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      Press Release No: Note No. 91
    Release Date:   25 July 2000
     Kofi Annan Enlists Corporations, Civil Society to Tackle Globalization Challenges

     VIENNA, 25 July (UN Information Service) — Having warned about a mounting backlash against globalization nearly a year before last November’s disrupted WTO meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has put together the kind of coalition that he believes is necessary to deal with globalization’s many challenges.

    On July 26, Annan is convening a high-level event at the United Nations, which brings together leaders from global business, the international labor movement and civil society organizations. They will put into practice the Global Compact that Annan announced at Davos, Switzerland, in January 1999, when he first warned that markets must be embedded in shared values and serve broad, shared objectives if they are to survive and thrive. 

    The Global Compact is intended to promote the implementation of nine principles in the areas of human rights, labor and the environment B derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO’s fundamental principles on rights at work, and the Rio Principles on environment and development, all of which enjoy universal consensus among the world’s governments. 

    Nearly 50 companies are attending the meeting B including such well known global giants as DaimlerChrysler, Unilever, Deutsche Bank, BPAmoco, Novartis, Ericsson and Nike, as well as a significant number of corporations from developing countries. All are committed to implementing the principles of the Global Compact in their own corporate management practices. They will also engage in a variety of partnership projects with the United Nations that are intended to advance the goals of the United Nations, especially poverty reduction in developing countries.

    The partners from labor and civil society include the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Amnesty International, the World Wildlife Fund, the World Conservation Union IUCN and a consortium of developing country non-governmental organizations. They will lend their expertise and support to designing and implementing these undertakings by the United Nations and the business community. 

    “Kofi Annan is hoping to succeed where others have failed,” said John Ruggie, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General. “All the relevant parties have to pull together if globalization is to work for everyone,” he added. 
     
     

     Background Information on Issues Relating to the Global Compact
     

    How it works
     
    The Global Compact is a UN-sponsored platform for encouraging and promoting good corporate practices and learning experiences in the areas of human rights, labour and the environment. It is an entry point for the business community to work in partnership with UN organizations in support of the principles and broader goals of the United Nations, and provides a basis for structured dialogue between the UN, business, labour and civil society on improving corporate practices in the social arena. Finally, the Compact offers a means to significantly broaden the number of companies undertaking such activities.

    Initiated in Davos in 1999 by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Global Compact is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, of the  International Labour Organization; and the Earth Summit - Agenda 21 principles on the environment. These three texts express a clear set of universal values supported by all governments. No other initiative on corporate social responsibility has such universal and legitimate underpinning.

    The Global Compact, accordingly, sets a frame of reference for industry initiatives as well as regional and government-led efforts. In the months since the world trade talks in Seattle, more and more businesses and organizational leaders are recognizing the importance of the Global Compact as a means to address social problems and to keep world markets open. 
     

    What it is not

    The Global Compact is not a code of conduct; monitoring and verification of corporate practices do not fall within the mandate or the institutional capability of the United Nations. But neither is the Compact to be used as a corporate shield from criticism. To the contrary, it highlights the global citizenship qualities of corporations, and opens up opportunities for focused, mediated, directed and constructive dialogue.

    The Compact does not ask companies to take over the responsibilities of governments.  They are asked to take action only within their respective spheres of influence. But in the case of  international intergovernmental conventions which require action at the company level to be successfully implemented, for instance, corporate participation in the Global Compact can be helpful.
     

    The nature of the commitment

    Participation in the Global Compact makes it incumbent upon businesses to:

    1) Issue a clear statement of support for the Global Compact and its principles, and engage in public advocacy for the Compact.

    2) Post once a year on the Global Compact website (www.unglobalcompact.org) a concrete example of progress made or lessons learned in implementing the principles. This can take many forms, i.e. changes in internal management policies or concrete operational experiences.

    3) Engage in partnership with UN organizations by undertaking activities that  further the implementation of the principles, or by entering strategic partnerships in support of broad UN goals such as poverty eradication.
     

    Broadening the pool of company participation

    All participants agree to the importance of enlisting more companies. Once leading companies have articulated their commitment, the involvement of other companies through company supply chains and UN networks becomes a priority. Groundwork is already underway, via global business associations such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum and sectoral associations. The International Organization of Employers secured endorsement from dozens of employers associations worldwide (including ones based in China and India), and is organizing regional workshops in Latin America, Africa and Asia. 
     

    Involvement of trade unions and civil society

    It is also crucial to continue engaging labour and non governmental organizations in constructive participation. Discussions regarding expanded representation, relative roles and specific contributions are underway.

    All potential partners recognize that a non-confrontational approach is conducive to arriving at solutions to the social challenges of globalization.

    For more information:

    • Tim Wall, Development and Human Rights Section, UN Department of Public Information, telephone 1-212-963-5851, or e-mail wallt@un.org
    • Georg Kell, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, telephone 1-212-963-1490; 
     e-mail kell@un.org
    • Visit the Global Compact website: www.unglobalcompact.org

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