In arguably a confusing and embarrassing act, the International Labour Organization (ILO) made a complete U turn to change its statement made Thursday morning indicating that it would cut ties with the tobacco industry. The move would have caused the UN agency to stop taking funds from the tobacco industry thus ending their public-private partnerships.
In an email sent to reporters, the ILO spokesman Hans Von Rohland said “We sent you the wrong version of the decision taken by the ILO Governing Body on ILO cooperation with the tobacco industry.” He further added “The ILO has not at this stage made a decision to end cooperation with the tobacco industry.” and added “We are very sorry for this error in transmission.”
The UN organization bringing together governments, labor groups and employers has been meeting for the past week to decide whether to continue or not its cooperation with cigarettes manufacturers.
The new statement issued by the UN labor agency indicates that its governing body has mandated the director general Mr. Guy Ryder to present at its next session in March a strategy to address labor issues in the tobacco industry.
Anti tobacco organizations have criticized ILO urging it to cut all ties with an industry accused of using child labor and to be responsible for the death of millions every year.
On the other hand, African countries want to see the cooperation between ILO and the tobacco industry maintained. This common position of the Africa Group was presented by Côte d’Ivoire. Many countries in the continent including Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are important tobacco producers, a sector that employs large sections of their populations and earns substantial foreign exchange to the states.