Helen Clark shocked at tobacco award

Last updated 08:07 18/07/2012
PRIVATE VISIT: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is speaking at a fundraiser for four female Labour Party candidates on Tuesday night.
JOHN SELKIRK/Auckland Bureau
SURPRISED: Helen Clark presented India's largest cigarette maker with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's (WBCSD) highest prize for improving the environment and removing poverty.

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Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has reacted with shock that a business award she gave was to India's top tobacco company.

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.

This drew an angry reaction from a leading Indian health advocate who termed it a travesty of justice.

In New York, UN watcher Inner City Press asked Clark to explain her award.

She replied with a written statement.

"I have worked tirelessly throughout my career to achieve a smoke free society in New Zealand, and was, thus, shocked to learn that a World Business Development Award, supported by UNDP, was given to a company which derives a substantial proportion of its profits from tobacco," she said.

"Unfortunately the criteria for the World Business Development Awards did not exclude projects implemented by companies from certain sectors like tobacco. This has clearly been a serious oversight. "

Clark said UNDP would review its rules and regulations and ensure than an incident like it never happens.

"UNDP will not participate in these awards in the future unless companies like this are excluded," Clark said.

"I retain my strong commitment to anti-tobacco policies and will continue to fight for the health and well-being of citizens in New Zealand and around the world."

Pranay Lal of Union Southeast Asia, a lobby group fighting tuberculosis and lung disease, yesterday said the award was "possibly the biggest travesty of justice even by the UN and the World Bank's weak ethical standards....

"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 Peter Davis.

ITC's chairman, Y C Deveshwar, accepted the award from Clark.

"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 said.

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