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For Immediate Release: September 23rd, 1999
Kenny Bruno, 718-832-5434;
1310Joshua Karliner, 415-561-6567

Groups Expose More United Nations Affiliations with Corporate Predators

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Non-governmental organizations have sent a letter to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy calling for their resignation from the Business Humanitarian Forum (BHF).

The BHF is a new private group Co-Chaired by UNHCR's Ogata and John Imle President of UNOCAL, a corporation notorious for human rights abuses in Burma. Its complicity with the brutal Burmese military dictatorship in using forced labor on a natural gas pipeline is well known.

"UNOCAL has done so much harm to my country. It is discouraging to find respected UN agencies sharing the podium with companies like UNOCAL, especially to those of us who are fighting every day against their human rights abuses," said Ka Hsaw Wa, Director of EarthRights International, one of the signatories of the letter.

Forum members also include UNICEF, and Nestle a company which continues to violate a UN code of conduct on infant formula designed to protect children.

The letter, which is also signed by the International Baby Food Action Network says it is "ironic and disturbing that UNHCR would share this platform with a company [UNOCAL] with practices so antithetical to its own mission... [and] that UNICEF, with its mission to protect children, would voluntarily associate with a company [Nestle] which has done so much to harm children.

The Business Humanitarian Forum, based in Geneva, is supported by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has called for a compact between the UN and corporations.

"This is one more example of why the UN must fundamentally reconsider the partnerships it is embarking on with global corporations," said Joshua Karliner, Director of CorpWatch, a San Francisco-based human rights and environment group and a signator to the letter. "So far the way UN agencies have implemented Kofi Annan's call for a closer relationship with the private sector is to jump into bed with a bunch of bad corporate actors."

Last March, over one hundred groups, including the signatories to the letter sent yesterday, called for the dissolution of the UNDP's planned collaboration with private companies such as Dow, Rio Tinto and ABB. That collaboration, the Global Sustainable Development Facility, is on hold pending review by the UNDP.

Letter and background material are available at