Controversial funding from tobacco companies for expiring charitable programmes will not be renewed, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has indicated.

The ILO said its Governing Body had decided on an “integrated strategy” towards the issue of whether it should maintain its relationship to Big Tobacco but acknowledged that the strategy “requires further development”.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the UN labour agency has long been under fire for its partnerships with tobacco companies and has been accused of jeopardising global efforts to regulate tobacco use and reduce the negative health impacts of smoking.

The ILO has until now justified its ties to the tobacco companies as a way of helping improve the working conditions of some 60 million people involved in tobacco growing and production worldwide.

As for whether the ILO should in principle cut its ties to Big Tobacco, the governing body did not appear to take a clear stand. It merely stated that the agency should “continue efforts to mobilise various sustainable sources of funding from the public and private sector with appropriate safeguards”.

A diplomatic source present during the negotiations meanwhile told AFP that the wording was “not specifically targeted at the tobacco industry”.

It remains “a question of interpretation”, the source said.

In an email to AFP, however, spokeswoman Taylor Billings warned that the safeguard issue remains “entirely unclear”, and that there was nothing in the November 8 decision to prevent ILO from receiving funding from tobacco companies in the future.

“As of now, the tobacco industry could still use the ILO as one of its last routes of influence over the UN system,” she told AFP.