Tobacco farmers seek participation in WHO summit

Tobacco farmers seek participation in WHO summit

New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) on Thursday urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow their participation in the upcoming 7th Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Seeking transparency, democratic process and openness in the policy making, an ITGA delegation also called upon the Indian government to ensure that the COP7 procedures and decision-making processes are not in breach of India’s high democratic ideals upholding participation and dialogue.

The FCTC Conference of Parties (COP7) meeting is being held from November 7 to 12 in India.

The ITGA said that WHO should allow participation of the tobacco growers as it is a remunerative crop providing livelihood to millions of farmers, farm workers and their family members while contributing significantly to the economies of tobacco growing countries.

“Measures impacting tobacco cultivation and tobacco farmers cannot be decided only by health officials and activists, and requires the participation of tobacco growers and other stakeholders including related ministries,” said ITGA President Francois van der Merwe in a statement.

Hundreds of tobacco growers from various countries, including India, Indonesia, South Africa, Portugal, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, among several others met in Delhi on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the issue.

They expressed grave concern over the threat posed to their occupation and livelihood by the unreasonably harsh and arbitrary regulatory measures being adopted by national governments in many parts of the world.

The forum also adopted a declaration calling on the governments to ensure protection of livelihood of millions of farmers and their families from the consequences of extreme and livelihood-threatening policies of the FCTC.

According to the Tobacco Institute of India, tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for the country as it contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenue annually, besides earning about Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange.

Tobacco growers, under the ITGA, are disappointed that since the beginning of the FCTC, their right to be consulted on the development of policies that would ultimately impact them has been summarily denied.

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