Partnership programs are proliferating in the UN system, often before guidelines can be put in place, and before the implications of the partnerships are understood.
UNHCR and Unocal Corporation
Former High Commissioner on Refugees Sadako Ogata co-chaired two meetings of the Business Humanitarian Forum with John Imle, President of Unocal, a company notorious for complicity in human rights violations in Burma. As a partner of the brutal Burmese military government in the Yadana pipeline project, Unocal has benefited from forced labor, forced relocations and other crimes carried out for security of the project. Two lawsuits against Unocal alleging crimes against humanity are currently underway in federal courts.
Although this is not a full UN partnership program, the High Commissioner showed remarkable insensitivity by sharing the podium with the head of a company that creates refugees in its business operations. The Business Humanitarian Forum was founded by a former Vice President of Unocal, yet neither the High Commissioner nor many of the other humanitarian organizations in attendance seem concerned that it will be used to promote a good image for a company with such a bad reputation.34 Pro-democracy groups, including those working with Burmese refugees and people affected specifically by Unocal, were outraged by UNHCR's participation.
UNESCO and Disney
UNESCO has a number of partnerships with the private sector, mainly in the form of licensing agreements which allow the use of UNESCO's logo or label. UNESCO excludes companies that violate human rights, make or distribute, arms, tobacco or alcohol. Yet it allowed its name to grace the Youth Millennium Dreamer Awards, organized mainly by Disney and presented in Disneyland in Orlando, Florida last spring. Disney is known for use of sweatshop labor in Haiti to make clothes with pictures of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters. Disney movies are characterized by racial and sexual stereotypes, making the company a questionable choice to sponsor Youth Awards.
UNDP and Chevron
The UNDP drew the ire of activists last year with the proposed Global Sustainable Development Facility, developed under the previous Administrator Gus Speth. Mark Malloch-Brown, the new head of UNDP has killed the project, but touts other partnerships such as a BP Amoco fishing project in Angola (see Global Compact Partners for a brief overview of BP Amoco) and a Chevron-sponsored business center in Kazakhstan.35 Chevron has been a leading opponent of the UN-brokered Climate Convention on global warming. The company is also responsible for numerous local environmental problems in places as far flung as Nigeria, Texas, California and Indonesia. The company currently faces a lawsuit for complicity in human rights violations in Nigeria.
UNICEF has extensive interactions with corporations, and gets substantial income from the private sector. Executive Director Carol Bellamy points out that UNICEF is very careful to "constantly appraise" the companies it deals with, and its guidelines exclude makers of products like infant formula and landmines. However UNICEF and WHO are part of UNAIDS, a partnership with five major pharmaceutical companies, including (parent companies of) violators of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. According to the International Baby Food Action Network, UNICEF also has a partnership with Johnson & Johnson, a known Code violator. The partnerships are so troubling that at least two UNICEF officials recently resigned in protest.36
UNAIDS and the Pharmaceutical Industry
UNAIDS is sponsored by various UN agencies-UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and others. It has a partnership with five pharmaceutical corporations Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Hoffman-LaRoche, Glaxo Wellcom and Merck to address the AIDS crisis in Africa. These companies are working with the UN to significantly lower the costs of AIDS drugs there. However, a number of AIDS groups charge that these companies' intent-and collaterally the role of the UN-is to forestall the seizure of drug company patents (and the loss of markets). Countries such as South Africa and Thailand have passed "compulsory licensing" laws that allow for the seizure of AIDS drug patents in the interest of reversing a massive human health disaster.37
- 101 Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN