Coalition Says Global Compact Threatens UN Mission and Integrity

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An international coalition of human rights and environmental groups denounced a new UN-corporate collaboration as "threatening the mission and integrity of the United Nations."

The coalition sent a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan today urging him to re-evaluate his partnership with the private sector. The letter was released as the top executives of some of the world's most powerful (and destructive) corporations prepared to converge on the UN for the first Global Compact partners meeting.

Posted on the Corporate Watch website,, the coalition letter calls a number of the Global Compact's newly announced corporate participants, including Nike, Shell, Novartis and Rio Tinto "simply inappropriate for partnerships with the United Nations." In the letter the coalition charges that the Global Compact allows corporations to "gain all the benefits of association with the UN without any responsibilities."

"The first three words of the UN Charter are 'We the Peoples.' said John Cavanagh Director of the Institute for Policy Studies, which endorsed the letter. "Private corporations are accountable only to their shareholders, often in flagrant disregard of the rights of the people who work for them, live near them, or suffer the consequences of their decisions. Millions of people who work for or live near several of the 44 firms that have signed the Global Compact have had their rights denied or abused by these firms" said Cavanagh.

"The UN should serve as a counterbalance to corporate globalization rather than a booster for it," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines-based Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education) "It is extremely disappointing to see this most important institution moving in a direction which seriously compromises its stated primary objective of working for the well-being of the world's poor."

"The United Nations should be institutionalizing independent mechanisms for greater corporate accountability to human rights, labor rights and the environmental instruments and principles instead of pursuing vague partnerships" said Miloon Kothari of the International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment (India).

"The Secretary General seems to think the UN can help 'fix' the problems of globalization by getting serial violators of human rights, labor rights and the environment to declare that they won't be bad anymore." said Kenny Bruno, UN Project Coordinator for TRAC-Transnational Resource and Action Center. "But the ongoing actions of Nike, Shell, Novartis and others continue to speak louder than words."

The coalition of groups from around the world pointed out that the inclusion of Shell in the Global Compact is in violation of the UN's just issued guidelines which state that "business entities that are complicit in human rights abuses...are not eligible for partnership."

The letter goes on to warn how corporations may use the UN logo under the new guidelines, asserting that "the UN logo and the Nike swoosh do not belong together." The guidelines provide ample opportunity for global companies to display the UN logo in conjunction with a UN project they may be involved with, allowing them to enhance their "brand image" by for instance, placing the Nike swoosh next to the UN olive branches.

"The UN must not become complicit in the positive branding of corporations that violate UN principles" said TRAC's Kenny Bruno. "By doing so, the world body is essentially allowing corporations to wrap themselves in the UN flag."

Letter Warns Kofi Annan Global Compact Threatens UN Integrity

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