbinding or no enforceable agreements, voluntary arrangements with TI; not granting TI permission to use U.N. entities’ names, logos, and emblems; and avoiding conflicts of interest by not accepting payments, gifts, services, hospitality, and research funding offered by the TI.

Related to the aforementioned, Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act’s section 19 enjoins government to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the Tobacco industry and section 17 prohibits indulging persons below 21 years in any tobacco industry activities of whichever kind.

The 332nd session of the Governing Body of ILO saw Government of Uganda; on behalf of the African, Region opposes ILO adopting internal policies seen to continue relations with TI. Given Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act implementation progress, it appears TI is attempting to pit the Ministry of Labour against the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations.

Whereas section 19 of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) of Uganda implores the government to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco interest. Section 17 of the TCA prohibits indulging persons of 21 years and below in any tobacco activities of whichever kind.

The 2005 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC) contains provisions designed to tackle the tobacco epidemic, included in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and recognised as a “means of implementation” to reach the overall health goal. Achieving SDGs calls for organisations working in the UN system to ensure public health policies are credibly protected from the undue influence of TI.

Do Uganda’s court battles with TI (Constitutional Court petition against TC Act of 2015 and the East African Court of Justice Petition against Excise duty Amendment Act of 2017) teach us at all? What of TI pursuing corporate social responsibility partnerships with ILO to improving TI public image?

“Although most corporate managers and business advisors agree that engaging in socially responsible behaviour is the correct thing for businesses to do, few can articulate a strong analytical foundation for this belief.” Eric C. Chaffee, professor at University of Toledo College of Law argued in The Origins of Corporate Social Responsibility article published May 28, 2017.

Accordingly, ILO should have fine-tuned its strategy on how to carry out activities without funding from the Tobacco Industry. Uganda is one of the countries capable of having a positive or negative impact on the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to address decent work deficits in the TI.

The recommendations reached at will be channelled to the ILO Governing Body to guide deliberations on the issue in November 2019. Propose strategies to promote an enabling policy environment for decent work in tobacco-growing countries; strengthen social dialogue; and assist tobacco-growing communities to address decent work deficits, including child labour, and to transition to alternative livelihoods is the other expectation.

Conclusively, as a member of the UN Interagency Task Force on NCDs, the ILO should fully align with the UN Economic and Social Council Resolution E/RES/2017/8, Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) – a global treaty with 181 Parties and the UN model policy for agencies of the UN system to ensure tobacco control efforts are protected from undue influence by any form of vested interest.

To promote decent work, guard against interference with labour standards, policies and Programmes, the ILO must keep the tobacco industry at arm’s length. When the long-standing cooperation agreements between the ILO, the tobacco industry and organisations it funds expire this year, the ILO can finally align itself with the international framework, developed to counter undue influence from the tobacco industry.

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