Post ILO: Whole-of-government must implement Article 5.3

In October 2018, the International Labour Organization (ILO) decided at its recent governing body (GB) meeting in Geneva that they will no longer rely on funding from tobacco industry and ancillary groups that receive tobacco industry funds. Civil society welcomed this development as a step in the right direction. There is still some work to be done to sort out the details.

The move is consistent with the global trend toward rejecting tobacco industry funding and the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 model policy for UN agencies issued in October 2016. The model policy talks of rejecting partnerships with the tobacco industry; similar policies have been adopted by WHO, UNDP, UNGC, and UNESCO.

The GB has now directed the ILO Director General “to continue efforts to mobilize various sustainable sources of funding from the public and private sector with appropriate safeguards.” The ILO’s contracts with the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation, an NGO funded entirely by the tobacco industry, and with Japan Tobacco International (JTI) expire in June and December 2018, respectively.

The intense deliberations over the past two years point to some gaps in addressing the tobacco issue in the ILO. The WHO FCTC has 181 Parties, who are obligated to implement the Convention, including most ILO member states. The tobacco industry is persuasive that it is a ‘partner’ through the funds it hands out, which has led the employers arm of the tripartite to claim that the FCTC somehow does not apply to the ILO.

Several weeks just prior to the GB, the eighth session to the Conference of the Parties (COP8) was held in Geneva (1-6 Oct) where several decisions on Article 5.3 were adopted which are pertinent to the ILO.

The COP called on Parties to safeguard livelihood of tobacco growers and to address tobacco industry national and international efforts to block tobacco control policies, ( FCTC/COP/8/19 ) and to promote tobacco control policy coherence in the governing bodies of the relevant Inter-governmental organizations (IOGs), including the ILO.

The COP also stressed the need for Parties to raise awareness about the tobacco industry or related third-party funding among research institutions and prevent the tobacco industry from exploiting UN agencies, inter-governmental bodies, and the UNDP’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) to its own end (FCTC/COP/8/18 ).

With the door closing on tobacco industry funding of programmes through the ILO and other IGOs, while many governments have already banned tobacco related CSR activities, the TI is hastening new contracts with some ‘industry-friendly’ governments.

On 11 October, just a few days after COP8 and two weeks just before the ILO meeting, the ECLT signed a new contract with the government of Guatemala, which already has an existing contract with them to address child labour. Earlier in June, ECLT signed an MOU with Mozambique Minister of Labour for US$1 million to address child labour over 3 years.

The Permanent Missions in Geneva are actively engaged in the ILO process as many countries were represented by their respective Missions. The tobacco industry is known to lobby Diplomatic Missions directly. According to a Guardian expose, in Hungary, in 2015 the then ambassador met the minister for foreign affairs “and raised BAT’s concerns about government tobacco policy impacting their further investment plans in Hungary, following BAT’s request to him [in] March 2015”.

In Bangladesh, The Guardian reported that Freedom of Information requests had revealed that for the past four years the UK Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade staff had met with BAT nine times to discuss a long-running tax dispute with the Bangladesh government.

In 2014 at COP6, the Parties adopted a decision to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry: “to raise awareness and adopt measures to implement Article 5.3 and its implementing Guidelines among all parts of government including diplomatic missions.”

Global progress report state that an increasing number of Parties are making efforts to implement Article 5.3 while some have yet to include specific details on diplomatic mission’s roles. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland have guidelines for overseas posts that they should be consistent with the WHO FCTC and Article 5.3, as well as their commitment to protect public health policy from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

The Philippines Civil Service Commission-Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular on protecting the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference applies to civil servants both in the country as well as those based at their diplomatic missions.

The WHO FCTC will only work if it is implemented by whole-of-government. Tobacco industry interference has been identified to be the biggest impediment to the implementation of the treaty. The sooner governments implement Article 5.3, the better for the country including the labour sector.

To obtain template letter for Diplomatic Missions to implement Article 5.3, contact:


For further information:

  1. Handbook on the implementation of FCTC Article 5.3;
  1. Good country practices in the implementation of WHO FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines: Report commissioned by the Convention Secretariat; Mary Assunta;