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Keywords:

  • United Nations Development Programme;
  • tobacco industry;
  • tobacco control;
  • conflict of interest;
  • non-communicable diseases;
  • sustainable development

Abstract

The United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) position on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is undermined by a key issue at the global institutional level. Fundamentally, the nature of the relationship between international development agencies and the tobacco industry is at odds with the professed public health priorities of the former. At its core, the business model of the tobacco industry is premised on the sale of addictive and disease-causing substances that fuel NCDs in the first place. The role of the United Nations system and, in particular, UNDP is to ‘build nations that can withstand crisis’, not to collaborate with entities that profit from crises. This simple and well-established fact cannot be overlooked. We outline an array of conflict of interests. If the effects of NCDs are ever to be reversed, then international agencies such as the UNDP ought to adhere to ethical standards in choosing partners and avoid conflict of interests. In the absence of this, the UNDP may well compromise its own agenda and proliferate NCDs rather than containing them.