Message on tobacco control from the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre

The Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has written to us expressing views on the matter of IDRC Board Chairman Barbara McDougall’s overlapping membership on the Board of Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITC), which came to an end in March 2010.

We have carefully considered your views and share your concerns about the production, use, and distribution of tobacco and tobacco products, particularly in developing countries where smoking rates are still rising. IDRC was created by an Act of Canada’s Parliament 40 years ago to address development problems, of which tobacco is one, and we welcome suggestions and statements that will help us to improve the effectiveness of IDRC work.

IDRC’s Board of Governors has been a consistent supporter of work on tobacco control and of initiatives to improve health delivery interventions in poor countries. During the last 15 years, IDRC has supported a large number of anti-tobacco projects amounting to about $22 million in all regions of the world, including projects on the health impacts of tobacco use, the environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation, strategies to diversify away from tobacco, policy regimes to control tobacco production and use, and strategies to better educate the public about the health effects of tobacco.

We can assure you that neither IDRC’s mission nor its execution has been affected in any way by Mrs. McDougall’s membership on the IDRC and ITC Boards. IDRC has processes in place to ensure that no single member’s views or interests prevail over what are ultimately decisions by the Board as a whole. Board members have carefully examined the record and are confident that there is not a single instance where a decision related to funding for any IDRC-supported projects related to tobacco were affected by the intervention of any member of the Board of Governors. In addition, we would like to mention that during Mrs. McDougall’s tenure on the IDRC Board, total annual funding for work on tobacco control more than doubled. Moreover, Mrs. McDougall has been an outstanding, conscientious, and effective Chairman of the IDRC Board, and all Governors appreciate and value her leadership and many significant contributions to the institution.

IDRC is committed to, and has an exemplary record, on transparency. Board members regret that we did not anticipate perceptions of conflict of interest in this particular case. Consequently, the Board has decided to strengthen disclosure requirements for all Governors. This implies going beyond Government of Canada requirements of Crown Corporation Boards, so that possible or perceived conflicts of interest will be identified and acknowledged at an early stage.

During its 40 years of existence, IDRC has made substantive and lasting contributions to development in a variety of fields, not the least in health and tobacco research. Governors will continue to be vigilant for opportunities to further IDRC’s mission and reputation. We share this intent in common with all of IDRC’s funding partners, grantees, and stakeholders. As Governors, we reaffirm our sincere desire to work together with all our partners, both in developing and developed countries, to fight poverty and, in particular, to face the challenges that tobacco poses for poor countries.

Published: 28 Jun 2010

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