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Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has been criticised for her
role in granting a business award to India's biggest tobacco
Clark, who is now head of the United Nations Development Agency,
presented India's largest cigarette maker, ITC (formerly Indian
Tobacco Company) with the World Business Council for Sustainable
Development's (WBCSD) highest prize for improving the environment
and removing poverty.
"The award is possibly the biggest travesty of justice even by
the UN and the World Bank's weak ethical standards," Pranay Lal of
Union Southeast Asia, a lobby group fighting tuberculosis and lung
India's Daily News and Analysis website, he
said ITC was primarily a cigarette maker and tobacco trader
although it now claims to be a diversified company selling soap,
biscuits and hospitality.
He asked why the UN, the World Bank or even the World Health
Organisation continue to partner and recognise perverse industries
like tobacco companies.
"The answer is simply - money. Starved of public financing, the
UN agencies rely upon 'voluntary' contributions like donors,
private philanthropies and companies."
He said ITC and Brazil's largest tobacco producer, Souza Cruz,
were close to UN policy because of their funding.
"What is tragic is that Helen Clark, a responsible prime
minister and wife of a respected public health expert could not
have given this award in New Zealand or any other developed
country," Lal said.
Clark is married to Auckland University public health specialist
"WBCSD is a curious club of organisations ranging from the most
wanted corporate criminals (Dow Chemicals) to good Samaritans
(Infosys), Lal said.
Dow is reviled in India in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster
in 1984 in which up to 12,000 people may have died. A number of
corporate officials have been convicted over the disaster in India,
but Dow internationally does not accept liability.
ITC's chairman, Y C Deveshwar, accepted the award from
"I receive this award with humility and pride, on behalf of the
hundreds of thousands of tribals and poor farmers whose lives have
been transformed by ITC's Social and Farm Forestry initiative," he