10 March, 2020
Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
cc. Gabriela Ramos, Chief of Staff and Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications
Dear Secretary General Angel Gurria,
Last year, we wrote to your office to raise the concern about Philip Morris International (PMI) speaking at a session on responsible lobbying during the 2019 Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum. This constituted a blatant disregard of the international norms that call for governments to reject any partnership or so-called corporate social responsibility initiative of the tobacco industry.
We appreciate your kind assurance to us that “It is incumbent on international organizations to consider carefully the platforms we provide and to whom, be they private or public actors. We will have this very present as we plan events in future”; and noted that the incident arose out of the fact that “you liaised closely with the Business Industry Advisory Council (BIAC) which in turn nominated Philip Morris International.”
As you plan this year’s event, we want to alert your office to PMI’s underhanded tactics to ensure its visibility among reputable organizations and individuals. PMI and its allies have ensured their attendance at high-profile events, alongside legitimate spokespeople, by omitting to announce its participation until the very last minute. We saw this during the side meetings around the World Economic Forum in Davos, where prominent personalities and officials were caught unaware that PMI would be among them in a panel. This lack of transparency and accountability is the trademark of the tobacco industry; thus, treaty guidelines have required governments to ensure that the tobacco industry is made accountable and transparent.
We also want to put you on alert that this year’s theme “Public, Private and Beyond” is one that the tobacco industry has been promoting to secure a seat at the table and to be considered legitimate partners with governments and international organizations. This is in flagrant defiance of the governments’ duties under Art 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC); the guidelines of which call for the rejection of partnerships with the tobacco industry. Notably, all OECD member states, with the exception of the United States, are Parties to the WHO FCTC.
In line with your good office’s commitment to “promote higher standards of transparency and accountability in public policy and discourse, and live up to those standards”, we wish to inquire what steps you have undertaken to exercise due diligence in minimizing the risk of a similar incident. Although the forum will no longer take place at the OECD conference centre and will now proceed in a virtual format the risk is still present as the tobacco industry and its allies have a history of harnessing online engagement and social media around such high-profile events.
We will be happy to support and help amplify your efforts as these would fall under support towards implementing the WHO FCTC and thus achieving Target 3.a and Target 16.5 of the United Nations SDGs.
We are attaching our correspondence last year for your reference as well as a copy of our recent report – Addiction at Any Cost – Philip Morris International Uncovered. The report explains how PMI has given the public a misleading impression of providing societal benefits while concealing the fact that its actions have undermined progress in WHO FCTC implementation.
Governance principles dictate that governments must hold the tobacco industry to account and not become complicit in its egregious schemes. We count on you to uphold these principles in your mission to promote integrity.
We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, Gan Quan, Anna Gilmore, Sandra Mullin
On behalf of STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, and 101 organizations and individuals.