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AFRO-NETS> UN Millennium Summit: NGO's assail UN ties to corporate-led trend
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> UN Millennium Summit: NGO's assail UN ties to corporate-led trend
- From: Claudio Schuftan <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2000 11:18:21 -0400 (EDT)
UN Millennium Summit: NGO's assail UN ties to corporate-led trend
On the eve of the UN Millennium Summit in New York, members of sev-
eral leading nongovernmental organizations convened a forum yesterday
to denounce the trend of corporate-led economic globalization, in
particular addressing growing concern that the United Nations is
placing too much priority on its partnerships with powerful corpora-
Representatives from NGOs such as Public Citizen's Global Trade
Watch, the Rainforest Action Network and the Transnational Resource
and Action Center/Corporate Watch held a series of panel discussions
at Town Hall in Manhattan to articulate the dangers of the unchecked
power of global corporations and to discuss measures to refocus the
UN charter on human rights and the environment. The meeting, entitled
"Globalization and the United Nations: Can the United Nations be Sal-
vaged," was sponsored by the International Forum on Globalization, an
international alliance of 60 activists, scholars, economists, re-
searchers and writers.
Kenny Bruno of the Transnational Resource and Action Center/Corpwatch
said during his speech before the packed hall that the UN has in re-
cent years been forming partnerships with massive transnational cor-
porations that are "infamous for environmental degradation and viola-
tions of human rights," such as Nike and Royal Dutch Shell. Most of
the organizations at the meeting strongly criticized the UN Global
Compact, a cooperative framework initiated by UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, which leaders of nearly 50 global corporations signed on
to in July.
Bruno charged that the UN is vulnerable to forming these kinds of
partnerships under pressure from the United States to be more busi-
ness-friendly, adding that pursuing them is "terrible judgement."
Bruno further criticized the Global Compact by saying that the corpo-
rations face little or no monitoring and a lack of enforcement, since
the companies involved agreed to sign onto the compact voluntarily.
Many of Bruno's arguments are included in his organization's report,
Tangled Up in Blue: Corporate Partnerships at the United Nations, re-
leased at the meeting, which accuses corporations of "bluewashing"
their image by hiding behind the UN flag.
International Forum on Globalization associate Vandana Shiva said in
a release that by aligning itself with powerful corporations, the UN
risks becoming a vehicle for "the new colonialism of the Third World
that rests on free trade and liberalized rules for investment and
privatization and deregulations."
Vicky Tauli-Corpus of the Indigenous Peoples' International Center
for Policy, Research and Education denounced the trend of the UN re-
linquishing economic roles to the World Trade Organization, World
Bank and International Monetary Fund, organizations she charges have
only contributed to global poverty. "It is our role to still ... as-
sert at the UN is not a body that should be giving priority to
corporations," she said.
While the UN's role in the globalization debate was the subject of
much criticism at the forum, Tony Clark of the Polaris Institute in
Canada was one of the first to say the NGOs cannot simply fault Annan
for the trend toward developing corporate partnerships. "This kind of
system is not just at the global level," he said, adding that the
problem exists locally in many countries. Bruno added that the NGOs
support UN principles, but "the UN is weak" and that the NGOs should
lobby for increased US support for the UN "with no strings attached."
He also said that they need to act to make the corporations more ac-
countable. "If the UN won't monitor them, we will," he said.
Phyllis Bennis with the Institute for Policy Studies went one step
further and said that, if anything, the United Nations has been a
"victim of corporate control," while the United States has been the
villain by exercising its influence. Bennis warned that "we are on
the same side" as the UN but said the challenge lies in creating a
new "internationalism" that rebuilds people's sovereignty and with-
draws from corporate domination. "It's up to us to reclaim the United
Nations," she said to a resounding ovation (Candace Hammond, UN Wire,
courtesy of Eberhard Wenzel MA PhD
Griffith University, Australia
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