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Africa/Canada: BAT director on aid board spurs boycott

Tobacco control advocates were shocked to learn on 7 March that Barbara McDougall, the chair of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian international development organisation, was also a director of Imperial Tobacco, a wholly owned Canadian subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT). IDRC has been involved in tobacco control since 1994, when it launched Research for International Tobacco Control (RITC), a project to create a strong research, funding and knowledge base for the development of effective tobacco control policies and programmes in low income countries.

McDougall's concurrent positions on the boards of IDRC and Imperial Tobacco posed a real conflict of interest, not least because by ratifying the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, Canada agreed to follow international law to protect public health from tobacco industry interference. Article 5.3 of the FCTC requires that, in setting and implementing public health policies on tobacco, Parties ‘must act to protect these policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.’

Furthermore, in November 2008, Canada agreed to the guidelines for implementation of the FCTC, which, regarding Article 5.3, include the provision that Parties shall not allow any person employed by the tobacco industry to be a member of any government body, committee or advisory group that sets or implements tobacco control or public health policy, nor allow any government body to accept payments from the tobacco industry.

In December 2007, RITC received a grant of US$5.2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to carry out the Africa Tobacco Situational Analysis (ATSA), an 18 country project to understand the critical determinants of tobacco control success in those countries …

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